John Martin shares his spitfire flying experience at SAAF Museum meeting

Written by Dave Evans

After the Friends of the SAAF Museum’s monthly meeting at AFB Swartkop on Saturday 17th February, John Martin gave a presentation. He flew Spitfires for the SAAF in Italy in World War 2, and is now approaching his 95th birthday. Despite this, he is still in sparkling form, and gave an outstanding talk, backed up by a PowerPoint presentation of photos. His first ‘airborne’ experience was on unbelievably basic ‘A frame’ gliders: devices which look more designed to frighten off anyone considering being a pilot. He then graduated to gliders which looked like real aeroplanes, followed by Harvards, and then conversion to P40 Kittihawks, which took place at – yes – Swartkop – 75 years ago! He then ‘went north,’ converting to Spitfires in North Africa, and then on to Italy, where he joined 4 Squadron – the ‘Vampires.’ He has something like 160 sorties and 248 hours on Spitfires, ending up on Mk IXs, which he described as a wonderful aircraft. Most of his operations were either ground support, carrying a 500lb bomb, or escorting bombers such as Marauders across the Adriatic to Yugoslavia – he remarked that flying for hours over sea in a single engine fighter was always tense! He also commented that with its narrow track undercarriage, and very large nose, the Spitfire was never an easy aircraft to land. He ended his SAAF service in South Africa on twins such as Dakotas, Ansons and Oxfords.

Our thanks to Karl Jensen, who compiled the Powerpoint presentation, and to his friend Gordon Dyne, who introduced him.

John Martin was, and still is, a remarkable man – our thanks too to him, for an enthralling and very well-delivered presentation!

John Martin in 1944, Italy, getting into a Spitfire with his escape map
John Martin pictured in 1943.
John Martin at the SAAF Museum’s Spitfire Restoration Project event for veteran Spitfire pilots, 4th of November 2017.