|"Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-127-0396-13A, Im Westen, deutsche Panzer" by Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-127-0396-13A / Huschke / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons (Source)|
The French are outmatched in the air, Britain lends support but the commander of RAF Fighter Command is already warning the Prime Minister that their resources are being stretched to the breaking point. Any further commitment of the RAF's precious Spitfires and Hurricanes to the battle in France could well leave the island of Great Britain defenseless against the Luftwaffe.
The Panzers are pushing for the Channel coast, brushing aside desperate French resistance, the goal is to cut off the Allied armies falling back from Belgium and trap the British Expeditionary Force against the channel.
|The German advance to the English Channel between 16 May and 21 May of 1940. by The History Department of the United States Military Academy (Source)|
Amazingly, Hitler orders the Panzers to halt in place. The Luftwaffe under Goering can handle this. The Panzer generals are aghast, has Der Führer lost his mind?
But being good soldiers, they halt their advance, so close yet so far.
The RAF can now fly sorties over the French Channel ports directly from England. No need to expose the all important ground staff and facilities to the marauding Germans.
Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe begins to pound and harass the dwindling perimeter around those Channel ports - Boulogne, Calais, Gravelines, Dunkirk and Nieuport (in Belgium).
|"Dunkirk Beaches, 1940" by Eurich, Richard Ernst (RA) (Source)|
|German Dornier Do-17 bombers circa 1940.|
"Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-342-0603-25, Belgien-Frankreich, Flugzeuge Dornier Do 17" by Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-342-0603-25 / Ketelhohn [Kettelhohn] / CC-BY-SA. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons (Source)
As a flight of German Do-17s begins their bomb run on the French beaches, a flight of RAF Spitfires intercepts them. Without escorts, the bombers dump their loads and scatter. One German gunner scores a lucky hit on one of the Spitfires.
Spitfire P9374, piloted by Flying Officer Peter Cazenove, has taken a round through the coolant system. The Merlin engine would quickly seize up without the coolant circulating through the system. Flying Officer Cazenove knew that there was no way he would make it back to England.
He would have to put her down on the beach.
|"Spitfire Mk1A P9374 2 (7515704940)" by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK - Spitfire Mk1A P9374 2Uploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons (Source)|
Where his aircraft would sit, gradually buried in the sand, undiscovered until 1980. Forty years later.
Now she has been fully restored and will be auctioned off this month.
The UK Daily Mail has an excellent story on Spitfire P9374 here.
But Tuna sent me another link, which tells the story of this iconic aircraft very well.
Christie's will be holding the auction.
Gee, I wish I had £2.5 million to spend.
Sigh, I do so love the Spitfire.