Sde Dov airbase spent the night following David Ben-Gurion's declaration of the state of Israel digging shelter and setting up defences at the base. In the pre-dawn hours of May 15, two waves of REAF Spitfires attacked the field, unopposed by sleeping anti-aircraft gunners. The Egyptians managed to kill a few men, damaged several aircraft, set fire to an ammunition warehouse, and lightly damaged othe facilities. A third wave of Egyptian Spitfires attacked at 08:00 and a fourth came at 10:00. One of the gunners on one of the base's six 20-mm AA guns hit one of the fourth wave's airplanes in the cooling system. As the Spitfire spewed glycol, it flew north - away from its country's forces - along the seashore and belly-landed on the beach near Hertzliya. A group of Israelis captured the pilot, Flt. Lt. Mahmoud Barakat, who, under interrogation, revealed what he knew of the REAF and of Al Arish.

Barakat's aircraft would provide part of Israel's first operational Spitfire. It wouldn't be the last REAF Spitfire to supply Israel.

While the British officially abandoned their Mandate on May 14, a small force planned to remain to protect Haifa harbor until Aug. 1. Two RAF fighter squadrons - 32 Squadron and 208 Squadron, both equipped with Spitfire FR.18s - leaving RAF Ramat David for a new home in Cyprus were still in the process of moving when the British Mandate expired. RAF informed REAF intelligence that they still occupied Ramat David, but the intelligence arm of the REAF didn't forward the information to its operations branch.

On the morning of May 22, the REAF attacked the base apparently in the mistaken belief that the Israelis occupied it. The first attack by two REAF Spitfire Mk IXs destroyed on the ground two 32 Sqn Spitfires and one of the RAF Dakotas that was present to move men and equipment to Cyprus, and damaged other aircraft, including eight Spitfires. The RAF immediately halted all withdrawal operations - in fact, it recalled reinforcements from Cyprus - and set up combat air patrols (CAP) to guard the base. A second wave of five REAF Spitfire Mk IXs soon showed up and attacked before the CAP could intercept them, destroying a further Dakota and killing four men. After intercepting the attackers, 208 Squadron's faster Spitfire FR.18s shot down two and a third fell to a Bren anti-aircraft gunner. The victorious RAF pilots were F/O Geoff Cooper and F/O Bowie. A third wave of REAF Spitfires was intercepted and 208 Squadron's F/O Tim McElhaw took two down.

Two of the REAF aircraft fell in Israeli territory and Israeli troops captured one of the pilots, F/O Abed Al-Rahman Aiman, who had managed to crash-land. His Spitfire Mk IX, number 624, would also be salvaged for parts.

Oddly, McElhaw and Cooper would later both be shot down by Israeli Spitfires on January 7, 1949.

As the British Mandate ended, the RAF left with all serviceable aircraft. However, it left several wrecks behind, which it rendered unusable by randomly destroying key components. The RAF did not, however, systematically ruin the wrecks and the random nature of the damage led the Israelis to attempt to resuscitate flying aircraft - a Mosquito, two Wellingtons, and Spitfires - from a mix of parts. Work on the Mosquito and Wellingtons never progressed very far.

The Israelis found Spitfire wrecks at Ekron and transported them to the Sherut Avir maintenance center at (Sde Dov?), where Freddie Ish-Shalom organized the effort to build a flying airplane out of parts. The effort used parts from a number of different marks of Spitfire. Two functional Merlin engines, from the Mk IX family, were found at Ekron and at the former RAF Ein Shemer (east of Hadera, close to the Lebanon border ), which had hosted Merlin-powered RAF Lancasters and, before them, Merlin-powered Mosquitos. On May 16, Barakat's freshly beached Spitfire was added to the mix.

All summer long, mechanics had been working to rebuild two planes from wrecks of REAF and RAF Spitfires. By September, they had succeeded. [By the beginning of July (Huertas??), the first Frankenstein Spitfire was ready.] The first Spitfire, designated D-130, was configured as a photo-reconnaissance machine. A second Spitfire soon followed, D-131. After a summer in the unruly S-199s, the pilots of the 101 received a gift that must have seemed like manna from Heaven. As photo-recon missions intensified through September, Arab flak had begun to fire at the Israelis in earnest. On one trip to Gaza, flak bursts chased Cohen in D-130 out over the Mediterranean. Both Maury Mann and Arnie Ruch were hit in the tail with shell splinters.

More Spitfires arrived two months later, from Czechoslovakia. Israel desperately required fighters and although its pilots disliked flying the S-199, Israel had asked Czechoslovakia for more of that type. In August, Czechoslovakian officials said they had no more but that Israel was welcome to buy their Spitfires. Czechoslovakia was under Soviet pressure to "Easternize" its military, and the Spitfires didn't fit into the country's plans. After having Sam Pomerance affirm the quality of the aircraft, Israel bought 50 e-wing Spitfire LF Mk IXs for $23,000 ($168,500 in 2001 dollars) apiece, and would later buy nine more. Of the 59, only 17 made it across the Mediterranean in time to fight the War of Independence.

