The Spitfire during WW2 - Why was it so important?

The Spitfire during WW2 - Why was it so important?

It’s been more than 75 years since the end of World War 2, yet the Spitfire remains an iconic symbol of aviation. The aircraft played a pivotal and vital role for allied countries during WW2. In this article, we look at some of the Spitfire’s most notorious battles during WW2 that gave the aircraft it’s legendary status.


​It would be nearly impossible to mention all of the Spitfires contributions and adventures during WW2 in 1 small blog. So today, we're taking a look at 2 famous battles. 

The Spitfire’s Key Battles in WW2

The Battle of Britain | How Spitfires protected Britain

The Battle of Britain ran from the 10th July 1940 until the 31st of October 1940. After France had fallen to Germany’s formidable Army, Hitler turned his attention to invading Great Britain.

Thanks to the English Channel, invading Britain would be a more difficult task than invading France. 

Crossing the sea with the Navy to invade Britain was far too risky while the RAF were still around. During the Battle of Britain, Churchill coined the phrase “Never has so much been owed by so many to so few”.

The Battle of Britain was fought in four key phases. The aim was to reduce the RAF to such small numbers that they couldn’t resist a marine invasion.

Phase 1 - The Luftwaffe attacked shipping convoys in the channel and south coast radar stations.

Phase 2 - The Luftwaffe attacked airfields and radar stations. This was incredibly effective, and it was during this phase that fighter command had its worst day of the battle, losing many aircraft before they’d even left the ground. 

Phase 3 - Britain had begun to bomb German cities, and to this, Germany retaliated, launching bombing raids on British cities. This was actually a turning point in the battle; it allowed the RAF to rebuild its numbers and fight back against the Luftwaffe.

Phase 4 - Although the bombing of cities continued and a Spitfire factory in Southampton was destroyed, the tide started to turn during this final phase. The Luftwaffe were taking heavy losses.

​Many aircraft were destroyed during the Battle of Britain, but there were far more Luftwaffe casualties. The numbers speak for themselves and show the Spitfire’s superiority.

Axis aircraft loss
Allies aircraft loss

The Siege of Malta | How Spitfires turned the tide for the Allies

The siege of Malta was a battle rage between June 1940 and November 1942. Malta was a strategically important island for the British. Malta is an island between Italy and Africa. Considering that an essential part of WW2 was being fought in Northern Africa, Malta allowed the allies to launch air attacks on Axis naval vessels, taking supplies for North Africa’s fight.

The Axis forces bombed Malta heavily during the war, with particular focus on the ports. The eventual aim was to hurt Malta’s defences so that an invasion could be carried out; this did not happen. The Allies managed to restock and defend Malta throughout the war, but the siege only really ended when the allies managed to get a significant number of Spitfires on the island. 

Hurricanes were used to defend the island for the bulk of the Siege of Malta, but the outmoded aircraft struggled against the Luftwaffes Bf 109Fs of Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) and Italian Macchi C.202s. It must be said, the Hurricane did manage occasional victories, notably in February 1942, only three of them managed to break up a raid by fifty Bf 109s.

The bulk of the Spitfires arrived on 9th May under Operation Bowery. The Spitfires' presence had an instant impact, with Axis reporting 37 aircraft losses on the same day. On 10 May, the Axis reported a further 65 aircraft were destroyed or damaged in large air battles over the island. The Hurricanes were able to focus on the Axis bombers and dive-bombers at lower heights, while the Spitfires, with their superior rate of climb, engaged enemy aircraft at higher levels. A further 76 Spitfire aircraft were sent to the island between 18th May & 9th June, which allowed the Allies to take control of Malta.

It was the superiority of the Spitfire’s performance & firepower that turned the tide in Malta. Without the Spitfire, the allies would have struggled to overcome the constant bombardment from Axis forces. 

The Spitfire helped to make many heroes in Malta, most notably “The Falcon of Malta”, Canadian pilot George Beurling. George downed 27 axis aircraft over 14 days, mainly in his Spitfire VC. ​

Axis aircraft losses
357 German aircraft
175 Italian aircraft
Total of 532

Allies aircraft losses
369 lost in the air, 64 on the ground.
Total of 433

Frequently asked questions about the Spitfire:

Why was Spitfire called Spitfire?

You would assume the Spitfire is named such due to its ferocious firing ability. But rumour has it the aircraft was named after Supermarines chairman's daughter. He used to call her “the little spitfire”.

Who invented the Spitfire? 

The Spitfire was designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, the chief designer at Southampton based company Supermarine.

Was the Spitfire the best fighter during WW2?

Many great fighter planes were created during WW2. The Spitfire is one of the most famous and has the greatest victory to loss ratio of any British aircraft.

What did the Spitfire do in WW2? 

The Spitfire was important throughout WW2. But notably, it was important during the Battle of Britain, the period from D - Day to VE Day and many other smaller battles throughout the war. 

How much is a spitfire worth today? 

An original Spitfire may set you back around £2 million pounds. But there are also huge running costs to consider, such as a £150,000 engine overhaul every 500 hours. 

How many Spitfires are left? 

Of the more than 20,000 constructed, around 60 are still flying. It’s also rumoured that around 110 are in storage whilst a further 70 or so are on static displays.

Does the spitfire still fly? 

You can fly a Spitfire, although it’s a fair bit more pricey than a standard experience flight. A 30-minute flight will set you back around £2750.

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