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Aces of Aviation

Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB of John A. Kent

Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB of John A. Kent

Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB, piloted by Flight Commander John A. Kent, officer in charge of the Polish Wing, in Northolt, in June 1941.

Wingspan: 11.22 meters.

Length: 9.11 meters.

Height: 3.48 meters.

Engine[s]: Rolls-Royce Merlin of 1440 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 602 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 11280 meters.

Range: 756 kilometers.

Armament: Two Hispano 20-millimeter cannons; four Browning M1919 0.303-inch machine guns.

John Alexander Kent was one of the truly outstanding pilots of all times, famous not only as a fighter pilot of the RAF with a large record of victories, but also as a brilliant Test Pilot. He was entrusted with tasks such as piloting aircraft captured from the enemy or developing the equipment of national aircraft, apart from carrying out other very diverse operations.

Born the 23rd June 1914 in Winnipeg, Canada, Kent graduated as pilot in the Winnipeg Flying School and arrived to Great Britain in 1935, joining the RAF and being sent to the 19th Squadron, which was equipped with Gloster Gauntlet biplane fighters, in Duxford, Cambridge county. After a brief stay in the Royal Aircraft Establishment, in Farnborough, where he piloted prototypes and newly designed fighter aircraft, he was destined to the 212th Squadron in France, to pilot the Supermarine Spitfire in photographic reconnaissance missions.

The 2nd August 1940 he was appointed Flight Commander of the 303rd Squadron, a Polish unit which had been organized in Northolt, Middlesex county, and was equipped with the Hawker Hurricane. From that moment, Kent began a singular association with the Free Polish, quickly earning their respect as pilot and as commander. While serving in this squadron, Kent downed two Messerschmitt Bf 109 E, one Bf 110 and one Junkers Ju 88 during the Battle of Britain, along with some non-confirmed victories. At the end of the battle he was sent to Biggin Hill to command the 92nd Squadron, which was equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire and possessed an enviable combat record. The 1st November he destroyed one Bf 109, which marked the 100th victory of the squadron, and downed another two the following day.

In June 1941 he was promoted to the rank of Flight Commander and sent to Northolt once again, this time to command the new Polish Wing, which comprised the squadrons 303 (Kosciuszko), 308 (Krak÷wski) and 315 (Deblinsky), then equipped with the Spitfire Mark IIB and VB. Kent, as commander of the unit, was allowed to use the initial letters of his name to label his Spitfire Mark V, as depicted in the illustration. His personal badge, painted on the larboard side of the fuselage next to the canopy, featured the Canadian maple leaf with the Polish eagle superimposed to it.

While flying with the Polish, Kent destroyed six Bf 109 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Polish Virtuti Militari. After a travel throughout Canada and United States to train on the pilotage of diverse American aircraft, he returned to Great Britain, being promoted to the rank of Group Captain to command the RAF Church Stanton. In the late 1942 he was sent to North Africa, where his work was largely administrative, albeit he occasionally flew in different operations. At the end of the war his official record acknowledged thirteen victories, albeit by means of independent witnesses it was clear that at least another six aircraft had been downed by his machine guns.