The lost Spitfires: Searching for the aircraft wrecks of the WW2 legends

WW2 in Greece

By Pierre Kosmidis

WW2 Aviation enthusiasts in Greece, members of  www.aviationarchaeology.gr have initiated a search for the Spitfire wrecks lost between April 4th to August 7th, 1945.
Those three Supermarine Spitfires crashed in the area of Vari (see map below) and belonged to the 335 and 336 Fighter Squadrons of the Royal Hellenic Air Force (RHAF).
According to official reports, two of them crashed at sea, while the details for the third aircraft do not specify the exact crash site.
The researchers were motivated from the reports presented in “Supermarine Spitfire losses in Greece 1942-1953”, edited by respected researcher Manolis Bardanis and the official website of  the Hellenic Air Force.

 


An initial assessment of the survey area

In November 1944 the Greek squadrons returned to liberated Greece, where they engaged in operations against the remaining German garrisons in the Aegean islands and Crete.
335 Fighter Squadron emblem
Nikos Karatzas, team leader of the project, said to WW2 Wrecks in Greece:
“The detection of aircraft wreckage at sea is difficult and this is mainly due to the size of the Spitfire, as well as because of the absence of information or indications on the exact crash sites. 
 
The depth at the areas we are conducting our research ranges from 20 to 65 meters.” 
Aviation Archaeology experts during a survey expedition

 




336 Fighter Squadron emblem

 

No 335 (Greek) Squadron
 
Formed on 10 October 1941 at Aqir airfield in Palestine.
Initially it was equipped with Hurricane Mk I aircraft.
The squadron began operations over the Western Desert, where it operated continuously until late 1942, participating in convoy protection,
bomber escort and ground attack roles.
It remained there on offensive operations until after the Battle of El Alamein when it moved into shipping protection duties along the Libyan coast.
In January 1944 it was re-equipped with the newer Spitfire Mk Vb and Vc aircraft.
In September 335 Squadron moved to Italy, where it conducted operations over Albania and Yugoslavia.
In November the squadron returned to its homeland, from where it attacked German forces in the Greek islands of the Aegean and Crete.
On 15 September, the squadron was moved along with its sister unit to the Italian theatre, from where it carried out operations primarily over occupied Yugoslavia.
The letter codes allocated to this squadron were the FG – possibly meaning “Free Greeks”.
Operations Record Book with details on P/O Nikolopoulos sorties on 4.4.1945 and his crash. His body was found on the following day.
Official report related to the loss of P/O Georgios Nikolopoulos
No 336 (Greek) Squadron
 
The second Greek squadron was formed in the Western Desert on 25 February 1943.
From then until February 1944 the squadron was involved in shipping protection and air defense
duties along the Libyan coast.
Together with 335 sq., both units moved to Italy in September 1944, from where they operated over Albania and Yugoslavia.
In November 1944, 336 returned to its homeland and carried out attacks against German forces in the  Greek islands of the Aegean and Crete.
The squadron moved to Thessaloniki in May 1945.
A Greek Spitfire

 

The research conducted by respected historian Manolis Bardanis

 

Greek Spitfires

 

The survey area

 

Pilots and ground crew of 336 Fighter Squadron

 

 

www.aviationarchaeology.gr

 

Members of Aviation Archaeology during a previous survey.
A German Bf109 wreck in Crete