|Spitfire Attack - Photo Chris Lord|
The documentation to specification F.10/35, which was framed around the Spitfire, was headed "Requirements for Single-engine Day and Night Fighter" and stipulated that the aircraft be equipped with "(c) Night flying equipment". In line with these requirements Spitfire Is, IIs, VAs and VBs were fitted with a powerful, retractable landing-light in each wing. Dorsal and ventral identification lights could be operated in Morse code by the pilot using a small morse key in the cockpit. In an attempt to shield the pilot's eyes from the bright exhaust flames many Spitfires were also fitted with rectangular light-alloy "blinkers" secured to light-alloy brackets fixed to the sides of the fuel-tank housing: these could be easily removed. Spitfires were first used as nightfighters during the summer of 1940: the most successful night interceptions took place on the night of 18/19 June 1940 when Flt. Lt. "Sailor" Malan of 74 Squadron shot down two Heinkel He 111s of Kampfgeschwader 4, while Flg. Off.s John Petre and George Ball of 19 Squadron each shot down one He 111 of KG 4. A week later, on the night of 26/27 June, Pilot Officers R. Smith and R. Marples of 616 Squadron shot down another He 111 of KG 4; Flt. Lt. H. MacDonald of 603 Squadron shot down an He 111 of KG 26 and another He 111 of KG 26 was shot down, possibly with the help of A.A guns by Flg. Off.s A. Johnstone of 602 Squadron and J. Haig of 603 Squadron. Although Spitfires continued to be used on night patrols, the Luftwaffe bombers learned to fly well above the altitudes at which they could be effectively picked up by searchlights and the Spitfires were never to achieve the same success.