Dear Arnold

Flight Lieutenant Arnold Walter Roseland

Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery
Grave - XXIII.A.1
Calvados, France
 
 
Dear Arnold,
 
My name is Dave O’Malley. We’ve never met before. In fact, I was born 6 years and 5 months after that terrible day over Saint Martin de Mailloc, France. But, I must admit, sometimes I feel I know you. Well, maybe not well enough to call you Rosey, as all your 442 Squadron mates called you, but I know things about you that they never knew. 
 
So, why am I writing you this letter Arnold? Not really sure myself, but I have pulled up a chair next to a nearly complete Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX that one day will carry your name on its side. I just sat down here with my iPad (not sure I have the time to explain what that is—think of it as a portable typewriter) and began to write you a letter. It’s been a struggle lately keeping up with all the work here, and I just thought that if I wrote you a letter, the process might reaffirm for me the reasons I work so hard to keep alive the memory of all of you who risked so much in the war. Considering what you went through, I suppose I should just buck up and get on with it. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say I am burned out, but maybe telling you about our plans to honour you might get my compass pointed in the right direction again. I hope so.
 
It’s early evening here at the airport. All the mechanics and front office staff have gone home. I am alone in the silent expanse of this wonderful place. Well not quite alone—Wallace, my Border collie and hangar dog is here with me, standing at the open doorway at the back of the hangar, on guard for squirrels, the sunlight forming a halo around his handsome head. The sun is low in the west now. The beautiful warm light of another Canadian evening floods the hangar, and drives long shadows across the floor, up and over the backs of a Mustang, a Hurricane, a Harvard and a lovely little Fleet Finch. Through the open door, I feel the breeze wafting the long awaited spring air over me. I can hear the killdeers anxiously calling in the meadow to the northwest, and the redwings ringing their call along the muddy creek that twists next to the hangar. It’s really quite beautiful Arnold. I know you would love it. You really deserved another twenty thousand such evenings. Man, I wish you had. 
 

The hangar is empty. The back door open to the late afternoon sun. Your Spitfire awaits the day she will fly again. Photo: Dave O’Malley

You have been gone a long time now Arnold, and those good friends of yours who survived the war, they are all gone too, for it has been almost 71 years since the day you died in that desperate gunfight on 13 July 1944. They grew old, your friends—bodies gone in some, minds gone in others, but your sacrifice granted them as much as 70 years of the magnificence of sunsets, the love of a fine woman, children of character and the freedom you fought for. I can tell you that none of them, at least the ones who fought with you, ever bragged about those days or put themselves at the centre of the action. When they told their stories of those bitter struggles with the enemy, they saw your face, heard your voice, felt your gaze—and they would not diminish what you did by making themselves the heroes. They were good and true friends Arnold. I can tell you that. But they are gone.
 
I look at that photograph of you now and I see your pain. When it was taken in 1944, people saw the determination in your eyes and not much else. Now I see the nuances of pain, the distrust of authority, the dislike of being painted the hero, the anguished desire to get home to Audrey and your two sons, Ronald and Gary. As a father and grandfather, I feel that pain when I think that you never saw your boys again. I have met one of them, the young Ron. I can tell you he is a fine man. He did well with his life and you would be so proud of him. The man who would eventually marry Audrey after your death was a good man, a great father to the boys, and they loved him greatly. I know you would be pleased to know that they were taken care of so well. But Ron also loved you... the memory of you. So much so that later he would change his name from Ron Barnes to Ron Roseland-Barnes to keep your memory strong. That’s how much he loves you Arnold. He takes care of your logbook now and your brevet, your photographs, your letters. He handles them as if they were holy relics… I suppose they are actually. Last time we met, Ron, your son, had tears in his eyes as we spoke of you. 
 