The newly purchased Spitfires could get to Israel by one of three ways: in a ship, in an air transport, or under their own power. Surface shipping took too long and while air transport was faster, the transport aircraft were resources needed elsewhere. Sam Pomerance, a crucial figure who served as Israel's mechanic-in-chief in Czechoslovakia, suggested stripping the Spitfires of all excess weight, strapping on some fuel tanks, and flying them to Israel. Sea rescue support would be provided by transports equipped with dinghies which would also carry the equipment removed from the lightened Spitfires. This plan, code-named Operation Velvetta (after a skin creme), was accepted.

At Kunovice, Czechoslovakia, Sam Pomerance took charge of modifying the Spitfires for the flight to Israel, and it fell to Jack Cohen to conduct the test flights. But his input wasn't limited to flying.

Pomerance, along with Bob Dawn and a staff of Czechoslovakian mechanics, removed all non-essential equipment, like guns and radios, from the Spitfires and added extra fuel tanks. Jack Cohen explained in detail:

Each wing tank was actually a 300-litre Luftwaffe belly tank. The configuration was given one test, a four-and-a-half hour airborne endurance flight, which it passed. Despite the extra fuel capacity, the Israelis secured Yugoslavian permission to land and top off the tanks at Niksic, an abandoned Luftwaffe air base in the Yugoslavian province of Montenegro, near the Albanian border. The flight from Kunovice to Niksic is an easy hop. The second leg, to Israel, crossed 2,250 km of open water and took seven hours to complete. Pomerance estimated that each Spitfire would land with a mere reserve of 20 minutes worth of fuel.

On the morning of Sept. 24, six of the Czechoslovakian Spitfires left Kunovice for Niksic, 300 miles away, with Modi Alon, Boris Senior, Syd Cohen, and Tuxie Blau joining Pomerance and Jack Cohen behind the controls. Sam Pomerance took off first, to lead the group. Tuxie Blau took the last pilot spot over Arnold Ruch although Ruch had more experience. Without the built-in radios, the pilots communicated as well as they could - which was poorly - with walkie-talkies. Blau forgot to lower his landing gear at Niksic and damaged his plane but was unhurt.

The equipment removed from the Velvetta 1 Spitfires was taken to Niksic in a Norseman. A C-54 the Spitfire pilots called the "Mother Ship" would lead the Spitfires on the long second leg of the flight over the Mediterranean. It carried the surplus Spitfor parts, plus sea rescue equipment. In the event of a problem, the C-54 would drop a dinghy then continue on to Israel. Two naval vessels went to sea to cover the route and a third waited on alert in Haifa harbor. A C-47 loaded with more sea recue equipment stood ready at Ramat David.

On the morning of Sept. 24, six of the Czechoslovakian Spitfires left Kunovice for Niksic, 300 miles away, with Modi Alon, Boris Senior, Syd Cohen, and Tuxie Blau joining Pomerance and Jack Cohen behind the controls. Sam Pomerance took off first, to lead the group. Tuxie Blau took the last pilot spot over Arnold Ruch although Ruch had more experience. Without the built-in radios, the pilots communicated as well as they could - which was poorly - with walkie-talkies. Blau forgot to lower his landing gear at Niksic and damaged his plane but was unhurt. Ruch traveled in a transport.

The five airworthy Spitfires took off for Israel on September 27, led by a C-54. Two hours into the flight, Alon and Senior felt that their reserve fuel tanks were not functioning and the two landed in Rhodes. Leo Nomis, who with Sandy Jacobs had been circling over the Mediterranean in S-199s to escort the gunless Spitfires, recorded what Syd Cohen had told him:

Jack Cohen thinks he knows what happened:

Alon and Senior landed at Rhodes. Greek authorities suspected both pilots of being Communists and arrested them. Senior recalled:

Alon and Senior landed at Rhodes while the other three planes (D-132, 133, and 134) made the passage to Israel safely, but not without a worrisome moment for Cohen.

I had a problem with my long-range tank - the gauge in the cockpit wasn't working. I thought "What do I do?", then decided to go on and wait till the engine cuts then switch onto main tanks and then pump. Eventually, the gauge did start showing - I thought it strange after all that time - so I switched on my booster pumps (to pump from the wing tanks) and in next-to-no-time nothing more came. So I realised then that something had gone wrong between the wing tanks and the pumps and the long-range tank. To cut a long story short, I restarted my motor, carried on on main tank, and I landed in Israel still with about 45 gallons of fuel. Everything had worked fine except for that pump in the wing tanks, I think. (Hyde 2000)

The three Spitfires crossed the Israel coast at 15:30, whereupon the Mother Ship bade goodbye and headed for Ekron, while the three Spitfires aimed for Ramat David. The trip, the longest ever by a Spitfire, lasted six and three-quarter hours. Pomerance landed first, followed by Syd Cohen then Jack Cohen.

At the airfield, amid great excitement, a welcoming ceremony had been prepared. The leading personalities of the new nation and its armed forces were waiting there. When we managed to get out of the cockpits after sitting tightly strapped in all that time, even though we could hardly stand up straight, we had to get in the middle of the celebrations, which also included the usual dancing. (Cohen 2000)

Blau and his wreck later crossed the sea inside a C-46. The Greeks released Alon and Senior on Oct. 12, but kept their Spitfires. A Greek pilot destroyed one in a fatal accident; the other was handed over to Israel in 1950.

