panzerknacker88: The shortest serving Spitfir…


The shortest serving Spitfire

On the morning of the 18th August 1940, Flight Lieutenant John
Dunlop-Urie at RAF Westhampnett in West Sussex rushed to his aircraft in
order to intercept an incoming German raid.  Finding his assigned plane
undergoing maintenance,  he ran instead to Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I
serial number X4110 that had been freshly delivered to 602 Squadron. During the course of the combat, Dunlop-Urie was caught from behind by a Messerschmitt Bf 109 that landed several hits with its 20mm cannon. 

“ When an Oerlikon shell burst, it fragmented into thousands of pieces which varied in weight from less than 1 mg. to 20 gm. (fig. 140). However, the largest number of “effective” Oerlikon shell fragments bursting in an area 5 feet in diameter and capable of causing incapacitation to the person exposed was 260. The majority of those 260 fragments weighed between 10 and 50 mg., and their velocity varied between 400 and 600 m.p.s. (meters per second).“ (source: )

Fragments from the exploding shells injured both of Dunlop-Urie’s legs in spite of the fact that the closest hit was several feet away. This illustrates the advantage of the German cannon armament compared to the contemporary British choice of rifle caliber 0.303” machine guns whose bullets would only damage objects in their path.Looking at X4110’s right side, one can see the large number of small fragment holes resulting from the cannon shell detonations. The damage from gunfire and the resulting heavy landing was so severe that the aircraft was deemed beyond repair and was struck off charge less than an hour after taking off on its first combat flight, making it apparently the shortest serving aircraft in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

Unlike his aircraft, Dunlop-Urie survived the war as a Squadron Leader and passed away in 1999.