I got to thinking about you and what happened to you at the end of your stressful and short life. It seems to me so unfair that death in aerial battle came after such a long war for you. You fought the Japanese in the Aleutians at Kiska and Amchitka, fighting so far to the west of North America that you were closer to Japan than to mainland North America. Then your squadron (14 Squadron, RCAF) reformed as 442 Squadron and went to the opposite side of the world to fight the Nazis. Your war was so long and you deserved to survive it. 
 
Your death was witnessed at Saint Martin de Mailloc and those lovely French people took care of your broken body after the Germans had left. They carried you away and washed you and cried for you. Decades later, they built a memorial to your life and sacrifice. Ron and your grandsons went to see it unveiled. What a proud day that was for them. 
 

A copy of the telegram Audrey received more than a month after receiving an initial one stating you were missing in action. Pretty tough news. It was happening like that all across the country. Ron keeps it now, a reminder of the full debt he and all of us owe to you and to Audrey. Photo via Ronald Roseland-Barnes

This beautiful, yet unfinished, Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX standing next to me, covered in golden light from the hangar windows, is not like the ones you flew, not exactly anyway. Yours were covered in Norman mud, scratched, dented and patched up. They were stained with oil and exhaust soot and bugs. The finish was chipped and beaten. Funny thing was ... they were almost brand new. Despite all this, they were still beautiful eh? As you might remember, the aircraft codes on yours were painted on in haste with little time to mask. There was a war on, and little thought was given to making the aircraft pretty. A Spitfire was lucky if it lasted 200 hours in those days. 
 
The Spitfire next to me was originally built after you were killed. It never saw combat in the Second World War, having been built in June 1945, but did see postwar service with 122 Squadron where it suffered a Flying Accident (FAAC) on 10 April 1946 and then it was sold to the South African Air Force (SAAF). It was heavily damaged at one point after that and languished in storage and in a salvage yard for decades. It was acquired by the volunteers of the Comox Air Force Museum on Vancouver Island. You likely overflew Comox in your Kittyhawk during your service with 14 Squadron of the West Coast Home War Effort before you went overseas. They were just building the runways when you were on the west coast, but it’s changed a lot since then… a lot of RCAF members retire there now. Many of them were among the volunteers who got this project off the ground. 
 
The initial funding to purchase the bits and pieces that were collectively SAAF Spitfire TE294 came from a government fund for projects to celebrate the coming millennium—the year 2000. Back then (I know… 2000 seemed so far away in the summer of 1944), Canadians took to calling that year Y2K (Year 2000). People do that nowadays … foreshorten everything to a cute little mnemonic… it’s annoying, really. Marketing seems to be bent on destroying the English language Arnold. You would not be impressed. Regardless, you no doubt recognize something very important to you in these two letters and one numeral. Y2 was your 442 Squadron code and all your Spitfires carried “Y2” in large font to the left of the fuselage roundel on both sides. But, it’s the “K” that’s special to you isn’t it? The “K” was the aircraft code—the letter specific to one particular Spitfire on the 442 flight line. Your Spitfire.
 
While you did not fly Spitfire “K” all the time, you flew it enough to call it “your” Spitfire—65 times in all before you were shot down. That’s pretty impressive Arnold. She was definitely yours. You can’t deny 65 flights in the same aircraft, most of them combat ops. Well, actually, as you well know… it was not just one aircraft. There were at least three Spitfires with the call letter “K”. I suppose it was sort of unlucky that you were not flying your “K” when you were attacked by those 109s. Maybe your fortunes would have been different.
 
These days, one can “download” the 442 Squadron Operational Record Books (ORBs) from the British National Archives (think of it as taking a copy of a book out on permanent loan from the library—how we do it these days is too complicated to explain here). I did just that for the month of July 1944, and immediately flipped to the entry for the 13th. You flew Spitfire “P” that afternoon, taking off at 1640 hrs in the afternoon. In the column set aside for time of return, it simply says “missing”. In the accompanying 442 diary portion of the ORB, there was a more touching note. I hope you don’t mind if I put it down here for you to read.
 
