Margaret Horton's Horrifying Spitfire Flight

On Friday the 9th of February 1945;  AB910 Mk Vb Spitfire, with Flight Lt. Neill Cox  at the controls, was preparing to depart on a cold overcast day at RAF Hibaldstow, a satellite airfield to RAF Kirton-in Lindsey Lincolnshire.

High winds that accompanied the marginal weather had the Duty Controller call for ‘rough weather’ procedures to be observed.  Leading aircraft mechanic – Leading Aircraft Woman (LACW) Margaret Horton was ordered to sit on the tail of the taxiing Spitfire acting as ballast while it taxied. Unfortunately things did not go as planned...

The normal procedure was for the tail-sitter to grab the Spitfire’s elevator and waggle it just before the pilot turned onto the grass runway, to let the pilot know the sitter was jumping off.  Due to an unknown miscommunication in hand signals, and to Margaret's absolute surprise, all fourteen hundred horsepower of the Spitfires' liquid cooled V-12 Merlin engine roared to life as Flight Lt. Neill Cox applied full power, quickly accelerating down the runway.

As the Spitfire became airborne, and commenced its climb, Margaret held on the tail assembly for dear life.  Another WAAF who’d seen what had just happened, ran to the control tower, whom immediately ordered Cox's Spitfire to make a tight circuit and land immediately, but did not advise the pilot why.

Thanks to the noticeable tail-heaviness of his aircraft, Cox had already figured that something was amiss, but due to the aircraft design, he couldn’t see his airplane’s empennage.

Shortly after a successful recovery, and very relieved to be back on the ground, Margaret Horton announced that after a change of panties and a cigarette, she’d be good to go back to work.





1 comment

  • Hugh

    Some war-time escapades enforce the old adage, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” You can’t make up stuff like that .

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