LF VIIIC Spitfire MT719 served with 17 Squadron RAF in Burma 1944-45 - reproduced with thanks from 'Spitfire - Flying Legend' by J Dibbs / T Holmes (Osprey Aviation 1996)

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII

Supermarine Spitfire VIII: Similar to Mk VII but without pressurised cockpit. Armament as Mk VC, structural and systems improvements as Mk VII, enlarged rudder (except first few aircraft) and compact Aero-Vee tropical filter as standard. Prototype development included Mk III (N3297) fitted with Merlin 61 early-1942. Production (Supermarine Type 360) totalled 1,658 by Supermarine in three designated sub-variants according to altitude rating of engine: Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk VIII with 1,705 hp Merlin 66; Supermarine Spitfire F Mk VIII with 1,565 hp Merlin 61 or 1,710 hp Merlin 63; and Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VIII with 1,655 hp Merlin 70. Most Supermarine Spitfire VIIIs flew with standard-span wing, but extended or clipped tips used as required operationally without change of designation. Service introduction, mid-1943, principally in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, including some SAAF squadrons. Later, Supermarine Spitfire VIIIs replaced Mk VCs in squadrons operating in the CBI theatre and equipped units of the Indian Air Force. In 1944, RAAF took on charge 251 LF Mk VIIIs for its squadrons in New Guinea; 159 more Mk VIIIs were received post-war. In fighter-bomber role, some Mk VIIIs carried two 500-lb (227-kg) bombs under fuselage; later aircraft used 45-Imp gal (205-1) teardrop long-range tanks in place of earlier slipper type.

The Spitfire Mk. VIII was basically a non-pressurized version of the Mk. VII. The Mk.VIII featured a stronger fuselage than earlier Spitfires and a retractable tail wheel. Ironically, the Mk. VIII entered service after the Mk. IX, which was built as a "stopgap" fighter following the long teething period experienced by the Mk. VIII. First ordered in July 1942, Supermarine built nearly 1,658 Mk. VIIls by the end of 1945.

In the war with Japanland-based Spitfires gave their main service on the Burma front supporting the British Fourteenth Army, and in the south-west Pacific operating as part of General MacArthur's forces.  Spitfires of the Australian Air Force  were in action from early 1942 onwards - primarily in defensive operations against Japanese air raids, and most notably in the defence of the northern Australian port of Darwin. In 1942-3 the majority of the Spitfires in front-line service in the Far East were Mk Vs.  Later in the war these were largely replaced by the superb Mk VIII, generally acknowledged to be the best production Spitfire variant as regards its handling qualities when airborne.
Itwas in operations in defence of Darwin that Spitfire pilots first became aware of the exceptional maneuverability of the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero. In their many European actions with the Luftwaffe's fighters Spitfire pilots had always enjoyed superior maneuverability -  at least as regards their aircraft's rate-of-turn in level flight.  It was a shock to the Allied 
air forces to discover that the Zero could easily out-turn their own fighters, and combat tactics had to be revised.
Indefensive operations based on Australia in 1942-43 the Spitfire generally suffered from a higher loss rate than the other Allied fighters involved. This was largely so because of its poor operational range - Spitfires often being drawn too far away from their base and consequently running out of fuel over the sea.

Spitfire Mk VIII flown by Wing Commander Glenn Cooper of 457 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force - South-West Pacific Forces


ENGINE: Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 developing 1,720 h.p.
ARMAMENT: 2 Hispano 20mm cannons, 4 Browning .303 machine guns
WING SPAN: 36 feet, 10 inches
LENGTH:  32 feet, 2 inches
HEIGHT: 11 feet, 8 inches
MANUFACTURED BY: Vickers Supermarine
RANGE (Wl EXTERNAL TANKS):  l,180 miles
SERVICE CEILING:  41,500 feet


The Spitfire VIII profile drawing is reproduced, with thanks,from
'British Fighters of World War Two" by Bill Gunston (Hamlyn/Aerospace)
Main source for the text and the Mk III Seafire data/specification was
'Brtish Warplanes of World War II' by Daniel J. March (Grange Books 2000)
The Spitfire Mk VC profile and Mk VII drawings are reproduced with thanks from the same work
The photograph of the LF VIIIC Spitfire MT719 is reproduced with thanks from
'Spitfire - Flying Legend' by J. Dibbs and T. Holmes (Osprey Aviation 1996)