The man responsible for the daily upkeep of the ORB writes (or rather, types): Armed recce for 12 at 1630, lots of cloud. F/O McLarty damaged one which fell away and was lost in the clouds. F/L A.W. Roseland, the Flight Commander of “B” Flight chased a Hun into the clouds and was not seen again. Rosey was one of the originals going from Ottawa to Alaska and the Aleutians, to England to France.
 
That evening, according to the ORB, they were also told that 144 Wing was being disbanded—it seems your mates had a lot to drink off their minds that night. Apparently, says the ORB, they drank until breakfast time. It was a sad time indeed.
 
 
The German pilot who finally got you over St. Martin de Mailloc was Oberleutnant Paul Schauder of JG 26, a very experienced fighter pilot having fought on the Eastern Front, North Africa and Mediterranean. A few months later he would become the commander of II Gruppe, 26 JG and finish the war with 19 victories other than you. Post war he would go on to command an F-86 squadron with the newly redesigned Luftwaffe. The Balkenkreuzes of Nazi design were gone and the Luftwaffe reverted to the old Eisernes Kreuz of the First World war. Things changed rapidly with Germany after the war Arnold. They quickly became an ally against the Soviets. This photo sort of proves that. It's Schauder talking and laughing with Douglas “Duke” Warren, the surviving half of the famous Warren Twins – two RCAF Spitfire pilots from Nanton, Alberta. You probably heard of them even back then. They are smiling, but I can see they are talking about a serious business... the business of fighter pilots. Thanks to Pat Murphy of Comox, and his passion for Spitfires and history, this photo came to light. I feel you won't mind seeing him. Like you, he was just doing a fighter pilot's job. Photo via Pat Murphy
 
You should know that the Royal Canadian Air Force, while something we are very proud of here, casts only a shadow of the greatness it once held in your day. Such are the times I live in Arnold, that your great RCAF is, like everything these days, a victim of financial paucity. Only a few of the great squadrons of the war still stand and fly their battle honours. There are no longer any Canadian heavy bomber squadrons and only two tactical fighter squadrons left. I know, I know… it’s hard to believe. You will be happy to know however, that your beloved 442 Squadron (I know you were with her when she formed up at Rockcliffe as 14 Squadron) is still operational… and in Comox on the West Coast too! That is why those first volunteers chose to make it into a 442 Squadron Spitfire.
 
About five years ago, Vintage Wings of Canada, where I work, took over the project to restore Spitfire TE294, which had stalled somewhat for lack of funding. It was our founder Mike Potter’s promise to inject the $2 million or so required to bring the project to flying condition and keep the Spitfire in Canada. The fuselage build was renewed in Comox and the wings were built here in Gatineau, Québec after a botched first attempt by a disreputable constructor in Great Britain. 
 
Gatineau is a city I think you might know well, but you may have known it by its former name, Hull. Back when you were training on Harvards at No. 2 Service Flying Training School at Uplands or when you were forming 14 Squadron at Rockcliffe, I bet you and your pals spent a few nights over here—at the Standish Hall. It was a hoppin’ place in those days and the drinking age was lower than Ontario’s, though you didn’t have to worry about that, being older than the rest.
 
As the project took on a new and positive life, I got to know many of the men in Comox and here in Gatineau who took on the task of turning a South African Air Force derelict into a flying tribute to 442 Squadron, RCAF. They were a terrific lot, Arnold, first rate guys, total professionals. 
 
Last year, the fuselage was finished in Comox and the team there stood their half of the project down and sent the fuselage here to Gatineau for engine mounting, wing installation and finishing. It was a momentous night when we unveiled the Comox boys’ work. You could hear a gasp of admiration from the folks who came to witness it. The work was astonishing—I’ve never seen better restoration work anywhere. That night I had the honour of telling them about your story, and sadly, how you died. I put up the photo of you in your flying gear and asked them to look carefully at it, to see all that I saw in your face. I think they began to see the depth of your sacrifice Arnold. It was very emotional for me and for Ron. There were four generations of your family represented—three of your six great grandchildren, your grandson Sean, your son Ron—and you were represented by that Spitfire. 
 