The three successful Velvetta pilots held a post mortem to work out what had gone wrong with the planes that had to land in Rhodes. The three investigators discovered that each of them had experienced the same fuel gauge problem on the flight, and each had successfully dealt with it the same way. They decided that the trouble lay in the wing tanks. By process of elimination, they determined that the problem lay in the wing tanks' breather pipes that had been fitted in Kunovice. The angled, open end faced forward and the pressure of the wind through the pipe pressurized the tanks, forcing fuel through fuel lines and pump to the long-range tank, keeping it full and keeping the gauges registering a full tank.

Each Spitfire drew fuel from the long-range slipper tank before engaging the main tank. The pilots should have seen the slipper tank's fuel gauge drop as fuel was used up, but because the slipper tank was continuously topped off by wind pressure, they did not.

Senior and Alon both assumed the gauges were faulty, whereas the other three assumed correctly that the problem lay in surplus fuel feeding. Senior and Alon, suspecting their slipper tanks were low on fuel, both switched on their wing-tank fuel booster pumps, which started pumping fuel into the full long-range tank. As a result, the slipper tank relief valves just dumped the fuel as it was pumped in; Senior and Alon were just pumping fuel overboard.

Another dozen Spitfires at Kunovice were ready to make the trip in October, but Yugoslavia had revoked Israel's landing rights. Sam Pomerance and his Israeli technicians managed to cram in even more extra fuel tanks, which would allow a non-stop flight to Israel, but Czechoslovakian authorities refused to approve a flight plan that did not include a fuel stop.

The mid-October offensive called Operation Yoav tasked four of 101 Squadron's five Spitfires with escort of Beaufighters to Al Arish. One of the Spitfires went unserviceable, but the other three left Herzliya in the Oct. 15 first strike to hook up with two Beaufighters from Ramat David. The aircraft hit the Al Arish airbase at 17:40, with the Beaufighters bombing and both Beaufighters and Spitfires, piloted by Syd Cohen, Rudy Augarten, and a third man, strafing. They destroyed four REAF Spitfires on the ground, demolished a hangar, and cratered the runway so badly it prevented any take-offs, before AA forced the Israelis to retreat.

The next day, a pair of Spitfires was tasked to escort Israel's three B-17s to Al Arish at 09:00 and to Majdal at 13:30, but for some reason they did not. A single Spitfire did escort the B-17s to Faluja at 16:00. On Oct. 19, Jack Doyle and another pilot escorted the Israeli B-17s on a bombing raid of Huleiqat and in his debrief, Doyle reported accurate bombing and a moderate amount of flak.

On Oct. 21, Rudy Augarten and Jack Doyle flew in Spitfires to CAP the region between Beersheva and Al Arish. They intercepted four REAF Spitfires and Augarten shot two down. A third REAF aircraft was damaged.

On Oct. 22, Doyle took a Spitfire up in an unsuccessful attempt to intercept the "shuftikite".

The photo-recon Spitfire, D-130, saw increasing use throughout the fall, as the threat from enemy aircraft dissipated. In October, it photographed Al Arish airbase, Egyptian concentrations in the Negev, and Arab Legion positions between Latrun and Ramallah.

With the Egyptians on the run in the south, on October 28, attention shifted north. Two 101 Squadron Spitfires escorted the three B-17s that evening to bomb Lebanese headquarters in the Galilee, but they bombed the wrong town. The next morning bteween 07:00 and 07:45, an identical formation hit the correct target.

On November 11, Rudy Augarten and Boris Senior took Spitfires on patrol and intercepted an REAF Dakota, which they shot down. On Nov. 17, a Spitfire patrol with Augarten intercepted three REAF Spitfires 7,500 feet above the encircled Egyptians at Faluja. Augarten shot one down.

Meanwhile, at Kunovice, 12 more Spitfires were ready for a second Velvetta mission by Oct. 22, but Yugoslavia had rescinded permission for the Israelis to refuel. Sam Pomerance began stuffing even more fuel tanks into the Spitfires in the hope of extending their range to allow a non-stop flight to Israel. Seven were so prepared by Nov. 15, with another eight ready for a Velvetta 1-style flight plan. Czechoslovakian authorities refused permission for the Spitfires to take off without a planned refueling stop. They also demanded payment of all debt.

By November 26, 16 more Spitfires awaited an opportunity to fly to Israel. In early December, an Israeli promise to pay $200 per ton of aircraft convinced Yugoslavia to allow the Israelis one last stopover. Oddly, Yugoslavia demanded that the aircraft bear Yugoslavian Air Force markings for the Kunovice-Niksic leg.

Ferry pilots, drawn primarily from 101 Squadron, landed in Prague on December 9.

Ten disassembled and crated Spitfires left Kunovice by train for a Yugoslavian harbor, from where a ship would transport them to Israel. A blizzard delayed the Spitfires that would fly on the Velvetta 2 mission. A C-46 waited for them at Niksic.

