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Spitfires over Darwin - The Commanding Officer's Edition
by Robert Taylor
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Specially commissioned to support the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra and the University of New South Wales in Sydney and commemorating the gallant Spitfire Wing that defended Australia against the onslaught of the Japanese.

Overall Print Size: 24 7/8'' wide x 19 1/4'' high.

The bombing of Darwin by Japanese aircraft shortly before 10:00 am on the morning of February 19, 1942, brought the northern region of Australia directly into the war in the South Pacific.

The surprise attack caught the Royal Australian Air Force with only a handful of Wirraway trainers and a squadron of Hudson twin-engine bombers to defend the Northern Territories, and a Japanese invasion looked a possibility.

Fortunately the USAAF 49th Group were transiting through Darwin at the time, en route to Java and, flying their P-40E fighters, they were able to hold the line until 77 Squadron Kittyhawks arrived to defend the 'Top End' in the latter part of 1942.

At the time Australia's only Spitfire squadrons were operating successfully in Europe as part of RAF's 11 Group, but Churchill, recognizing the Japanese threat to Australia, dispatched three Spitfire squadrons to Darwin in the Northern summer of 1942.

Simultaneously a group of talented young Australian pilots returned home from service in North Africa and Malta to join the newly formed Wing.

Number One Fighter Wing, known as the "Churchill Wing", became operational in January 1943, scoring their first victory on February 6th. Shortly after on March 2nd, the Wing's Spitfires led by the legendary Wing Commander Clive Caldwell came up against Zeros - the first time the two types had met over Australian skies.

The Spitfire pilots immediately took the upper hand, bringing down two Zeros without loss - a portend of what was to come.

These early encounters were the start of what became a highly successful air defence campaign, and by the end of the year the seasoned fighter pilots of No 1 Fighter Wing had gained total air superiority, and had claimed over 100 victories. The Japanese withdrew and the attacks of Darwin ceased.

Robert Taylor's beautiful painting, dedicated to the Spitfire Memorial defence Fellowship, depicts the Mk Vc tropicalised Spitfires of No 1 Wing RAAF returning from a scramble over the city of Darwin in early 1943.

Flying loose formation the pilots are able to admire for a few glorious moments the spectacular sunset above the coastal waters of the South Pacific.

Commemorative prints from this specially published edition are signed by distinguished fighter pilots who flew in the defence of Australia during World War II.

The Commanding Officer's Edition: Print numbered #1/550 signed by:

Wing Commander Bob Foster
Flight Lieutanant Ted Hall
Flight Lieutanant Alex Henshaw
Flight Lieutanant Don Maclean
Flight Lieutanant John Bisley
Flight Lieutanant Ron Cundy
Air Commodore Ken James
Squadron Leader Ron MacDonald
- a total of eight signatures


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