Spit Bits

 

In 1944, a slow-moving, rust-stained freighter, perhaps of the Empire class, braved the cold, dark and U-boat infested waters of the North Atlantic Ocean amongst dozens of other ships, some of which would not make it. As she steamed relentlessly towards England, she carried in her belly nearly 2,000 tons of bauxite ore from South America, likely bound for aluminum smelters in Scotland. That ore, which existed for eons deep in the ground in perhaps British Guiana, would be transformed into aluminum ingots, and these would then be milled into thin sheets of the finest aircraft grade aluminum in the Commonwealth. These sheets would come by train or lorry to the Supermarine Spitfire factory at Castle Bromwich in West Midlands. Sometime in late May of 1945, a factory worker would select one of these sheets from the rack and a factory machinist would cut, drill and shape the shiny sheet to conform to the contours of a Spitfire Mk IX wing. A short while later, this wing would be hoisted by overhead crane, rotated, and be met by a fuselage on the Spitfire assembly line bearing a data plate indicating the serial number TE 294.

At the beginning of June 1945, Spitfire TE 249 was flown by a factory pilot from Castle Bromwich to 39 Maintenance Unit at RAF Colerne, ready to be sent into action. Spitfire TE 294, however, would not make it to an operational squadron until 1946 when it was assigned to 122 Squadron, Royal Air Force. More than 40 years later, the pitiful remains of the once majestic TE 294 would be found by its saviour in a junk yard in a distant place called Snake Valley, South Africa, near the South African Air Force base known today as Swartkop.

 

The rotted remains of Spitfire TE 294 as recovered from Snake Valley, South Africa in 1988. All that remained of the fuselage were corroded components, but there in lay the DNA of a Spitfire built in 1945 to chase the enemy from the skies of Europe. While nothing of significance could be utilized for the rebirth of a Spitfire that will become The Roseland Spitfire, all of TE 294's earthly remains were packaged up and shipped to the volunteers at the Comox Air Force Museum. Some of the aluminum from the original  wing skins is now part of these unique medallions.  This particular Spitfire was originally built by Vickers Armstrong, at their Castle Bromwich factory and on completion was delivered to 39MU at RAF Colerne in the Cotswalds on June 9th, 1945. Fitted with a Rolls Royce Merlin 70 engine, it was originally intended for service use as a high altitude interceptor fighter, but never actually saw wartime service. Later, it was delivered to 122 Squadron RAF in 1946, until being sold to the South African Air Force (SAAF) on August 7th. 1947. TE 294 was flown out to South Africa (in stages) and on arrival in South Africa it was allocated the Serial number 5519 on the 13th of December 1947. It then was flown at Waterkloof Air Station, and suffered minor damage in accidents but these were repaired. Eventually it suffered major damage when the undercarriage collapsed on landing January 4th 1951. On the 22nd of January 1951, TE 294 was struck off charge, and sold to the South African Metal Company, who in turn sold it to the SAAF Museum. Mr. Mark DeVries acquired the remains of TE 294 in South Africa and brought them to Vancouver, BC, Canada with the intention of eventually restoring the aircraft. Mr. DeVries agreed to sell the aircraft and surplus parts to the Comox Air Force Museum in late 1999 and TE 294 was to be under restoration at Comox Air Force Museum to be restored as Y2K - a 442 Squadron wartime Mk IX Spitfire. Photo via Peter Arnold

Those corroded relics are today the bones which volunteers with the Comox Air Force Museum and then technicians with Vintage Wings of Canada have transformed into the Flight Lieutenant Arnold Roseland Spitfire Mk IX. Today, Spitfire TE 294 is only a couple of years away from flying again, this time wearing the markings of another Spitfire meant to honour a man, a squadron and an Air Force. Though TE 294 never saw combat during the Second World War, she will now spend her new life in glory, painted to represent a sister late-production Spitfire Mk IX, which was the personal Spit of a much loved Canadian pilot named Arnold Roseland.

But the original damaged wing skins, made from the aluminum selected and formed at famous Castle Bromwich nearly 70 years ago, will not go quietly. Some of that aluminum has been selected once again, this time to be stamped and formed into miniature Spitfires which will make up the heart of the newly released Roseland Spitfire Medallion from Vintage Wings of Canada. Now you can have a piece of history in your collection or in your pocket. This exceptionally  fine-crafted medallion was created for Vintage Wings of Canada by Landsharkz, Canada's top manufacturer of military “challenge coins” and geo-caching medallions.

The obverse side of the 1.75 inch (45 mm) weighted medallion features a Spitfire in plan view, stamped from a piece of aluminum that traces its DNA from a convoy in the North Atlantic to the Supermarine Factory in Castle Bromwich to Spitfire TE 294 to the South African Air Force to Comox, Vancouver Island... a stunning piece of history spanning the entire globe.

The Spitfire shapes were cut out of pieces of wing metal that themselves were cut from wing panels. The wing metal is 6 mm hardened aluminum that is nearly 70 years old. The aluminum was cut into 30 x40 mm blanks, so that the metal worker at Landsharkz could fit it into a press. A die was made and tested, and the metal was so hard that it took four or five strikes to punch out each shape. After stamping out the shapes, they were sandblasted and polished and then sent off to an offshore company that inserted/fused them into the coins.

