Tuck in Spitfire versus Philip Hunter in Defiant
Thu Jun 6, 2013 22:21

The Defiant tends to get a bad press but did shoot down a lot, as you say.
Defiants not only got quite a few victories over Dunkirk, but also some Bombers in the Battle of Britain and was in the Blitz on London, later, the most successful Night fighter type for victories for quite a while.

Pip, Tuck was out-manoeuvred by Philip Hunter in one also on combat trials!

264 Squadron's CO, Philip Hunter, flew against Robert Stanford Tuck in a Spitfire showing the Defiant could defend itself by circling and keeping its speed up. By March, 264 Squadron had two flights operational with Defiants and No. 141 Squadron received its first Defiant. When the Defiant was first introduced to the public, the RAF put out a disinformation campaign, stating that the Defiant had 21 guns: four in the turret, fourteen in the wings and three cannons in the nose.

The first operational sortie came on 12 May 1940. Defiants flew with six Spitfires of 66 Sqn, and a Ju 88 was shot down over Holland. The following day, in a patrol that was a repetition of the first, Defiants claimed four Ju 87s, but were subsequently attacked by Bf 109Es. The escorting Spitfires were unable to prevent five of the six Defiants being shot down by a frontal attack.

During the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Squadron was forward based at RAF Manston one of the 16 Squadrons that No. 11 Group had available to cover the evacuation. On the 27th 264 Sqn claimed 3 He 111 and 2 damaged. On the 28th, shortly after take-off 10 Defiants were attacked by about 30 Bf 109s – forming a circle, six German fighters were claimed for the loss of three Defiants.

The Defiant was initially successful against enemy aircraft. Its best day was 29 May 1940, when No. 264 Sqn claimed 37 kills in two sorties: 19 Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers mostly picked off as they came out of their dives, nine Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engined heavy fighters, eight Bf 109s and a Ju-88. One Defiant gunner was lost after he bailed out though the aircraft made base to be repaired.

Thorn and Barker were the most successful Defiant crew of the war with around 13 or 14 victories in this type. Initially, Luftwaffe fighters suffered losses when "bouncing" flights of Defiants from the rear, apparently mistaking them for Hurricanes.[12] The German pilots were unaware of the Defiant's rear-firing armament and encountered concentrated defensive fire. With a change in Luftwaffe tactics, opposing fighters were able to outmanoeuvre the Defiant and attack it from below or dead ahead, where the turret offered no defence. Defiant losses quickly mounted, particularly among the gunners who were often unable to leave stricken aircraft. The additional weight of the turret and the second crewman plus the aerodynamic drag gave the Defiant lower performance than conventional fighter aircraft.

According to the book The Turret Fighters by aviation historian Alec Brew, 264 Sqn. developed a counter against single-seat aircraft such as the Bf 109. By flying in an ever-descending Lufbery circle, Defiant crews sacrificed the advantage of height but eliminated the possibility of attack from underneath, while giving 360° of defensive fire.[14] This tactic was used successfully by 264 Sqn. but when the Defiants of 141 Sqn. were committed to combat a few months later during the Battle of Britain, it chose to ignore their advice with devastating consequences. On 19 July 1940, seven out of nine Defiants of 141 Sqn. sent to cover a convoy off Folkestone were shot down by Bf 109s of JG 51 and the remaining two only survived, one badly damaged, due to the intervention of Hurricanes of 111 Sqn. The Hurricanes reported that the Defiants had shot down four Bf 109s. Although 264 Squadron claimed 48 kills in eight days over Dunkirk, the cost was high with 14 Defiants lost. The actual German losses were no more than 12 to 15 enemy aircraft; the turret's wide angle of fire meant that several Defiants could engage the same target at one time leading to multiple claims.

On 26 August, 264 Squadron lost three aircraft (two to ace Hpt. Gunther Lutzow of JG 3). However one Defiant, crewed by Flight Sergants E R Thorn (pilot) and F J Barker (air gunner), shot down two Dornier Do 17 bombers. They were then engaged by a Bf 109 which set the Defiant on fire; however, they managed to shoot down the German fighter before making a forced landing. For this, they were awarded a bar to the Distinguished Flying Medal.
The squadron and lost a further five aircraft (to JG 26) on 28 August, with the deaths of nine crew members. With these losses, the Defiant – which had been intended from the start as a day and night fighter – was transferred to night fighting and there the Defiant achieved some success.

Defiant night fighters typically attacked enemy bombers from below, in a similar manoeuvre to the later successful German Schräge Musik methods. Defiants attacked more often from slightly ahead or to one side, rather than from directly under the tail. During the winter Blitz on London of 1940–41, the Defiant equipped four squadrons, shooting down more enemy aircraft than any other type. The turret-fighter concept was not immediately discarded and the fitting of Defiant-type turrets to Beaufighter and Mosquito night fighters was tried to enable these aircraft to duplicate these methods, but the effect on performance proved drastic and the idea was abandoned.[21] The Defiant Mk II model was fitted with the AI Mk IV airborne interception radar and a Merlin XX engine. A total of 207 Mk II Defiants were built


  • Interesting discussion about the old Daffy. As I have read it, it was born out of the successful design strategy of WWI's Brisfit (which incidentally Keith Park piloted so succesfully). The problem... more
    • Tuck in Spitfire versus Philip Hunter in Defiant — Paul Davies, Thu Jun 6 22:21
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