After a delay caused by winter storms, Velvetta 2 began as six Spitfires left Czechoslovakia at 10:00 on Dec. 18. Sam Pomerance (in Spitfire 2006 or 2007) took first to lead Caesar Dangott and Bill Pomerantz (2007 or 2006) while George Lichter led John McElroy and Moti Fein (later Moti Hod), an air cadet. In the low visibility conditions, Bill Pomerantz quickly lost the others. With the cloud cover still solid at 14,000 feet, after an hour and a half, Lichter decided to return to Kunovice with the others, but Pomerance, who along with Lichter had the only airborne radios, told Lichter he'd press ahead.

Pomerance died when he crashed into a mountain in Yugoslavia. Jack Cohen thinks he suffered hypoxia:

Pomerantz ditched in Yugoslavia and although his aircraft burned up, he suffered only minor injuries. John McElroy, a veteran of Spitfire ferry operations into Malta, in anger over the failure refused to follow a less experienced pilot a second time and was give a flight of three to lead the next day, when George Lichter led Shapira and Fein with John McElroy leading Caesar Dangott and Arnold Ruch along the assigned route. (You can find plane assignments in Cull et al 1994 but I question its accuracy on this point.). Clouds still blanketed the terrain. Despite a bout of disorientation on Shapira's part and a minor fuel leak in Fein's plane, all made the three-hour, forty-minute flight safely. Shapira described the event:

Shapira was about to bail out when Lichter found him.

Jack Cohen led Lee Sinclair, Sandy Jacobs, Bill Schroeder, Red Finkel, and another pilot (Syd Cohen?) from Kunovice on Dec. 20.

Ground crew removed the Yugoslav markings from the Spitfires and painted on Israeli colors. Two Spitfires were judged unable to make the second leg and had to wait to reach Israel inside transports.

On Dec. 23, Lichter, Dangott, Fein, and Shapira left for Israel accompanied by a C-46. Lichter and Fein had traded aircraft, perhaps to allow the more experienced pilot to fly the Spitfire that had leaked. Fein recalled the flight:

Shapira also remembered that leg of the trip:

Jack Doyle left Chatzor in a Mustang to escort the the incoming, unarmed Spitfires.

Shapira nearly rammed Fein at Ekron. Fein, landing first, had his engine cut out as he landed and Shapira, coming in behind him, had to swerve violently to avoid a collision. Dangott landed at Chatzor after losing touch with the other three.

On December 26, Cohen led Sinclair, Ruch, Jacobs, Schroeder, and Finkel across the sea. Cohen flew Spitfire 2014, the plane that he, as test pilot and flight leader, considered the worst. Just after take-off, Cohen had to turn 2014 around and land again. A flap on the cowling had come open and he returned to have it secured.

"I must say I was a little worried as I wasn't sure whether the Spitfires undercarriage would be able to take the strain of all the extra weight. Anyway, the fault was rectified and I soon caught up with the rest of the flight." (Cohen 2000)

Later , over the sea, Spitfire 2014 gave Cohen the most uncomfortable flight he has ever made:

"The violent vibrations of the whole instrument panel mystified me, the icy waters of the Mediterranean sent shivers down my spine, but I drew comfort from the fact that I had never heard of a Merlin engine letting anyone down. This one proved equally reliable. All the same I was very thankful when the wheels hit the tarmac.... The cause of the uncomfortable flight was that I had flown almost all the way with two dud cylinders." (Cohen 2000)

(You can see a copy of Cohen's Velvetta 2 debrief report.) Two Spitfires, 2019 and 2015, had developed engine knock on the way to Niksic and made Israel inside one or two C-46s two days later, along with John McElroy.

Israeli headquarters had initially slated all new Spitfires for a second fighter squadron, 105 Squadron, under the command of Boris Senior at Kfar Sirkin (later called Petach Tikvah). Transjordanian artillery shelling that base put an end to the plan and the Spitfires were folded into 101 Squadron.

Rudy Augarten was out on Spitfire patrol on Dec. 22, the day the REAF started to operate its new Macchi MC.205Vs. Augarten and his one wingman, Jack Doyle (in White 14), met a formation of Macchis and damaged one. On Dec. 27, two Spitfires, one piloted by Sye Feldman, scrambled to intercept REAF Machis over Al Arish. Feldman was bounced by a Macchi but escaped with minor damage.

By Dec. 28, most of the Velvetta 2's ten Spitfires were ready for action, and 101 Squadron's activity stepped up accordingly. That day, Augarten again was leading a Spitfire CAP when, at 10:45, two REAF Macchis bombed and strafed an Israeli column near Nitzana. Augarten and his wingman intercepted and damaged both. One left in a slight dive while the other trailed black smoke.

On Dec. 29, Doyle was leading two Spitfires when he decided to attack a what he believed was an Egyptian convoy. Only after a strafing pass that killed one soldier and wounded another did the pilots realize they were attacking Israel's Negev Brigade. Also that day, Wilson (in Spitfire White 14) and Arnie Ruch escorted two of 69 Squadron's B-17s on a raid on the Faluja Pocket. After the bombers dropped, the two Spitfires headed for Al Arish.

