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Sad end for Arbroath Spitfire

Wreckage of the Arbroath Spitfire is strewn on the ground after the accident at RAF Digby in June, 1943, which Sergeant W.H. Palmer was lucky to survive.

Wreckage of the Arbroath Spitfire is strewn on the ground after the accident at RAF Digby in June, 1943, which Sergeant W.H. Palmer was lucky to survive.

The story of the Arbroath Spitfire, purchased by the people of Arbroath during the Second World War, has taken another twist.

Gillian Howie, one of the principals of Squadron Prints who published a print of Spitfire EP121 named ‘Red Lichtie’ and who maintains a website on the aircraft, has been contacted by the son of the last pilot to fly the aircraft.

Alan Palmer, of Mission, British Columbia, Canada, says that he came across the Arbroath Spitfire website purely by chance.

He explained: “It was a bit of a revelation for me as I am the eldest son of F.O. William Hewitt Palmer who was the last pilot to fly EP121 and crashed the aircraft at Digby in late June, 1943.”

He continued: “I wish I had known more of your celebrations earlier as I would have been able to shed more light on the flying accident that brought ‘Red Lichtie’s’ history to an end.

“After the accident, my father spent several weeks recovering at Rauceby and Hoye Lake hospitals in Lincolnshire and it wasn’t until November that year that he returned to Spitfire operations.

“He went on to take part in the invasion of Normandy and flew fighter cover over the beaches on June 6. By the end of his tour he had shot down three enemy aircraft, part of the time under Wing Commander James ‘Johnnie’ Johnston.

“After the war and his return to Canada, my father put in service in the fire department at a Canadian RCN facility and operated a dairy farm at Kamloops, British Columbia.

“He sold the farm in 1963 and attended the University of BC to get a teaching degree. While there he supplemented his income by teaching flying and was killed in an accident on July 15, 1968.”

Spitfire EP121 was taken on charge by the Royal Air Force at Burtonwood on May 24, 1942. On June 10, 1943, EP 121 was transferred to No.416 (RCAF) Squadron at Digby, where the engine cut on approach on June 26. The aircraft stalled and spun into the ground, Sergeant W.H. Palmer being injured.

 

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