History of the Supermarine Spitfire BL581 and the recovery of the crashed Merlin engine by the east Anglican Aircraft research group.
Build History of Merlin 45 ESN 36569
Production Started – 3rd of January 1942
Dispatched – 12th March 1942
Overhauled – 22nd May 1942 (DE Havilland)
15 Mu Wroughton – Maintenance Storage – 17th June 1943
Rolls-Royce cars purchased Bentley Motors of Crewe in 1931 and in preparation for war Rolls-Royce built a shadow factory on farm land (formerly Merrill’s farm) Crewe. The Crewe factory was bombed in December 1940, killing 17 of its workforce.
On 11 April 1944, an MkVB Spitfire was airborne from Coltishall on a night flight when it ran into trouble in the airfield circuit at 00.30 hours.
F/Sgt G. R. Maunders was descending to land with the navigation lights of his
64 sqn fighter when the aircraft suddenly shook violently, hit by a burst of fire from an intruding ME410 of II/kg.51 flown by Major Hauptmann Dietrich Puttfarken.
Opening the throttle, F/Sgt. G. R. Maunders climbed to 4,000 feet, his engine temperature soaring then, with flames and sparks pouring from beneath the cowlings, rolled the Spitfire over onto its back to jump clear.
By this time, BL581 was in a tight left-hand spin, but the pilot managed to force his way out of the opposite side of the cockpit and parachute to safety.
The Spitfire plunged into the ground 2 miles from RAF Coltishall and was destroyed on impact. This engine is from the last British Aircraft shot down over England on 11h April 1944 and, the last Spitfire to be shot down by enemy aircraft over Great Britain.
The EAARG (East Anglican Aircraft Research Group) described this aircraft archaeological find as “Mrs. Randall’s Engine”
Arriving at the Randall’s farm to make some enquiries about the Spitfire, we were taken to see mother – Mrs. Randall. When told of the purpose of our visit she said “you’ve come to find my engine”. She explained that when the RAF (Royal Air Force) recovery crew had cleared up at the time of the crash, they had been unable to remove the engine. Another witness related that the RAF team had, had a small crane with which they had tried to haul out the engine but; by putting a cable around the supercharger, all they had managed to do was to wrench it off the engine.
They had apparently told her late husband that it was too deep to remove and, that it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way down there. She recalled it had crashed close to a since felled holly tree, the only problem was finding which of the tree stumps on the ditch edge was the right one. Eventually the impact point was ascertained and at a depth of about eight feet the rear of the Merlin 45 was revealed.
Tribute to Flight Lieutenant Karel Vykoukal and his service in RAF during the WWII.
Mrs. Randall also recalled one of the two 1945 B24 collisions which took place over head. Apparently one of the few survivors parachuted down onto the farm, her husband and cowman rushed outside to give assistance. The shocked airman, seeing the old fashioned white smocks worn for milking was convinced that he was dead and that they were angels!
The Merlin was in excellent condition after being in the ground for over 20 + years, apart from this, even the spark plug leads were still in position.
Cleaning revealed a Cannon hole on the side of the crankcase and a bullet hole in one of the magnetos, it also revealed a few original data tags.
Spitfire BL581 was placed with the 313th Squadron between 17th January and 30th March 1942 – For most of its time there it was flown by Flight Officer Karel Vykoukal and Flight Officer A. Hochmal
Karel Vykoukal was born in 1916. After the occupation, he went as many of Czechoslovak prewar pilots through Poland and France to the Great Britain. There he involved to the legendary Battle of Britain in No.310, 25, 111 and 73 Fighter Squadrons. Through No.17 and 313 Sqn. he went to the No.41 Squadron as a Flight commander. From May 1942 he is „missing in action“– he probably became the victim to the Germany flak. His war score was 1 confirmed shared victory.
The Netherlands East Indies Campaign of 1941-42 was the conquest of the Dutch East Indies (present –day Indonesia) by forces from the Empire of Japan in the early days of the Pacific Campaign of World War 11 Forces from the Allies attempted unsuccessfully to defend the islands. The East Indies were targeted by the Japanese for their rich oil resources which would become vital asset during the war. The campaign and subsequent three-and-a-half-year Japanese occupation was also a major factor in the end of Dutch Colonial Rule in the region.
Major Hauptmann Dietrich Puttfarken:
Major Hauptmann Dietrich Puttfarken was a very distinguished pilot, was a Iron Cross recipient and flew for the Luftwaffe. Puttfarken flew an ME410 A1/U2, which had two 20mm cannons mounted in a wafffen Behalter 151A (weapons carrier of Container 151) mounted in the bomb bay.
On 23rdApril Major Puttfarken was declared “Missing in Action” presumed shot down over the North Sea – Claimed by Machine Gun fire from a
B24 Liberator. No Trace of Puttfarkens Me 410 has ever been found. He would have been 24-years old on 30th April.
*** Some of the photos presented here were taken from various historical websites, Only used here to depict the persons involved with this particular aircraft and its history.
Czech Spitfire Pilot of 313 Squadron in Hornchurch, 8th April 1942.