We encountered five enemy aircraft over Al Arish. Three took off for home. I played with the other two. We think they were flown by Americans because they put up quite a fight. (Cull at al 1994)

As far as is known, no Americans flew for Egypt, although faulty intelligence reports at the time did have two Americans flying for the Egyptians. Wilson damaged one of the two remaining REAF Spitfires, which fled towards Al Arish, and attacked the other.

On Dec. 30, McElroy and wingman Jack Doyle (in White 24) each shot down a MC.205V that had been strafing Israeli troops near the REAF Bir Hama air base, killing the two Egyptian pilots, S/L Mustafa Kamal Abd al Wahib and F/L Kahlil Jamal al Din al Arusi. Doyle explains:

Johnny McElroy and I were doing a recce of Bir Hama when I saw two enemy aircraft strafing our troops. I cut into their circuit and shot down the leader. The second one broke and ran with Johnny on his tail. In a short while he finished him off and we returned to base. (Cull et al 1994)

The final day of 1948 saw 101 Squadron attack Bir Hama, an Egyptian airfield it had only discovered a week earlier. Denny Wilson, Syd Cohen, and a third pilot attacked in Spitfires, two with bombs and one as top cover. Wilson's flight log indicates that he dive-bombed before patrolling the airspace near the Egyptian base.

On December 31, 1948, while flying a Spitfire (White 15) on a patrol over the Sinai, I spotted an Egyptian aircraft - an Italian Fiat (Macchi) - coming back to its airfield at Bir Hama. He was below me and I shot him down - the pilot bailed out. (Bracken 1995)

Two REAF Macchis were destroyed on the ground. On the way back, Wilson and his wingman, Syd Cohen, detoured toward Faluja.

Near the Faluja pocket, I caught an Egyptian Spit flying escort for a C-46, which was dropping canisters and supplies. I just slid in behind this Spit. He started to make a tight turn but I tightened with him. We were so short of ammunition, we'd been asked not to use our cannons. So I machine-gunned his engine cowlings. He spiraled down and blew up. (Cull et al 1994)

In fact, ammunition was always a problem, as Wilson noted:

They always told us to go easy on the ammo. A single shot from a 20-mm cannon cost about four dollars. Even a .50-calibre shell ran to about 50 cents. (Bercuson archives)

After this fight, Wilson and Cohen joined up with a pair of Israeli Spitfires that were strafing a truck convoy on the Al Auja-Abu Ageila road.

We strafed them repeatedly. We had no idea of the number of transport we destroyed. (Cull et al 1994)

Jan. 1 saw a pair of 101 Spitfires bomb a rail junction at Rafah and the next day two more attacked a train in northern Sinai, but two of the four bombs did not explode.

At 16:20 on Jan. 4, two B-17s bombed Egyptian military installations in Rafah - they were to be escorted by two 101 Squadron Spitfires but the two groups didn't rendezvous, although a wingman pair of 101 Squadron Spitfires on CAP at the same time did spot the B-17s.

The next day saw two 101 Squadron Spitfires bomb and strafe a train just south of Khan Yunis, damaging the engine. Around noon, a mixed pair of Boris Senior in a Mustang and Sye Feldman in a Spitfire ran into three REAF MC.205Vs. The Israelis jettisoned their bombs, and a failure of either will or equipment prompted one Macchi to flee immediately. Feldman claimed one Macchi destroyed. Also this day, Red Finkel had White 14 blow a tire on landing and flip on its back. As well, Rudy Augarten strafed a line of REAF aircraft, only to discover they were dummies.

On Jan. 4, Egypt sent a short message to the UN: it would negotiate an end to the war with Israel if Israel ended all hostilities by 16:00 (local time) the next day. Israel only received word of the offer late on Jan. 5, but agreed to a ceasefire effective 16:00, Jan. 7. Sandstorms limited action on Jan. 6, but Israel was determined to continue pushing its southern advances until the deadline.

On the final day of the war, Jan. 7, Boris Senior and Jack Doyle in Mustangs were escorting 35 Flight's Harvards to attack Egyptians at Dir El Balah when they encountered eight REAF Macchis above the Al Auja-Rafah road.

Wilson, in Spitfire White 16 fresh from feasting on the RAF) and wingman Arnie Ruch were also in the air and found what they thought were eight REAF Macchis on their low 3. The Egyptians saw the two above them, jettisoned bombs, and climbed toward them. In fact, there were only six Macchis. Ruch and Wilson misidentified Jack Doyle and Boris Senior in P-51s as two more Macchis. The Egyptians didn't see Doyle and Senior at all.

In the ensuing battle, both Senior and Doyle claimed a kill, although Egyptian records indicate only one plane lost. Wilson, separated from Ruch in the fight, found himself in a gaggle of five Macchis (which itself indicates that only one REAF plane was lost) after the other Israeli planes bugged out. he radioed back to Chatzor, "I've got five of them cornered," and attacked.

