Proposed Colour Schemes for S/N 5518
Article by Willie (Buskruit) Burger – Velddrif, 1st June 2016
A fascinating look at the history of Spitfire 5518 through the years.
Spitfire TE 213 came off the Castle Bromwich production line in May 1945; at the very end of the Second World War. It was placed in storage and was selected for sale to the SAAF. It was flown to Egypt on 18 July 1947, and it and 52 other Spitfires were flown down Africa in batches, escorted by PV-1 Venturas from 60 Squadron.
The photo above of TB 987 shows the Green/Medium Sea-grey camouflage and Medium Grey underside. This aircraft was “used”, before it came south, having flown with an RAF squadron for five months. TE 213 came south with it, and was “new”, but both had this RAF Green/Grey colour scheme. Note the Type “C” under-wing roundel. The upper wing had a Type “B” and the fuselage had the Type “C1” roundel.
The above two photos were taken during the transit flights between Egypt and South Africa. TB 568 became SAAF 5511. There is no record of TE306’s SAAF number.
S/N 5518 was painted as S/N 5553 according to these two above photos. which at the time (1995) were the only photos of a 1 Squadron Spitfire which gave a fair idea of the 1949 colour scheme. It must be pointed out, that the colours are the same on both aircraft, but the patterns differ. It looks almost as if the one is a mirror of the other. Looking at these two photos, convinced both Steve McLean and myself that 5553 had a Dark Blue (not a Red) spinner.
Above. AX-B S/N 5503 in Dark Sea-Grey and Medium Grey underside with Springbok roundel. The “A” is Yellow and the “XB” is white. This photo was taken at Langebaanweg, after a ground incident/accident during a weapons camp.
In 1950, 1 Squadron’s Spitfires were still camouflaged in various patterns and some of them were overall Dark Earth (upper), with Medium Sea-Grey or Sky undersides. These had Yellow Spinners. S/N 5518 was not there at the time.
In January 1951, Spitfire S/N 5518 went to Waterkloof (1 Squadron) for two and a half months, and was then transferred to Air Operations School (AOS) at Langebaanweg. It was painted in the same colours as the other AOS Spitfires, i.e., Dark sea-grey upper and medium sea-grey underside. There, the spinners were Black, Blue, Yellow or Red, depending on which Flight they belonged to.
I have in my possession, the Aircraft strengths by numbers unit returns of Langebaanweg from 1947 until 1954, which proves that 5518 was at Langebaanweg from April 1951 until June 1953.
To conclude, Spitfire S/N 5518 spent eight months at 1 Air Depot. On its return to 15 Air Depot, it was transferred to 1 Squadron at Waterkloof in December 1948. It is assumed that it retained its RAF camouflage scheme; with the exception of getting a new underwing and tail number, and having orange replace the red of the roundel centres and fin flash. In June 1949, it was involved in a collision with another Spitfire and sent to Depot for repairs.
There is no record of it receiving any squadron and individual aircraft code letters. Therefore it can be assumed that this could be a photo of S/N 5518 (below), which was with the Squadron for six months, as I enlarged the original Photo and could just make out a “55??” tail number.
After the Depot repair, S/N 5518 went back to Snake Valley, where it remained until January 1951. In January 1951, Spitfire S/N 5518 went to Waterkloof (1 Squadron) for two and a half months and was then transferred to Air Operations School Langebaanweg in April 1951. The Springbok roundel was then on almost all SAAF aircraft and it may safely be assumed that S/N 5518 spent the rest of its operational life in this colour scheme. It was withdrawn from service in June 1953 and sent back to 15 Air Depot at Snake Valley.