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German Spitfire - The Story of Mk VB (EN830)

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With Allied aircraft performing regular sorties over occupied Europe, and flak and enemy aircraft a constant hazard, it was inevitable that some would fall into the hands of the German Luftwaffe. These captured aircraft could then be tested and compared to current Luftwaffe types. This is the story of one of those aircraft, Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB (EN830).

Production and Entry into Service

One of the 12,129 Sptifires to roll of the production line at Castle Bromwich was Spitfire Mk VB, registration EN830, which was fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 engine giving the aircraft a top speed of 375 mph, range of 470 miles with a service ceiling of 35,000 ft and armament of two 20mm cannons and four 0.303-in machine-guns. Making its first flight on the 30th April 1942 the aircraft was then handed over the following month to No. 37 Maintenance Unit based at RAF Burtonwood on the 1st May 1942.

Entering operational service with No. 131 Squadron in early June 1942, and given the squadron code NX-X, who at that time were based at RAF Merston, where they were undertaking offensive operations over Northern France. On the 25th August 1942 it suffered a flying accident which would curtail the aircraft's flying for a while.

Spitfire Mk VB (EN830)
Spitfire Mk VB (EN830) when in service with No. 131 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

18th November 1942

With No. 131 Squadron now operating from RAF Westhampnett, the weather that day brought with it low cloud and poor visibility, the ideal conditions for which Fighter Command launched Rhubarb sorties. These saw a section of fighters/fighter-bombers fly across the English Channel then fly below the clouds and look for targets of opportunity. No. 131 Squadron would perform two Rhubarbs, the two pilots who would undertake the first were Pilot Officer Bernard Scheidhauer, in Spitfire Mk VB (EN830), and Pilot Officer Henri de Bordas, who were part of the Free French Air Force.

Taking-off at 14:10, and after making their way across the channel to France they arrived at St-Aubin-Sur-Mer, Caen before flying to Carentan, Normandy, on reaching Ecausseville, Normandy, Pilot Officer Scheidhauer attacked and damaged a train. However, Pilot Officer de Bordas had become separated from Pilot Officer Scheidhauer, whose aircraft had been hit by flak. Despite radio calls and circling the area he could not locate him. Making his way west Pilot Officer Scheidhauer made a forced landing in a field on what he thought was the Isle of Wight but was in fact occupied Jersey.

Captured by the Germans and sent to Stalag Luft III, he would take part in the Great Escape, being paired with Squadron Leader Roger Bushell. Four days after they escaped they, along with 48 other escapees, were murdered by the Gestapo. Pilot Officer Bernard Scheidhauer, born on the 18th August 1921, died on the 30th March 1944. He was just 22 years old.

Pilot Officer Henri de Bordas returned to RAF Westhamptnett, landing at 15:25. By the end of the Second World War (1939 - 1945) he had amassed over 480 hours of combat experience. Born on the 4th October 1921, Henri de Bordas died on the 22nd October 2011 at the age of 90.


Despite its crash landing, the aircraft was flyable and was flown to the Luftwaffe's main test airfield at Rechlin, Germany within a month of its capture. It would be given the code CJ-ZY and painted yellow and green. A number of changes were made to the Spitfire, firstly its 12 volt electrical system was replaced with the Luftwaffe's 24 volt one, its armament removed and its Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 was also removed with a Daimler-Benz DB 605A engine installed. It would then be sent to Echterdingen, Germany where a propeller and carburettor scoop from a Messerschmitt Bf 109G was fitted. The Bf 109G was powered by the same Daimler-Benz engine so comparison tests were done between the two aircraft.

The Spitfire stayed at Echterdingen where it would be tested by Daimler Benz pilots and would then spend the next two years as a test bed before being destroyed in a United States Army Air Force bombing raid on the 14th August 1944.

German Spitfire (CJ-ZY)
Spitfire Mk VB (EN830) after being repainted into Luftwaffe colours and known as CJ-ZY.

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