Oxford’s Spitfire Mk IXE is as deployed by 127 Wing of 443 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force in Belgium, 1945. Up until 1942, the squadron was flying in a defence role over Newfoundland and Nova Scotia until World War II world demand saw it serving overseas, including Britain. After operational training in southern England, 443 Squadron took part in the Normandy offensive in 1944, then on to Arnhem and Nijmegen before wintering in Belgium in late 1944 and early 1945. From its base in northern Belgium, the squadron was supporting Mitchell attacks against the failing 3rd Reich with sorties continuing until early May, attacking factories, railways, trains and the retreating German forces from the Battle of the Bulge. In March 1945, 443 Squadron moved to the Belgian/Dutch border closer to the front in preparation for the final offensive. Then in early May as the Allied ground forces worked their way further into Germany, the fighter squadrons were following close behind.
The Spitfire LF Mk IXE comprised one of the upgrades demanded by the Air Ministry to combat the hitherto superior German Focke-Wulf Fw190 in particular. As well as modifications to the airframe of its predecessors, the IX was also fitted with more powerful Merlin 61 engines. The early IXEs were converted Mk VC airframes but capable of a speed of 368 mph at 38,000 feet. However, the second half of 1943 saw production of a Merlin 66 powered LF Mk IXE, which became operational in March 1943. The Mk IXE was manufactured at the Castle Bromwich Supermarine works, where over 5600 were made. The later E type wings were structurally identical to the C wing but had their elliptically pointed wing tips replaced by shorter, squared off fairings which improved maximum speed at low altitude in particular.
Our Oxford replica of the LF Spitfire Mk IXE features these later clipped wings with the upper body decorated in the dark grey/dark green camouflage scheme with pale grey underside. Note the black and white invasion bands on the underside of the wings and fuselage which were added from the time of the Normandy campaign onwards to avoid ‘friendly fire’. Also to note is the absence of outer machine gun ports although the new clipped wing allowed for a four cannon armament which was standard on all IXE aircraft. The Royal Canadian Air Force roundels feature on the upper and lower wings of our model with matching red, white and blue vertical stripes on the tail fins. The Squadron’s nickname was ‘The Hornets’ and the yellow and black insect representing the Squadron insignia is printed on the port side forward of the cockpit. The fuselage features the Squadron’s 21T Squadron insignia, alongside its other identity lettering. Final details see a yellow painted strip along the leading edge of the wings; the tyres on this model are finished in matt black but with silver hubs.