Malfunction leads to the tragic loss of Spitfire pilot

A Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB carrying two 250-lb GP bombs on underwing shackles, prepares to take off from an airfield in North Africa. No. 152 Squadron RAF began the first use of the Spitfire as a fighter bomber in North Africa, flying "Rhubarb" sorties from Souk el Khemis, Tunisia, in March 1943.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB carrying two 250-lb GP bombs on underwing shackles, prepares to take off from an airfield in North Africa. No. 152 Squadron RAF began the first use of the Spitfire as a fighter bomber in North Africa, flying “Rhubarb” sorties from Souk el Khemis, Tunisia, in March 1943.

Supermarine Spitfire Mark VCs of No. 152 Squadron RAF being refuelled between sorties at Lentini East, Sicily, as another Spitfire flies over them.

Supermarine Spitfire Mark VCs of No. 152 Squadron RAF being refuelled between sorties at Lentini East, Sicily, as another Spitfire flies over them.

No. 152 (Hyderabad) Squadron RAF were a very experienced unit, having been flying Spitfires since they were on the front line of the Battle of Britain. They had then seen service in North Africa and Sicily. In December 1943 they transferred to India where they would soon be taking an active role in the campaign in Burma.

The 5th January 1944 would have seen just another routine training flight for 152 Squadron. Unfortunately it is remembered for a single tragic mistake or malfunction. The following letter is self explanatory:

5th january 1944 CT Cole

Courtesy of the online museum of No. 152 (Hyderabad) Squadron, where

‘ COLE, Flight Sergeant, CHARLES THOMAS, 1316347. 152 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 5th January 1944. Age 21. Son of Amy Cole; husband of Marjorie A. Cole, of Longlevens, Gloucestershire.’

is remembered in the the Roll of Honour (worth making sure your speakers are turned up before following this link).

A pilot of No. 152 Squadron RAF climbs into the cockpit of Supermarine Spitfire Mark VC, JG871 ‘L-E’, shortly after the unit re-equipped with the type, at Souk-el-Khemis ("Paddington"), Tunisia.

A pilot of No. 152 Squadron RAF climbs into the cockpit of Supermarine Spitfire Mark VC, JG871 ‘L-E’, shortly after the unit re-equipped with the type, at Souk-el-Khemis (“Paddington”), Tunisia.

Warrant Officer R E Partidge of Brisbane, Australia, (left) and Sergeant Cyril Potter of Northampton, two pilots of No. 152 Squadron RAF at Sinthe, Burma, examine the damage caused to the elevator of Potter's Supermarine Spitfire Mark VIII during a dogfight with Japanese 'Oscars'.

Warrant Officer R E Partidge of Brisbane, Australia, (left) and Sergeant Cyril Potter of Northampton, two pilots of No. 152 Squadron RAF at Sinthe, Burma, examine the damage caused to the elevator of Potter’s Supermarine Spitfire Mark VIII during a dogfight with Japanese ‘Oscars’.

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