Spitfire is the most renowned aircraft from WW2. Its groundbreaking specifications and top-end design provided its sheer advantage among many other planes during the World War 2 era.
A true King by having the highest victory-to-loss record among British warplanes, the Spitfire gained monumental fame after being playing a huge in turning the tide in the Battle of Britain, one of the major air battles during WW2 and one of the instrumental events that led to the Allies’ victory in the war.
Yet, apart from such an equipped warplane, everything wouldn’t have fallen into place without the gallant Royal Air Force pilot that steered these aircraft and braved Luftwaffe attacks. As they flew, they were then protected by equally advanced personal gear that shielded them from the harsh elements.
Beginning with flight’s earliest days, aviators were already required to wear some personal gear to protect them from elements. From the tweed jacket, a pair of goggles, and a hat, protection also had to develop to match the fast-evolving warplanes like the Spitfire. In this article, let’s look at the RAF pilots’ Spitfire uniforms that helped them dominate the skies during World War II.
First, RAF pilots wore the “battle dress,” a standardised military dress, composed of the top, and trousers and side cap. Wearing the battle dress has been an insignia of discipline and order, not to mention that there was a scare during the early part of WW2 that uniformed men will be treated as saboteurs or spies that will be killed and shot if captured.
The next component of their uniform was their flight boots, which were typically suede sheepskin-lined boots with rubber soles and zip-fastener. Flying gloves or gauntlets were also essential, as it helped them avoid injuries, more notably flash burns. They were wrist-length and made of leather. Silk liners were worn first before the gauntlets, which kept the RAF pilots warm in extreme cold weather conditions.
Flying helmets, which were only worn as a form of protection from the cold and heat, and the noise of aircraft engines during the early time found greater purpose during the time of WW2, as it was fitted with a headset and communications equipment. These became helpful to make radio transmissions and pass orders among the pilots.
Worn over the helmets were the goggles, worn to protect the eyes from burning and swelling when flying at high altitudes, prevent fluid from the eyes from freezing during cold weather conditions, and protect the eyes from other external objects and elements.
With Spitfire soaring to high altitudes of up to 40,000 feet, RAF pilots also wore oxygen masks to maintain safe oxygen levels in their blood, and keep their brains fully functional. WW2 aircraft were unpressurized and having the oxygen system was their only way to survive in the thinning air and fight off migraines and other side effects.
Flying suits and tanker jackets were also worn by RAF pilots. These provided incredible insulation and helped them keep themselves warm inside the Spitfire’s cockpit, more especially at altitudes and conditions where temperatures could easily be sub-zero. Other accessories part of the full gear were the parachute, first aid kit, and the lifejacket.
There’s no doubt that the Spitfire was a masterpiece during its times. Yet, it’s good to note that such prestige won’t be possible without the great RAF pilots, donning their essential gears, that flew these Spitfires, the world’s most loved and respected fighter aircraft.