My favourite photo of the night we unveiled the Comox-built fuselage was this one... your great grandson Aidan looking respectfully inside the cockpit of your Spitfire. Photo: Peter Handley

At the end of that evening, we raised a banner to the rafters of our hangar—piped in style by Graham Batty, the piping pilot. A banner that pays tribute to you Arnold. Photo: Peter Handley

I don’t know how close you were to your ground crew—knowing how much you were liked and respected at 442, I bet it was pretty close. Over the past few years, I have got to know some of the guys who are working on this Spitfire. It has been a privilege to learn from them and watch the wings of this great warbird come together, piece by piece. At first, it was pretty daunting, but the man responsible for the building of those wings, Ken Wood, was not afraid of what lay ahead. He was working with some pretty poor digital copies of old Supermarine drawings. The Spitfires you flew were all made by hundreds if not thousands of men and women, building components in smaller factories and assembling them all on massive assembly lines. They had the tools and jigs to do the job, and the power of numbers working for them. Ken is an artist… we call him a rock star… which of course would mean nothing to you—sort of a Guy Lombardo of aircraft structures if that makes any sense. He first had to build the tools to build the parts for the wings. These tools would not be like those at the Vickers factory at Castle Bromwich, they are of his own creation, designed to bend, fold, align, shape and adjust metal. The drawings are in two dimensions, but the final parts seem to be in three, four and five dimensions. All I can do is marvel at what he has done for you. 

You would like Ken, as I do. He’s a man of few words and when they do come from his mouth, they are carefully dispensed. I have a feeling, looking at photos of your reserved countenance, that you were much the same. Around here, his words carry weight. He’s had a heavy burden of late at home, but his strength is something you sense—both physical and emotional. When I think of Ken, the word respect comes to mind. The kind I have for him and the kind he has for what he is creating. The kind we all have for you Arnold.
 

Now, with just one year left in the project, Ken Wood (left) and Andrej Janik are tasked to take her that last mile—Ken completing such things as cowlings, wing tips, fairings, elevator, gear doors and more and Andrej responsible for getting the plumbing, wiring, engine work and everything else done. These two represent the best Canada has to offer the warbird world. Photo: Dave O’Malley

For the past three years, I have watched the careful progress of the building of the two wings that will one day lift you into the sky again. Once a week I would pay a visit to the corner of the hangar where Ken and his assistant Mario were building the wings. The complexity of those wings was astonishing. I liked to joke with Ken and Mario that when they are finished, those wings will carry the Spitfire across the sky, and admirers will look at those wings and sigh, and say to each other, “What elegant wings, ...so simple.”
 
After the fuselage arrived, I finally got to be part of the team that has been working on this project. I was asked to research the paint scheme and oversee the painting of the aircraft as Y2-K. It seemed so simple at first Arnold, but it kept me awake many nights. I guess because what I chose for your Spitfire would be painted on it permanently. Permanent markings on a $3 million aircraft. What could go wrong?
 
We knew pretty well what paint scheme we would do as we had a superb photograph of a Spitfire marked as Y2-K getting an engine change in the field in Normandy in August of 1944. The serial number stenciled on the side was MK304. This, we were told, was your Y2-K and that you had flown it 65 times. You probably think this is nonsense, but there were two ways we could proceed when it came to the serial number on our aircraft. We had the option of painting MK304 on the side or TE294 (the serial number associated with the SAAF airframe we were restoring). The former was a tribute to you, the latter to the data plate around which this aircraft was built. I felt that you were more important to this story than the old RAF TE294 serial number, so opted to paint the serial number of a real 442 Squadron aircraft on the side.
 