I was left dogfighting the Fiats (sic), when I realized they were leading me into the range of the anti-aircraft guns at Al Arish. I was hit by shrapnel and subsequently found that a chunk of shrapnel was lodged in a canister of 20mm cannon shells, which fortunately did not explode. At that point, I broke off the action and returned to base after calling Arnie. (Cull et al 1994)

Despite the loss of its recon Mosquito on Nov. 20, the RAF continued to keep an eye on the war. The British had every right to overfly the Sinai, which belonged to Egypt proper, but by the closing stages of the war much of the northeastern Sinai lay in Israeli hands. On the morning of Jan. 7, the RAF sent two reconnaissance missions from its bases in the Suez Canal Zone to the battlefield. A Mosquito PR 13 from 13 Sqn at RAF Kabrit accompanied by four Tempest F 6s from RAF Deversoir had an uneventful sortie. Four Spitfire FR 18s from 208 Squadron - formerly based at RAF Ramat David - left RAF Fayid at 11:15 and had a radically different experience. F/O Geoff Cooper led F/O Tim McElhaw and their wingmen, P/2 Frank Close and P/2 Ron Sayers respectively, to survey the Israeli-held land around Nitzana and Rafah and to determine the whereabouts of the REAF Spitfire the Israelis had captured on December 29. Another 208 Sqn pilot had photographed the Spitfire being towed while on a recon flight on Jan. 1.

The RAF patrol was ordered to fly to Abu Ageila and separate into two sections. Cooper and Close were to fly at 500 feet with the other two covering them at 1,500 feet. After separating, the four were to fly east to the Negev-Sinai border, which they would then follow north to Rafah. As they flew their designated patrol, the Mosquito and four Tempests observed four REAF 2 Sqn Spitfires (Macchis according to Huertas 1998) attack an Israeli column near Rafah, destroying three trucks.

The first RAF patrol and Egyptians had left the scene by the time the 208 Sqn Spitfires appeared, a quarter-hour after the Egyptian attack. The 208 Sqn pilots spotted smoke rising over a thousand feet into the air, the result of the Egyptian attack, and flew in for a closer look with Cooper and Close passing low over the Israelis.

McElroy (in White 15) and Goodlin (in White 16 or 23) had been flying for a while before McElroy spotted the same smoke:

It was pretty uneventful for the first 20 to 25 minutes of the flight. And then, all of a sudden, I said to Slick - he was on my left wing - I said, "Look at that smoke over here to the left, on the ground." It seemed to be about eight or ten miles away.

We were a good 40 to 50 miles south of Faluja. It was right on the front line. And there were three columns of smoke - pretty heavy black smoke - going up about 1,000 feet. So I said, "Come on. We'll turn and have a look at this." And as we got closer, I said, "My God!" We could see trucks burning. We could see a couple of light armored vehicles and a number of jeeps. We saw no airplanes at that time. (Rubenstein and Goldman 1978)

They identified the column as Israeli and looked around for enemy aircraft. Chatter on the radio from the ground forces alerted them to the presence of unseen enemy aircraft. The two groups of Spitfires had arrived more or less simultaneously.

McElroy spotted four aircraft flying low over the vehicles - in fact, he thought they were strafing the column:

There were no markings on the Spitfires. Two of them were headed in an easterly direction. And there were two that had gotten out of sight in a dive. They were diving and we lost them. So I warned Slick to watch out and we got over the convoy. (Rubenstein and Goldman 1978)

The two diving Spitfires must have been Cooper and Close going in for a closer look and photos. The covering pair of McElhaw and Sayers had spotted the Israeli Spitfires, but not in time. They warned the lower pair of the presence of "bogies at three o'clock" just as the Israeli gunners on the ground opened fire. It's possible the lower pair of RAF Spitfires didn't see the Israeli aircraft among the scattered cloud, blowing sand, and smoke.

Close later recalled:

Our leader took photographs and there was some small arms fire from the ground. The leader (Cooper) was flying at 500 feet. I was his Number Two and was flying right on the deck, because it was safer from ground fire. I assume it was then that the odd bullet got my engine. I pulled up and the plane caught fire immediately and I jumped. (Cull et al 1994)

The Israelis on the ground shot at the incoming RAF Spitfires and hit Close's engine. He bailed out at 500 feet, suffering a mild concussion and a broken jaw when his head hit the tail of his aircraft (or possibly after his feet became entangled in the chute rigging and he hit his head on landing). Cooper, hit less critically, climbed steeply to get out of range of the gunners.

McElhaw and Sayers, and Cooper apart from them, watched Close's chute as he descended.

At that point, McElroy spotted two Spitfires pair dead ahead and low. Oddly, these two appear to have been Cooper and Sayers. Sayers's wingman, McElhaw, escaped this first attack. McElroy narrates:

Slick was right beside my wing. He'd crossed over on the starboard side and I pulled another turn and turned south to see if we could pick up the other airplanes. Slick moved over to my left. And just as he did, I yelled, "There's an enemy aircraft at twelve o'clock, right in front if us!" They were about 3,000 feet lower than us. So we stuck our noses down and Slick moved off to the left and started firing. We were right on top of them. They pulled up right in front of us and I blasted one, I guess from about 200 yards, and I saw many explosions all around. Engine. Cockpit. I knocked quite a few pieces off his wings.

They'd just pulled out of this dive. They didn't see us at all. They didn't know we were even in the area. I broke off, looked at Slick. He had disappeared from view, but I saw an airplane going down off my left. It was on fire and smoking, in a fairly steep dive around to the left. (Rubenstein and Goldman 1978)

The RAF aircraft McElroy hit dove straight down into the sand dunes, Sayers still inside. (Note that Huertas 1998 has a different description of who shot whom and when.)

