Letter: The Spitfire: nostalgic icon linked to Europe today

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The Independent Online
Sir: "Let's have something knocking, but not too much - it is an icon of course - laced with a bit of nostalgia, some homespun psychobabble and, of course, to make it relevant, a bit of linkage with our attitude to Europe today."

Thus, I assume, ran the remit from Tuesday morning's editorial conference before the publication of Jonathan Glancey's article "Brilliant but flawed; the Spitfire is a mirror in which we see our national character" (8 May).

Don't bother about checking the facts, though, it was all so long ago.

But: 1) The Spitfire was not "cobbled together on a shoe-string" but an ingenious adaptation to military function, started in 1933, of the Supermarine record-breaking float planes (of which Mr Glancey makes no mention).

2) The Japanese Zero (incidentally, the illustration showed a Nakajima 97 "Kate" torpedo-bomber) was nothing to do with "American Prototypes" but a development of the Russian LA 5s captured in Manchuria, which had given the Japanese air force a bad time during the Khalkin Ghol battles.

3) Design work on the P51 Mustang did not start until 1940, seven years later than the Spitfire. In fact the earlier versions, type A36, were dangerously underpowered, and this was not cured until the Rolls-Royce Merlin subcontracted to Packard replaced the American Allison engine.

As for German planes being "technologically superior", Mr Glancey should perhaps have checked this out with General Galland, who asked Goering if he could not have just one squadron of Spitfires.

Alan Clark

Saltwood, Kent

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