Top Second World War ace flew ‘Red Lichtie’

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LOCAL people who helped raise £5,000 to buy a Spitfire during the Second World War are being invited to contact Arbroath East and Lunan councillor Donald Morrison who plans to mark the 70th anniversary of the donation of the aircraft next year.

The impending anniversary was brought to his notice by local historian Morris Scott and Councillor Morrison thought it was too significant to be ignored.

Various events were organised to raise the money - a vast sum in the early 1940s - and the councillor would like to hear from anyone who took part.

He has already been in touch with the Royal Air Force Museum and has received a brief biography of the Supermarine Spitfire - named ‘Red Lichtie’ - after it was taken on charge by the RAF at Burtonwood on May 24, 1942.

It reads as follows: “Presented by the people of the Scottish burgh of Arbroath with a donation of £5,000 in March, 1942, the name is Scottish east coast dialect for red light, probably meaning the one on Arbroath harbour, but is also the local nickname for Arbroath.

“Mk Vb EP121 was taken on charge at No. 37 Maintenance Unit (MU) Burtonwood on May 24, 1942. The aircraft was allocated on May 30 to No. 50 (County of Gloucester) Squadron engaged on convoy patrols, Rhubarb and Roadstead operations from Ibsley, suffering Category B damage on July 24 when Sergeant W.N. Strang landed on the wrong runway and the port wheel collapsed.

“EP121 was allocated for repair in works on July 29, being sent to Westland at Ilchester on August 1. Ready for collecting on September 19, the aircraft was delivered six days later to No.39 MU Colerne, then went to Phillips & Powis at South Marston on October 10 to be flown to No. 38 MU Llandow on November 23.

“On December 29, EP 121 joined No. 131 (County of Kent) Squadron at Westhampnett to fly sweeps, Circus and Rhubarb operations until January 20, 1943, when No. 610 (County of Chester) Squadron moved in from Castletown to continue with the offensive, taking over EP 121, now coded DW-B.

“On February 13, the commanding officer, Squadron Leader J.E. Johnson, flying this aircraft, probably destroyed a FW 190 southwest of Boulogne.

“On March 7 the aircraft joined No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron at Perranporth to be engaged mainly on shipping patrols, being Category Ac damaged on April 18 when the radiator shield was tom away during a high-speed dive, to be repaired and returned to flying duties with No. 412 (RCAF) Squadron on April 24 at Perranporth.

“On June 10, EP 121 was transferred to No.416 (RCAF) Squadron at Digby, where the engine cut on approach on June 26 and the aircraft stalled and spun into the ground, Sergeant W.H.Palmer (Canada) being injured.”

The pilot of the ‘Red Lichtie’ on February 13, 1943, was Squadron Leader, later Air Vice Marshal James Edgar ‘Johnnie’ Johnson CB, CBE, DSO and two Bars, DFC and Bar, one of Britain’s most distinguished fighter aces of the Second World War with 34 confirmed victories.

Councillor Morrison commented: “After being approached by local man, Morris Scott, a couple of months ago, I have become intrigued about the story of Arbroath’s very own Spitfire, the Red Lichtie, which played its part against Nazi Germany in the Second World War

“Next year will be the 70th anniversary of the Red Lichtie being donated and I have been in discussions with Angus Council about making a lasting commemoration to thank the people of Arbroath for their generosity during what were extremely difficult and uncertain times.

“I would like to thank the Arbroath Herald, Montrose Air Museum and Angus Council for supplying information about the aircraft, but it would be also great to hear from readers and any personal stories about the local efforts to raise the £5,000 required to pay for the “Red Lichtie” spitfire, as part of the “Wings for Victory” campaign.

“The Council still has a plaque presented to the people of Arbroath by the Royal Air Force and it would good to use this as part of the commemoration.”

Councillor Morrison can be contacted on 01241 874522.