In order to make a reasonable likeness of a Spitfire from hardened 70 year old aluminum, the die had to be struck four or five times. The stamped effigy is seen at the top left. Experiments with finishing, including sandblasting and polishing showed us that the best result was to stamp, sandblast, and polish (lower right). Photos: Landsharkz

 

 

There were only 300 of these historic medallions made, and each one is sequentially numbered starting at Number 300 and ending at 600. This was done so that the numbering sequence would encompass the numbers of the RCAF squadrons (400 to 449), the Royal Australian Air Force (450 to 479) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (485 to 499). Anyone wishing to have a specific serial number relating to their favourite or father's squadron may ask for it specifically.

The reverse side of the medallion depicts the squadron patch worn by pilots of Vintage wings of Canada as well as a medallion serial number. There are only three hundred of these highly collectable and unique coins available. There will be no more produced. They are numbered from 300 to 600, so as to range through the 400 series in order to cover off the numbered Canadian, Australian and New Zealand squadrons of the Second world War. Each coin comes with a certificate of authenticity.


Your Roseland Spitfire Medallion can be purchased displayed in a wooden display box, hand crafted personally by the President of the Air Force Association of Canada, Colonel Terry Chester, a former RCAF Navigator and Pilot on the CP-107 Argus patrol bomber and then as a pilot on the CP-140 Aurora and E-3 Sentry AWACS with over 10,000 hours flight time. The wooden boxes are made from select eastern black walnut and feature finger joints with matched walnut panels, rebated hinges, a green flocked foam insert and an imbedded magnetic catch.  Each hand-made wooden box required twelve hours to make and finish, and there are only one hundred of them available. Each box comes with a certificate of authenticity printed onto metal and affixed to the underside of the lid–each one signed personally by the legendary fighter ace and Spitfire pilot, Wing Commander James Francis “Stocky” Edwards. Edwards has followed the project from its inception in Comox many years ago and will be on hand when she flies in just a couple of short years. Photo: Peter Handley

 

The Roseland Spitfire Medallion can be acquired on its own or packaged in two very appropriate manners. For just $149.00, you can acquire the medallion packaged in an aluminum watchmaker's case, mounted in green flocked foam. The case itself is hand-painted in a “Royal Air Force Spitfire” camouflage design with a see-through glass cap so that you can admire your Roseland Spitfire Medallion and your tiny piece of aviation history for years to come. Photo: Peter Handley

 

A view of the watchmaker's camouflaged cases. The reverse side of the medallion depicts the Vintage Wings squadron patch and carried serial number, while the obverse presents the contours of the Spitfire, made from the actual aluminum from Spitfire TE 294. Photo: Peter Handley

The underside of the watchmaker's cases carry the Vintage Wings of Canada logo and Roseland Spitfire name. Each watchmaker case with medallion purchased comes with a certificate of authenticity. Photo: Dave O'Malley

 


These rare and very limited medallions carrying this important physical link to global and aviation history can be acquired by any individual collector for:
 

Medallion and Certificate of Authenticity – only $99.00 plus postage

 

Medallion mounted in custom watchmaker's case, with certificate of authenticity: only $149.00 plus postage

 

Medallion mounted in hand made custom walnut case, signed and verified by legendary fighter ace, Wing Commander Stocky Edwards – only $249.00 plus postage

To reserve your Roseland Spitfire Medallion and a unique serial number (Only one serial number between 300 and 600 is available for each medallion, so act fast!), contact us at membership@vintagewings.ca
 


Flight Lieutenant Arnold “Rosey” Roseland was a gifted and much loved flight leader with 442 Squadron. He began his Second World War combat career flying P-40 Kittyhawks on the West Coast of British Columbia and then went on to Spitfires, flying out of Great Britain and France. He was shot down and killed during a dog fight with Luftwaffe Messerschmitts overt the small French farming town of St. Martin de Mailloc. Photo: RCAF

 

A look at what the Flight Lieutenant Arnold Roseland Supermarine Spitfire IX will look like when it is finished, painted in the 442 Squadron markings of a Spitfire that Arnold flew 65 times before he was shot down over the small Normandy farming village of St. Martin de Mailloc. For a full story on the life and death of Roseland, click here. Photo: Gavin Conroy, with Photoshop adaptations by Dave O'Malley

In Comox, the team has made huge strides. Here, Second World war Spitfire ace, Stocky Edwards and Vintage wings Founder, Honorary Colonel of the Snowbirds, Mike Potter, himself a current Spitfire pilot review the progress of the restoration of TE 294 at the Comox Air Force Museum facility where the Spitfire work is being done. Photo: Bruce Evans

A close up view of the Roseland Spitfire's cockpit reveals the exceptional quality of the workmanship and the close-to-completion finish. Photo: Bruce Evans

At the Vintage Wings hangar in Gatineau Québec,aircraft  structures expert Ken Wood makes steady progress on the Roseland Spitfire's wings. Photo: Dave O'Malley

Chercher
© 2013 Vintage Wings of Canada, all rights reserved. Vintage Wings of Canada, Warbird U., Gray Ghost, Gray Ghost 2, Hawk One and Vintech Aero are trademarks of Vintage Wings of Canada