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Top Cover
by Robert Taylor
  AUD$395.00
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From the Battle of Britain to the last days of a crumbling Third Reich, the magnificent Spitfire became a symbol of the heart of a nation.

For one Halifax crew on 6 October 1944, the presence of 610 Squadron's Spitfires became a godsend.

Flying escort missions was no soft option for fighter pilots. Supporting bombers en route to important strategic targets almost guaranteed interception by enemy fighters, and the great bomber air raids over enemy occupied Europe brought about some of the most ferociously fought aerial dog-fights of the war.

Though regarded as the best defensive fighter ever built, the Spitfire flew in most fighter roles in almost every theatre of WWII. It equipped many squadrons such as the RAF's number 610 Squadron, which flew this outstanding fighter in various marks, throughout the war.

Having contested the Battle of Britain flying Mark I's, 610 became part of Douglas Bader's famous Tangmere Wing in 1941 with the Mark Vb.

As part of top-scoring Johnnie Johnson's Canadian Wing in 1943, the squadron was equipped with the Mark IX, "the best of all Spitfire Marks" according to the great wing leader.

In 1944 the squadron received 90 gallon drop tanks for their new Mark XIV Spitfires and began long range sweeps over Germany. Robert Taylor's emotive painting Top Cover recalls an event from this period; Led by Tony Gaze, on 6 October 1944 his flight of 610 Spitfires have picked up a severely damaged Halifax over Holland as it lumbers homeward after an attack on synthetic oil plants in Germany.

Two crew members have been ordered by skipper Ted McGindle to depart the ailing bomber by parachute while he struggles on with other crew members too badly wounded to escape. Top cover provided by 610's Spitfires ensured this 462 Squadron RAAF Halifax made it home on that October day.

TOP COVER SIGNATURES

Squadron Leader F A O TONY GAZE DFC **

Australian Tony Gaze was studying in England at the outbreak of war and joined the RAF. After training he joined Bader at Tangmere in March 1941 flying Spitfires with 610 Sqn - often flying as Bader's wingman. In June 1942 he was posted to 616 Sqn and then commanded 64 Sqn.

In May 1943 Tony joined 453 Sqn RAAF and in August joined 66 Sqn and was shot down - evading capture he escaped back to England, and in June 1944 became the first Allied airman to land back on European soil at St Croix-Sur-Mer.

In July he was posted to 610 Sqn flying Spitfire Mk XIVs on long-range bomber escorts, then transferred to 41 Sqn in April 1945. In the final days of the war he flew Meteor jets with 616 Sqn.

Tony Gaze finished the war a double-Ace with 11 and 3 shared destroyed, including an Me262 and Arado 234, 4 probables and 1 V1. He was the first Australian to destroy an enemy jet in combat and the first Australian to fly a jet in combat. Tony was awarded the DFC with 2 bars and completed 3 Tours of Operations.

Flight Lieutenant EDWARD TED McGINDLE DFC

Englishman Ted McGindle was studying in Australia at the outbreak of the Pacific war and joined the RAAF in April 1942. His initial training was at 10 EFTS Temora, then 1 SFTS Point Cook where he gained his Wings and graduated as a Sgt Pilot. Ted sailed for England and attended 21 OTU Morton-in-the-Marsh in March 1944 where he selected his crew and converted to Wellingtons.

Sgt McGindle converted to the Halifax and in August 1944 was posted to 640 Sqn, 4 Group where he completed 11 Ops. Later that month he transferred to 462 Sqn RAAF, equipped with Halifaxes and based at Driffield.

On his 19th Operation on 6 October 1944 to the Synthetic Oil Plants at Sterkrade, Flg Off McGindle was awarded an immediate DFC and 3 of his crew immediate DFMs for bringing their crippled Halifax and wounded crew home to Woodbridge.

During this seven month period he received four promotions from the rank of Sgt Pilot to Flt Lieutenant and acting Flight Commander in March 1945, completing his Operational Tour at the age of 21.

 
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This Sceptered Isle
by Robert Taylor
Battle of Britain Spitfires
 
 
Hunters at Dawn