Second World War ace flew ‘Red Lichtie’

IT HAS been confirmed that Second World War flying ace Johnnie Johnson flew the Arbroath Spitfire EP121 ‘Red Lichtie’ on several occasions.

A local committee is organising a programme of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the aircraft being gifted to the Royal Air Force in May, 1942, by the town.

And local people who helped raise £5,000 to buy the aircraft during the Second World War are being invited to join in to help commemorate the event.

Berry Vissers and Gill Howie of Squadron Prints Ltd., have been continuing their research into the aircraft.

When the project started the pair contacted Johnnie Johnson’s family asking if it would be possible for them to have a look through the famous fighter pilot’s logbook! Nothing was heard until an envelope fell through the letterbox on Saturday morning.

Gill explained: “The smile on Berry’s face told it all. He was quite simply delighted when there in black and white was EP121 – Arbroath’s Spitfire.”

She went on: “Johnnie’s first flight in EP121 took place on January 24, 1943, from Westhampnett. It was a local flight test lasting 20 minutes with a further three flights that day of 45 minutes, 20 minutes and 10 minutes! The comments on his log book are quite difficult to read but this was obviously local flying familiarisation flights and maybe air tests at a new base!

“The Arbroath Spitfire seemed to be flown many times by the Squadron Leader and two days later he was airborne again but this time on a more important mission. On his 102nd sweep he was on patrol in the Hardelot area covering the withdrawal of bombers. The flight lasted one hour 40 minutes and he was flying in the company of aircraft from 485 Squadron RNZAF.

“In the comments section of the log book it reads ‘Intercepted 8-12 FW 190s – excellent controlling by Appledore. Wing Commander Brasten destroyed one FW 190 and a pilot from 165 Squadron also destroyed a FW 190.’

“Perhaps the best comment of the day was ‘No Wing losses’.”

Gill continued: “Three days later on January 29, 1943, Johnson was again airborne twice, once for 45 minutes and then again for 55 minutes. This time it is a little more difficult to read but it seems to be a Squadron flight accompanied again by 485 Squadron flying in formation as a Balbo. A Balbo is a term for large wings of aircraft!”

Squadron Leader Johnson’s summary for January, 1943, states:

610 Squadron: operational hours flown 1 hour 40 minutes. Total operational hours in this Squadron 38 hours 20 minutes and estimated aircraft destroyed to date 8+.

Look out soon for more information about Johnnie Johnson’s flights in Arbroath’s Spitfire!