Spitfire Mk IX, MK304, marked as Y2-K gets an engine change in the field in Normandy in August of 1944 by fitters of 421 Repair and Salvage Unit. We knew we would paint D-Day invasion stripes on the sides of your tribute aircraft, but, though it would have been uber-authentic, we didn’t paint them as we see them in this photo – largely removed except the forward white stripe—because we would be just guessing if we assumed the stripes were identical on the right side. Instead we went with a standard prescribed placement and size for the stripes. The next big question that had me sleepless at night was whether we should paint the gear doors of your Spitfire with white and black stripes so that when the gear is up, the invasion stripes were continuous. I held that the exigencies of war would preclude mechanics jacking the Spitfires and other aircraft up and swinging the gear closed so they could paint the stripes continuously. I believed that they should be the regular grey underside of the Spitfire. And I thought this photo proved this as the gear doors have no stripes. Here’s where it was so helpful to have experts like Chris Thomas to rely on. It seems, though some Spits had grey doors, the norm was to paint the stripes (apparently no great care was taken to make sure they aligned with the paint on the wings when closed). Chris drew my attention to the Shacklady (Spitfire: The History) entry for MK304 and it shows that Y2-K suffered Category E damage on 2 August 1944. This photo is alleged to have been taken on 19 August. Category E damage is in fact serious damage which usually leads to the airframe being written off. Clearly, from this photo, it is not written off. Chris Thomas suggested that MK304 suffered a serious landing accident on 2 August and perhaps the repair included new gear, engine and more—possibly new wings. Looking closer at the photo, it does seem that the gear doors are brand new as do the tyres (with wheel covers (usually later discarded by ground crews as more trouble than they were worth) and alignment marks) and the wing looks oddly coloured (this could be just the omnipresent Normandy dust but possibly a replacement wing from a PR Spit). Photo: RCAF

That caused me some serious sleepless nights later, after the serial number had been painted. Perhaps this just makes you laugh Arnold, but you will understand when I explain. The provenance from the Comox Air Force Museum that came with this Spitfire when we accepted the financial responsibility of its completion stated very clearly that MK304 had been flown 65 times by you. 65 times! If that was a fact then, this airplane had to be painted as MK304. No doubt about it in my mind.
 
Here is what was originally said about you and MK304: “The original Y2-K, MK304, was also produced at Castle Bromwich, albeit as a Merlin 66-powered LF Mk IXe. Delivered to 39MU in January 1944, it served briefly with No. 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron before being transferred to No. 442 Squadron RCAF on 7 February. There it was assigned as personal aircraft of ‘B’ flight commander F/Lt Arnold “Rosy” Roseland, receiving the letters Y2-K. Roseland flew this Spitfire on 65 combat sorties from March until July 1944.”
 
Unfortunately Arnold, that was wrong… very wrong. You never flew MK304—not even once! In fact, it’s likely you never laid eyes on it. In a bizarre twist of fate, the Spitfire with serial number MK304 arrived at 442 Squadron on July 13… the day you died. You flew Y2-P that day. The Squadron ORB for July 13 shows that a Y2-K flew twice that day—Once with Pilot Officer Sullivan (I think he was with you that day) and then later at 2015 hrs with Flying Officer Goodwin at the controls. I can’t be sure, but it is possible that MK304 had been painted as K that day and put into service immediately. I doubt it, but perhaps she flew in formation with you and you saw her. It’s more likely that Goodwin and Sullivan were flying the same K in which you took those two FW190s two weeks earlier. I’ll never know.
 
