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Robert Vose after his Spitfire flight and Robert Vose’s Spitfire Flight

The forecast for the day was not looking promising for Robert Vose who was due to fly our Spitfire TR9 from Solent Airport Daedalus. However, Tuesday the 12th of April 2022 was about to become a day to remember for Robert for two reasons. The weather was improving steadily enough to get a flight in our fantastic two-seater but very specially, his father Tom Vose, 77 years to the day had been operating over Italy in Spitfire LF Mk IX MA449, attacking German gun positions whilst flying with 601 (County of London) Squadron.

For, it was a real privilege to welcome Robert and Jane Vose to our new facility at Solent Airport Daedalus. They had brought Tom’s log book, a photo album and also a piece of his Mk IX Spitfire that he had to force land in Italy on the 30th of April, 1945. It is always a real treat to be able to meet and chat with the families of veterans, to be able to help them understand the experiences of a relative with regard to their time on Spitfires and why they had such an affection for the aircraft.

Robert Vose after his flight in a Spitfire with his father's RAF wings
Robert, pictured here, just prior to his flight with his father’s log book and a piece of his father’s LF Mk IX Spitfire that he crash landed in Italy in April of 1945.

For us, the connection with Tom Vose for extends even further. Our Harvard is painted in the colours of an aircraft once operated by 601 Squadron, known originally as "The Millionaires Squadron", a nametag gained because at its formation in 1925, the squadron had a reputation for filling their ranks with very “well heeled” young men.

601 Squadron was formed at RAF Northolt on the 14th of October, 1925 when a group of young, wealthy and aristocratic men, all of whom were amateur aviators, decided to form themselves into a Reserve Squadron of the RAF following a meeting in the White's Club, London. The original officers were picked by the First Commanding Officer, Lord Edward Grosvenor, the youngest son of Hugh Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster.

601 Squadron has a local connection to us. It was based at and served with distinction at RAF Tangmere during the Battle of Britain, flying Hawker Hurricanes. RAF Tangmere was the parent station of RAF Westhampnett, which today is the current home of, Goodwood Aerodrome.

601 Squadron eventually converted to Spitfires and was posted to North Africa as part of the Desert Air Force. Eventually, the squadron finished the war in the Italian Campaign which is where a young Tom Vose was to join them in October of 1944.

Tom Vose initially flew on the De Havilland Tiger Moth before being posted to Canada where he trained on the Fairchild Cornell. He then went on to fly the Harvard at 41 Service Flying Training School, RAF Weyburn where he graduated as part of Course number 80 on the 20th of August, 1944.

Tom Vose, wartime Spitfire pilot
A photo of the young Tom Vose, proudly wearing his pilot’s wings after his training in Canada prior to attending an operational training unit.

The aerodrome was constructed in 1941 by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. 41 Service Flying Training School, during its operation, graduated 1,055 pilots and recorded more than 180,000 hours of flight time before being abandoned on the 30th of June, 1944.

T6 Harvard in flight
Tom, photographed in a Harvard at 41 Service Flying Training School in Canada 1943.

Tom returned to the UK and attended an operational training unit before being posted to join 601 Squadron in Italy at the end of 1944. While there, he was engaged daily in supporting advancing troops with dive bombing and strafing sorties. They were flying LF Mk IX Spitfires at the time and used 500lb bombs as well as the aircrafts’ 20mm canons to inflict significant damage on German convoys, troop positions and tanks! Their area of operation often took them on sorties up and around the Po Valley and Po River in Italy. Flak and resistance in the area was still a real threat. The Squadron’s operational records indicate that the unit’s Commanding Officer also encountered and set off on a chase of an Me 262 jet fighter, sadly to no avail.

Engine failures, flak damage and weather were frequent risks to the pilots and after six months of operations with the Squadron, Tom’s luck ran out and he suffered a Glycol leak on his Spitfire PT584 on the 30th of April, 1945. The Squadron’s operational record books recorded:-

Another of our pilots was forced to make a hasty landing when his aircraft sprang a glycol leak. He was instructed to fly towards the coast, but before he reached it, he dived into some heavy storm clouds and was then lost sight of. He reported by R/T. that he was going to force land. As a result of a search instituted for F/O. Vose, wreckage of a Spitfire was seen on the North side of Lake Comacchio, but it is not certain whether this is a squadron aircraft or not owing to the impossibility of seeing the squadron markings. He was also reported as Missing, and the aircraft E.2.

Spitfire pilot
Tom on the right, convalescing in Italy after his crash landing in a Spitfire LF Mk IX.
spitfire pilot logbook
An extract from the log book of Flt Lt Vose showing some of his operational sorties.

Fortunately, Tom was to survive the forced landing. Many years after the war, he returned to the site of his crash. He found that the local farmer had rescued the remains of his aircraft and that he had used the wings as part of a roof for one of his farm buildings! The farmer climbed the building to cut a section of the wing off for Tom to keep as a memento of his crash.

Sadly, Tom has now passed away but Robert has much of his memorabilia. He brought along (for his flight) the piece of Tom’s Spitfire, Tom’s pilots wings, his log book and a photo album.

It was a real privilege to be able to run through the ephemera and records of Robert’s father and to be able to add some extra information to help him understand his father’s wartime career. This all happened before he took to the skies in our TR9 with Tim Granshaw, our Chief Instructor.

The Spitfire Flight - A Very Special Day

Robert flew in two seat Spitfire G-ILDA over the Isle of Wight and was shown an aileron roll before returning the circuit at Solent Airport Daedalus. What a great way to be able to experience a little of what his father had during WWII. Those who fought were often a generation that talked little and gave much for the freedom we are afforded today. This was a very memorable day for all who were involved.

Robert Vose in two seat spitfire G-ILDA at Solent Airport
Robert, in G-ILDA after returning to Solent Airport Daedalus.
Tim Granshaw, and Robert Vose after their Spitfire flight experience.
Tim Granshaw, our Chief Instructor and Robert, post sortie.

Two seat spitfire GILDA at dusk

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Robert Vose BLOG
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