Cooper, Goodlin's target, had headed higher hoping to outclimb him, but Goodlin, obviously with more smash, followed. Goodlin recalls:

My quarry poured on the coal with me in pursuit. We broke out of sandy mist at 10,000 feet, but I could not gain close proximity to the Spit 18 due to lesser power in my Spit 9. At about 16,000 feet, the Spit 18 rolled over and dived back towards me at an impossible deflection angle, with machine guns blazing and exhaust smoke rolling out under both wings.

I immediately engaged my opponent in an old-fashioned dogfight scissors. The Spit 9 proved to have better maneuverability and I was able to get into ideal firing position. I saw strikes on my opponent's engine cowl just before he rolled over and bailed out....

I only recognized the RAF roundel after this Spit 18 had fired on me, when we were in the scissors engagement, and I had no alternative but to fight back to save my own bacon. (Cull et al 1994)

While the two Spits climbed overhead, McElroy had spotted McElhaw:

I took a quick look around, behind, and above. Nothing behind me at all and I looked over and saw another airplane off about two o'clock to me - just off my right and slightly below. I took one look and saw it wasn't one of ours by the markings. Ours had the tails painted with big red and white stripes. I looked for the red and white tail markings of our airplanes. They were all marked the same and they showed up many miles away.

It wasn't one of ours, so I just dropped my sights on him - it was about 400 yards - and I let fly. I got strikes all over him. Right down the fuselage and the engine. And I didn't wait around. I just broke off. I got a good burst in, probably about three to four seconds, which is a fairly long burst, and well clobbered with cannon shells and the .50 caliber.. I broke off, looked around but couldn't see Slick. (Rubenstein and Goldman 1978)

Cooper had seen the Israeli Spit on McElhaw and radioed a warning before losing his fight, but McElhaw, orbiting Close's wreckage, had no time to react before having to bail.

McElroy's Spitfire suffered damage to the prop and tail from debris falling off his targets. Most accounts attribute the damage to pieces of McElhaw's aircraft, but the first, closer-range kill may have been the culprit.

The Israelis on the ground captured Close and McElhaw. Cooper, lightly injured in one leg, evaded capture. Some Bedouins escorted him to small Egyptian border post where he hopped on a camel for a ride to Al Arish. From there he took a hospital train back to the Suez Canal Zone. (Cooper eventually rose to the rank of Air Commodore, and became the aviation reporter for the Daily Telegraph. He had previously downed two REAF Spitfires on May 22, 1948, when the REAF three times attacked Ramat David, then still a RAF base and the home of 208 Sqn. McElhaw had also downed a REAF Spitfire.)

After the battle, McElroy and Goodlin reformed:

I told Slick where I was on the radio. I said I'd orbit over the convoy. It was on fire, this burning convoy down there, this armored convoy.... They were still burning and you could see them for 15 to 20 miles. So I orbited over there. Slick picked me up and we went home. (Rubenstein and Goldman 1978)

The two Spitfires flew back to Chatzor where they peformed victory rolls over the airfield. Only upon landing, at 12:27, did McElroy learn from Goodlin that they had shot down RAF aircraft.

On one hand, 101 Squadron didn't desire to shoot down RAF aircraft, but on the other hand, some aggressive pilots welcomed the chance to score before the war ended a four hours later. The IDF ordered 101 Squadron to maintain on CAP to protect the ground forces, but the pilots interpreted this liberally and sent patrols out approximately every hour. At 13:20, a pair of Spitfires left Chatzor and at 14:10, the two Mustangs, led by Lee Sinclair, took off. Neither of these patrols sighted RAF or REAF aircraft, although the 15:30 CAP did. Ezer Weizman led that last mission of the day, and of the war, in a Spitfire. His wingman was fellow Israeli Sandy Jacobs and they were accompanied by another Spitfire wingman pair, Caesar Dangott leading Bill Schroeder.

Meanwhile, the RAF had not been informed that it had lost four Spitfires to combat, and at 15:00 sent a large force to go look for them. Four 208 Sqn Spitfire FR 18s made up the low element, eight 213 Sqn Tempest F 6s led by a group captain took the mid-altitude element, and seven 6 Sqn Tempest F 6s (led by a decorated squadron leader) provided top cover. The formation was tasked with locating the missing four Spitfires.

At 7,000 feet over the border, Weizman spotted eight aircraft ahead. He waggled his wings to attract the attention of his patrol and climbed to 8,500 feet. The eight RAF Tempests Weizman had spotted flew in two quartets beneath the Israelis, in all probability oblivious to their presence. Although the top RAF element was meant to number six aircraft, it seems these eight Tempests were the top cover and not the middle.

The Israelis banked right and made an attack. On the first pass, Schroeder knocked a Tempest out of the sky - the RAF airplane had gone out of control and spun in, the pilot, F/O David Crossley Tattersfield, probably killed in the initial attack. A furball ensued, in which the more nimble Spitfire LF 9s of the Israelis could outfight the heavier and faster Tempests. Weizman hit one Tempest with a long burst and his companions damaged two others, but they, like the rest of the RAF aircraft there and below, quit the combat and outran the Israelis. Weizman's target landed safely at Al Arish.


