It’s no secret that Spitfire RW388 didn’t have the longest flying career. It was built in 1945 and grounded permanently in 1952. Unfortunately, our collection lacks detailed evidence for the aircraft’s activities during those seven years. So I was very excited when our close partner, Operation Spitfire, drew my attention to some documents I’d never seen before, two crash reports for Spitfire RW388.
The reports, dated 30th November 1945 and 3rd January 1952, shed light on where the plane was flying and who was flying it. On both occasions it was a Polish airman flying RW388 and for the first time I actually have named individuals to associate with the aircraft.
The first documented crash occurred on 30th November 1945. RW388 is recorded as being flown by a pilot by the name of Kalinowksi serving with 667 Squadron. After becoming lost due to bad weather he attempted to land on a unsafe runway, tipping the nose whilst trying to avoid bomb craters. The report attributes the crash to pilot error of navigation and installing the wrong radio crystals.
However, one of the biggest surprises in this crash report is the location: Audorf, Germany. I’d been labouring under the belief that RW388 had never made it over to continental Europe, but clearly the aircraft was in service over Germany just after the end of the war.
The second crash report is dated 3rd January 1952, again being flown by a Polish airman named R. Przystajko, in Middle Wallop, Hampshire. During takeoff, whilst attempting the close the hood, the hood detached itself, striking the rudder as it flew through the air. The pilot safely landed following the incident.
This time around the NCO and maintenance personal are given the lion’s share of the blame due to the pilot’s lack of experience with this type of Spitfire.
I’ve also found references to a previous crash of a very similar nature in 1949, but the report for that one hasn’t surfaced yet.
Do YOU know anything about RW388’s flying history, or perhaps the pilots and squadrons who operated the aircraft? We’d love to hear from you – [email protected].