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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 121188
Last updated: 3 December 2019
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Date:07-JAN-1949
Time:
Type:Silhouette image of generic SPIT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk.XVIII
Owner/operator:208 Squadron Royal Air Force (208 Sqn RAF)
Registration: TP387
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Siani Desert, Egyptian/Israeli border -   Israel
Phase: Combat
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Suez Canal Zone, Egypt
Destination airport:
Narrative:
Just before noon on 7 January 1949, four Spitfire FR18s from No. 208 Squadron RAF on a reconnaissance mission in the Deir al-Balah area flew over an Israeli convoy that had been attacked by five Egyptian Spitfires fifteen minutes earlier. The pilots had spotted smoking vehicles, and were drawn to the scene out of curiosity. Two planes dived to below 500 feet altitude to take pictures of the convoy, while the remaining two covered them from 1,500 feet.

Israeli soldiers on the ground, alerted by the sound of the approaching Spitfires and fearing another Egyptian air attack, opened fire with machine guns. One Spitfire was shot down by a tank-mounted machine gun, while the other was lightly damaged and rapidly pulled up. The remaining three Spitfires were then attacked by patrolling IAF Spitfires flown by Slick Goodlin and John McElroy, volunteers from the United States and Canada respectively. All three Spitfires were shot down, and one pilot was killed.

Two pilots were captured by Israeli soldiers and taken to Tel Aviv for interrogation, and were later released. Another was rescued by Bedouins and handed over to the Egyptian Army, which turned him over to the RAF. Later that day, four RAF Spitfires from the same squadron escorted by seven No. 213 Squadron RAF and eight No. 6 Squadron RAF Hawker Tempests went searching for the lost planes, and were attacked by four IAF Spitfires. The Israeli formation was led by Ezer Weizman. The remaining three were manned by Weizman's wingman Alex Jacobs and American volunteers Bill Schroeder and Caesar Dangott.

The Tempests found they could not jettison their external fuel tanks, and some had non-operational guns. Schroeder shot down a British Tempest, killing pilot David Tattersfield. Weizmann severely damaged a British plane flown by Douglas Liquorish, but his own plane was lightly damaged by RAF pilot Brian Spragg. Two other British aircraft were lightly damaged during the engagement. The battle ended after the British wiggled their wings to be more clearly identified, and the Israelis eventually realized the danger of their situation and disengaged, returning to Hatzor Airbase.

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion personally ordered the wrecks of the RAF fighters that had been shot down to be dragged into Israeli territory. Israeli troops subsequently visited the crash sites, removed various parts, and buried the other aircraft. However, the Israelis did not manage to conceal the wrecks in time to prevent British reconnaissance planes from photographing them.

An RAF salvage team was deployed to recover the wrecks, entering Israeli territory during their search. Two were discovered inside Egypt, while Tattersfield's Tempest was found north of Nirim, four miles inside Israel. Interviews with local Arabs confirmed that the Israelis had visited the crash sites to remove and bury the wrecks. Tattersfield was initially buried near the wreckage, but his body was later removed and reburied at the British War Cemetery in Ramla

Sources:

Flieger Revue Extra
http://www.spitfires.ukf.net/p113.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Arab-Israeli_War


Related books:

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
19-Mar-2011 12:03 FLYINGBROTHER1 Added
27-Dec-2011 02:58 Nepa Updated [Aircraft type, Operator]
27-Dec-2011 02:59 Nepa Updated [Nature]
22-Jan-2013 16:04 Dr. John Smith Updated [Registration, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Source]
22-Jan-2013 16:17 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]

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