Spitfire Mk.Vb, AB875, P/O Joseph M. Kelly, No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron, RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk,
United Kingdom, February 1942
No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron was formed out of the American volunteers at RAF airbase Church Fenton on September 19, 1940. It was
equipped with the American Brewster Buffalo replaced by Hurricanes in November 1940. On February 1941, at Kirton in Lindsey
airbase the unit was declared operational and in April started to fly combat out of RAF airbase Martlesham Heath in Suffolk.
In August 1941 it was re-equipped with Spitfires Mk.IIa, in a short time replaced by more powerful Spitfires Mk.Vb.
In May 1942, the unit was relocated to Debden where, at the end of October 1942, was designated 334th FS and became part of
the 4th FG of the 8th AF. This Spitfire Mk.Vb was usually flown by California native P/O Joe Kelly. After he finished his tour of
duty, he requested the transfer to the Mediterranean to where he set sail in the middle of April 1942. He served with RAF until the
end of the year and then transferred to the USAAF.
Spitfire Mk.Vb, BL753, P/O Donald J. M. Blakeslee, No. 401 Squadron RCAF, RAF Gravesend, Kent,
United Kingdom, April - May 1942
Donald Blakeslee, the future fighter ace and commander of the 4th FG USAAF landed in England on May 15, 1941, having completed the pilot training in Canada and was assigned to No. 401 Squadron RCAF, part of the Biggin Hill Wing. On November 22 he
was credited with the first kill, Bf 109 over Desvres. Initially, Blakeslee was reluctant to serve in the American Eagle squadrons,
but after he completed his tour of duty with No. 401 Squadron, he joined No. 133 (Eagle) Squadron as it was the only possibility to
continue combat flying. After the 4th FG was established within 8th AF USAAF at the end of September 1942, he was appointed
to command 335th FS (ex No. 121 Squadron RAF) and on February 1 he became the commander of the whole 4th FG. On March 15,
1943, he scored his first kill with 4th FG flying P-47D Thunderbolt and on July 28 he led 4th FG over Germany for the first time. In
February 1944 4th FG under his command became one of the first 8th AF fighter groups to be re-equipped with P-51B Mustang.
In November 1944 Don Blakeslee retired from the operational service with 15.5 kills, 500 combat flights and more than thousand
operational hours to his credit.
Spitfire Mk.Vb, BM581, P/O William P. Kelly, No. 121 (Eagle) Squadron, RAF Southend, Essex, United Kingdom,
The second Eagle squadron, 121st, was established in May 1941 at RAF airbase Kirton in Lindsey. In November 1941 it transitioned
from Hurricanes to new Spitfires Mk.Vb. In December it replaced No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron at RAF airbase North Weald and joined
the offensive operations over occupied Europe. On July 21, 1942, Spitfire BM581 was damaged by Flak fire during the sweep over
the Netherlands. After repair, it was returned to the unit where it served as AV-K even though on September 29 the unit became
335th FS, 4th FG, 8th AF. In April 1943 after the 4th FG re-equipped to new P-47D Thunderbolt, this aircraft was returned to RAF.
William Kelly, as well as the whole unit, was transferred under the USAAF command. In February 1943 he lost his life during the
sortie as one of the last 4th FG pilots who were killed in combat when flying Spitfires.
INFO Eduard - August 2021