Bear with me for a moment Arnold... I’m going to get pedantic. The reason that the previous researchers had the history so wrong was that they read the Aircraft Movement Card entries backwards—likely from the bible of Spitfire production and history: Spitfire: The History by Eric Morgan and Edward Shacklady. This book covers the history in alphanumeric code of every Spitfire ever made, information gleaned from the aircraft movement cards (AMCs) of every Spitfire ever built. The listing for each Spitfire starts with a movement to a Maintenance Unit or Squadron or whatever, followed by the date it went there. Then as it moves from squadron to repair dept to squadron to destruction or whatever, the date of any particular movement always follows the entry. In Canada, we usually put the date first and the place second. The researchers who had determined that Spitfire MK304 had arrived at 442 on 7 February were in fact reading the date at which it arrived at 310 (Czech) Squadron. According to the 310 Squadron ORB, its first flight with the squadron was 8 February at RAF Tangmere, the day after it arrived on squadron—with a Flying Officer Skirka piloting. MK304 was flown by the Czech pilots of 310 repeatedly and regularly up until its last 310 op on 16 June, flown by a Flying Officer Trejtnar over the “Omaha” area. We know this because, unlike 442 ORBs (and your logbook) which recorded only the aircraft code (“K” for instance) alongside the pilot’s name, 310 Squadron recorded the RAF serial number. This was, for me, definitive proof that MK304 was not with 442 when you were flying a Spitfire with the “K” code.
 
Speaking of your logbook, your entry for 14 June states that you received a new “K” that day. Since three days later, Trejtnar was still flying MK304 at 310 Squadron, this had to be another serial number and likely the aircraft that Goodwin was flying the day MK304 arrived and your luck ran out. It seems, judging by the serial numbers recorded, 310 was re-equipped with new Spits in late June. Nothing is recorded of MK304 until the AMC entry for its arrival on that fateful day. 
 
SO… Arnold, I am sorry, but the Spitfire with which we will honour you is not one you ever flew. For that I am so sorry, but the knowledge came after the paint was dry. Still, it is Y2-K and we know for a fact from your logbook that you flew a number of aircraft with serial number “K”. I can’t be sure how many, but it was at least two different Spitfires… for a total of 65 flights. Spitfire “K” was definitely “Rosey’s” machine.
 
 
A detail of the markings on TE294 as 442 Squadron Spitfire IX MK304. It was at this time that I discovered the mistakes made in previous Y2-K provenance. Painting the Spitfire involved many other types of markings such as W/T Wire Terminus stencils, Technical Directorate paint type stencils (Cellulose and Synthetic), and factory/Civilian Repair Organization contract stencils—all of this so complex, detailed and interesting to a geek like me, but far too complicated to explain here. Suffice it to say that the complex numerical stencils one sees on Second World War RAF aircraft are UNIQUE to each aircraft and cannot be simply copied from a previous aircraft—long story for another day. Photo: Dave O’Malley
 
Once I was absolutely positive of this information, I had to call your son to tell him. I didn’t want him to find out about it from anyone else. He had commissioned a wonderful painting of you flying MK304 that day you took on the two FW-190s and shot them down. He’s a good man Arnold. A great son. He understood right away and told me not to worry about it anymore. The Spitfire is Y2-K, your personal aircraft code and your name will be carried on her side beneath the cockpit rail. The serial number is correct for a 442 Spit, just not one you ever sat it… but you will in the year to come!
 
The simple truth is that you were flying “K” when you shot down those Focke-Wulfs. You flew “K” on three separate sorties that day and what a powerful way to end it. You probably haven’t seen this since you wrote it down on 30 June, two weeks before you were killed, but the squadron intelligence officer typed it our afterward for his combat reports: 
 
“I was flying Yellow 3 in 442 Squadron which was on patrol heading due south at 1800’ just under layer of cloud in the vicinity of VILLER BOCAGE. I suddenly spotted 4 FW 190’s flying due North directly below yellow flight. I immediately broke 180º and down to attack at the same time reporting the presence of e/a [Enemy Aircraft -Ed.] to the remainder of the squadron. The e/a sighted me and began climbing all out for cloud using violent evasive action but still in fairly compact formation and turning slightly to starboard. I attacked second from left from 20º to 0º opening fire from approx 450 yds. My first burst struck engine and cockpit and e/a began to smoke. I closed in slightly to line astern and my second burst hit tail and e/a immediately burst into flame and rolled over onto its back. I broke starboard and positioned myself on e/a to starboard, which was very near cloud. My port cannon jammed and I had difficulty in getting strikes on e/a which was using violent evasive action. By the time it entered cloud it was smoking badly. I followed into cloud for 30 sec. then diving slightly spotted e/a directly ahead. My starboard cannon also ceased firing so I fired short burst of M/G [Machine Gun - Ed.] until within 50 yards. E/A dove into cloud at an angle of 45º. Pilot apparently bailed out while in cloud. First e/a confirmed by F/L Wright. 