The following list contains the Spitfires intended for use in Israel during the War of Independence. Many more would follow from Czechoslovakia after the war, including TE554, which would become Ezer Weizman's personal joyride, the famous Black Spitfire. Spitfire TE566, 2032 in Israel, is currently flying as part of the Historic Aircraft Collection at Duxford. TE517 flies the skies of Florida with Fantasy of Flight of Polk City. Or it's stored at Wycombe Air Park, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. But it's out there somewhere.


20XX #

D- #

Radio number






Israel 1; Black 10


Aug. 5

rebuilt 208 Sqn RAF RG-W, photo recon



White 11


mid Sept.




White 12


Sept. 27




White 14


Sept. 27

crashed by Finkel, Jan. 4, 1949



White 13?


Sept. 27







damaged in Velvetta 1 by Blau





n/a or 1950

impounded by Greece; construction # 17/1342; TE5XX





n/a or 1950

impounded by Greece; construction # 17/1351; TE5XX






lost in Velvetta 2 by Pomerance or Pomerantz






lost in Velvetta 2 by Pomerance or Pomerantz



White 15


Dec. 23




White 2X


Dec. 23




White 25


Dec. 23

Virginia XII emblem



White 26


Dec. 23

eagle clutching Spitfire emblem



White 16


Dec. 26




White 18


Dec. 26




White 2X


Dec. 26




White 2X


Dec. 28?

taken to Israel in a C-46?



White 23


Dec. 26




White 2X


Dec. 26




White 17


Dec. 26




White 19


Dec. 28?

taken to Israel in a C-46?








The first Spitfire, designated D-130, was configured as a photo-reconnaissance machine. It contained a camera in an empty oxygen tank bay and had a hole for the lens cut into its belly. A green light on a small control panel on the right side of the cockpit lit when the camera was active.

Only experienced Spitfire pilots were allowed to fly D-130. At first the list was was limited to Modi Alon, Syd Cohen, Maury Mann, Arnie Ruch, and Leo Nomis, but as more volunteers showed up, particularly Canadians, the number of pilots eligible to fly it expanded.

The aircraft's first 101 Squadron flight, a shakedown, took place Aug. 5 with Syd Cohen at the controls. On Aug. 8, Mann made a test flight to check camera function, then flew two reconnaissance missions, the first to Faluja and the second over Beersheva. D-130 would make 16 recon flights in August.

Leo Nomis, who isn't correct if he means Modi Alon took the first ever D-130 flight, recalls of a September day:

...It is decided only those who have experience on the type will be assigned to it. The names are written on the blackboard at the Ops tent and mine is on it along with (Syd) Cohen, Modi, Mann, and Arnold Ruch. The photo reconnaissance missions begin with Modi taking the first sortie in the Jewish shuftykite.

It is mid-morning and I go with Cohen over to the Spitfire revetments, where Modi is talking to Dave Croll (101 Sqn's operations officer). We look underneath the aircraft and see where the camera is lined up with the opening. We walk around in front and Modi and Croll have a map spread out under the wing and Croll is indicating an area with a pencil....

Modi folds the map a certain way and climbs into the cockpit of the Spitfire. When he starts the engine, it fires smoothly and we all stand back from the blast of the propeller wash. The cockpit canopy has been removed like they were on the Spitfires in the Western Desert. The star of David emblem on the fuselage of this machine is so large, it laps over the top. Modi taxis out and stops near the boundary and turns the Spitfire around. After a moment, he nods over to us and opens the throttle. The aircraft leaves the ground when it is half way down the field. (Cull et al, 1994)

D-130 saw increasing use throughout the fall, as the threat from enemy aircraft dissipated. In October, it photographed Al Arish airbase, Egyptian concentrations in the Negev, and Arab Legion positions between Latrun and Ramallah. Despite being a home-built aircraft, D-130 suffered only minor malfunctions, such as jammed film in the camera, and had an excellent reputation among 101 Squadron pilots.

The short focal length of the camera and a ceiling of 14,000 feet due to an unreliable oxygen system meant that each pass only photographed a narrow strip of the target and that many passes had to be made to cover it all. The camera also worked best at speeds less than 220 mph. This combination of limitations meant that D-130 often had to spend a half-hour above the target at slow speeds while it acquired a complete picture. In dangerous areas, D-130 was accompanied by an escort, at first another Spitfire and later a Mustang, which had more endurance.

On Nov. 19, Ezer Weizman took D-130 on the first Israeli deep penetration reconnaisance mission, accompanied by Charles Nott in a Mustang. They left Chatzor for Ramat david, where they refueled. At 11:50, they took off for Syria. Weizman spent 40 minutes making three passes over Damascus at the assigned 14,000 feet and 220 mph, then made three more passes over Sach el Sacher. The two Israeli aircraft saw neither flak nor enemy aircraft, and landed safely at Ramat David at 14:39. The mission produced excellent photos, and similar missions took place later on. Jack Doyle took D-130 to Damascus and Beirut. In December, D-130 overflew Amman and Mafraq, Jordan.