I claim 2 FW 190’s DESTROYED. Cine gun used [gun camera - Ed.]

(SGD), A. Roseland. F/L.”

Full disclosure Arnold: I am no historian, just a graphic designer tasked with creating the stencils for the painter… but I wanted to get them right. It was a balance between copying the exact paint scheme as portrayed in the engine change photo and making the aircraft look beautiful. The field-altered and hand-painted markings we see in the photo are those of an aircraft in the throes of battle where perfection and symmetry are far from standard operating procedures. In the photo, major parts of the D-Day stripes have been removed in a seeming random fashion, some of the camouflage has been over-painted, and all the markings suffer from rough application and rougher handling. If we wanted to be true to the markings we see in the photo… we’d paint them on with a brush, then partially remove them. The markings as seen in the photo showed us only the port side. It would be wrong to assume that the treatment on the starboard side would be reflected… we would be just guessing. 
 
We have decided to paint the scheme partly as seen in the photo (with squadron code in “sky” and aircraft code in white) but work from a specified RAF standard of the day which was, in the case of other 442 Squadron photos, followed. Quite frankly Arnold, this D-Day stripe standard (weeks after D-Day, stripes could be removed from the upper surface of the wing and the top half of the fuselage) looked sharp… tactical yet dramatic. A lot of purists tell me many things about what we “should do”, but in the end it has to tell a story, your story, and look gorgeous doing it. It isn’t a faithful replica of the aircraft in the photo (one you never flew anyway), but I can promise you that people will gather round her with their jaws slack with awe at how good she looks. And when they do Arnold, that’s when we will tell them about you. We want this aircraft to be beautiful if she is to represent you and the sacrifice you made. And my God, she looks bloody marvellous. 
 
 
We have chosen to paint your aircraft in a scheme that is closer to this one of Y2-Y, seen here taking off from the forward operating base B-4 at Bény-sur-mer, France in August. Thinking about it now, it is likely that any “K” Spitfire you did fly, would look like this as opposed to MK304, whose D-Day war paint was painted on by 310 Squadron and not 442. We also see proof that 442 painted their gear doors with the D-Day stripes. Photo via Peter Arnold
 
Like I said, I’m no historian, but I had a lot of help from some of the top experts in the esoteric fields of the Supermarine Spitfire, Canadian Spitfire Squadrons in particular, RCAF markings, and the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force (2TAF). There is SO much knowledge out there Arnold, I just had to ask and the real experts gave me wholeheartedly of their deep knowledge.
 
One day next year Arnold, this Spitfire will fly again. Mark my words. When she lifts off the runway to the north of this hangar, the sun shimmering and dancing over her propeller disc, her Merlin heart racing, no, roaring to get back in the sky, she will not only carry your name on her sides, but your spirit, your courage, your story will be riveted into her very bones and etched on her skin. And your boy and his boys and their children will be there. Of that I am sure.
 
The sun has gone down Arnold. Wallace is sleeping on the hangar floor beneath your Spitfire. The Roseland Spitfire. I feel significantly better having talked to you. Ghost therapy I guess you could call it. I’ll write later and tell you how it’s going... when your Spitfire flies again. Thanks for your time. Wallace is giving me the stink-eye. It’s time to go home. To my beautiful wife and my lovely house. I am so sorry that you could not find that simple pleasure after what you did for us through that horrible war.
 
But here is the thought I want to leave you with. Next year, after the test flights, I see an evening as beautiful as this one. I see your Spitfire in the sweet gorgeous light of the end of a late spring day. The air is smooth and liquid and calm. The temperature at 2,000 feet is cool and refreshing. Your spirit and perhaps your brevet are riding along with one of our pilots in your Spitfire. Off your left wing there is flying a bright yellow Harvard, in the markings of No. 2 Service Flying Training School where you learned to fly high performance aircraft. The Harvard and Spitfire, both from Vintage Wings of Canada, represent the beginning of your service and the end. These two war machines rise and fall on the soft currents of invisible air. The noise is thunderous, but you can only hear joy and silence. In the back seat of the Harvard is Ron. He is transfixed by your beautiful metal ghost on his right. There are tears in his eyes again. He sees you for the first time in a way he could never have dreamed when Audrey told him you weren’t coming home. But here’s the thing Arnold… finally… after all this time… you will be home.
 
 
With deep respect and admiration
Dave O’Malley, Roseland Spitfire Project
 
 
 
I had help from people with a lot of knowledge of Spitfires, their production and operational history, their markings and much more. The key people who helped me get it right were Peter Arnold, co-author of Spitfire Survivors, Then and Now, Volumes I and II; Stephen Fochuk, author of Metal Canvas; Canadians and World War II Nose Art; Terry Higgins, aviation artist and author of many profiles for Aviaeology Publishing and Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal; Christopher Thomas, leading authority on the 2nd Tactical Air Force and author/co-author of numerous books on the 2nd TAF; Wojtek Matusiak, a leading Second World War Polish and Spitfire researcher who has published numerous books and essays on these topics; Major Mathias Joost of the Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence (Operational Records Section); Tim Dubé, former Senior Military Archivist, Library and Archives Canada and former President, Canadian Aviation Historical Society. I also had input from long-time Spitfire enthusiast and model maker Bob Swaddling. I may not have done everything these good people suggested, but their help was critical to the final execution of a Spitfire to honour you and all Canadian Spitfire pilots who participated in driving the Nazis back to the hole they came from.
 
I’ve added a few photographs of the progress towards that day next year. I think you will be quite impressed.
 
 
 

Ken Wood begins the complex structural work on the Spitfire’s elevator. Photo: Dave O’Malley

Just a few weeks ago, the Roseland Spitfire stood on her own three feet for the first time. Now she begins to look like a proper airplane. Photo: Dave O’Malley

Underneath she is D-Day through and through, Arnold. Those black and white stripes tell a compelling story of one of the greatest strategic and tactical military events in all history, and you were part of it. You never lived to know how it all turned out... but I think you can tell that you sacrifice was not in vain. Photo: Top: Pierre Lapprand, Bottom: Richard Lacroix

The all important “K”. This single letter signifies so much to all of us here at Vintage Wings. It signifies you, Arnold. Photo: Pierre Lapprand

George Mayer, himself an RCAF pilot and one of our most loyal volunteers checks out the new paint work. Arnold, George grew up during the Second World War and was inspired by you and the airmen of the RCAF. He ended up retiring after a long career in the air force. Photo: Peter Handley

The markings on a Spitfire must be applied in a very specific order to be correct. The aircraft leaves the factory with its camo and serial number. The hurried nature of battlefield arrival of replacement aircraft means the squadron code (Y2) and aircraft code (K) would simply be applied directly over the serial number and obscuring it. Photo: Peter Handley

As utilitarian as these markings are supposed to be, they do emit a certain dramatic Bauhausian air. These would have all been so much cruder than this in the field at the front, but we now have the time Arnold and the desire to make your Spitfire the best it can be. Photo: Peter Handley

It won’t be long before life comes back to this mighty Rolls-Royce Merlin. Photo: Peter Handley

Photo: Peter Handley

Photo: Peter Handley

 

If you wish to read about the wartime career and death of Roseland, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chercher
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