“Lords of the Sky”: 7 Sq. SAAF Spitfire Mk V aircraft wreckage located in Kos island, Greece, by Giannis Liontis

Aircraft wrecks, Interviews, Photo gallery, Then and Now, WW2 Wrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos © Giannis Liontis and used by permission

Researcher Giannis Liontis, from Kos island, Greece, has come up with yet another intriguing discovery: Wreckage belonging to one of the 7 Squadron SAAF Spitfire Mk.V lost on the island, during Operation “Polar Bear”.

On 10 September 1943 six pilots and a DC-3 Dakota with ground staff were ordered to Cyprus to set up an advanced base to provide air cover for the planned invasion of the Dodecanese Islands.

It transpired that the initial intention was that the squadron, consisting of six Spitfire Mk Vs, was to be the total air cover contingent for the planned invasion.

However, by 13 September the squadron was joined by two more of the squadron’s Spitfires all operating from the island of Kos.

They were later joined by 74 Squadron RAF but by then the Luftwaffe attacks on Kos had severely damaged the primitive airfields and after intense aerial fighting, there was only one serviceable Spitfire left in the squadron by 1 October.

On 3 October German landings commenced and the grounded SAAF personnel were compelled to escape by whatever means possible – some crossed to Turkey in small boats and others were evacuated back to Egypt with the retreating allied ground forces.

By the time of re-assembly in Egypt, the squadron had lost six officers killed and 15 other ranks missing for the cost of 12 enemy aircraft having been shot down.

The squadron remained in Egypt for a few months, and then in April 1944, equipped with Spitfire Mk lXs, rejoined No. 7 Wing in Italy.

Dating back to 12 January 1942, the squadron was formed at Swartkop in South Africa, equipped with Harvards and Mohawks.

Aerial view of the Antimachia airfield, Kos. Source: Google
Aerial view of the Antimachia airfield, Kos. Source: Google

The squadron re-equipped with Hurricane Mk Is in April and moved to Egypt.

Additional Hurricane Mk IIs were received in July 1942 and the squadron flew various patrols and air/ground missions.

With the war in Africa over, the squadron re-equipped with the Spitfire Mk V in July 1943 and flew convoy escort and fighter-interception sorties.

In September 1943 the squadron was moved to Cyprus and Kos in order to provide air cover for the ill-fated invasion of the Dodecanese Islands.

"Caelorum Domini" (Lords of the Sky)
“Caelorum Domini” (Lords of the Sky)

By the beginning of October the German landing operations began and the squadron made a hurried retreat back to North Africa.

In April 1944, flying Spitfire Mk IXs, the squadron rejoined 7 wing in Italy and flew fighter-bomber, armed reconnaissance and bomber escort sorties. With the war in Europe over, the squadron was sent to the Far East, but the war in the Pacific ended and the squadron was turned back at Ceylon. Returning to south Africa, the squadon was disbanded on 10 September 1945.


In 1943, this wheat field in Antimacheia, Kos island, was an airfield. This is where Giannis Liontis found the wreckage of the Spitfire MkV
In 1943, this wheat field in Antimachia, Kos island, was an airfield. This is where Giannis Liontis found the wreckage of the Spitfire MkV

 In 2017 Giannis Liontis, while doing research with his friend and also collector Antonis V. Togrou near the airport of Antimachia in Kos (Valari area) met an elderly resident of the area and asked him whether he knew any place in the area where there might have been an outpost or an artillery position during World War 2.

Mr. Giannis Liontis shared with www.ww2wrecks.com his findings:

The old man showed us an area west of the airport at about 700-800 meters distance from where we were and told us “there was an anti aircraft gun position, where my brother was also killed after the war”.

We thanked him for the information and headed to the spot he indicated.

After we located the area, it didn’t take long for the first finds to appear, rifle casings and various metal objects that indicated the position of the artillery position.

We have been to this point several times to date for research, each time we find various war relics.

The interesting thing is that we also found aluminium pieces with rivets which showed us that a plane had probably crashed there.

During our investigations in this area, we happened to speak with Spyros Plagetis, a resident of Antimachia.

He gave us the information that his father had told him that during the war a plane had crashed at that point. 

So our thoughts that there was a plane down there turned out to be true.

Giannis Liontis made a nice wooden cabinet to exhibit the Spitfire MkV wreckage.
Giannis Liontis made a nice wooden cabinet to exhibit the Spitfire MkV wreckage.

So I started research and study in books and the internet to identify the type of plane and other data.

During World War 2 September-October 1943, Allied Spitfire Mk V planes were operating from Antimachia airport.

They belonged to the 7 Squadron of the South African Air Force where it was decimated on the island by the Luftwaffe.

For reinforcement at the end of September 1943 the 74th RAF Squadron arrived in Kos with planes of the same type.

I managed to located several items and by cleaning the aluminium pieces, a blue color appeared on two of them.

Searching the internet I found pictures where the planes of the 7 squadron SAAF were painted azure blue on the underside of the fuselage and on the underside of the wings.

The bullets have left the imprint as well as the rust from the ‘tape’ that was fastened.

The factory stamp on the shells is K 1941 (‘KYNOCH’ ammunition factory also built in South Africa).

Six of the bullets are marked W I meaning they were armor piercing and one bullet is marked G II meaning it was a tracer.

Some of the bullets still retain green coloration in the ring around the casing.

The conclusion is that these bullets belonged to one of the .303 Browning guns that the Spitfire had in the wings.

A close look at the items found by Giannis Liontis
A close look at the items found by Giannis Liontis

It is possible at this point that it crashed or was destroyed on the ground by bombing, according to historical sources three Spitfires of the 7th SAAF were destroyed on the ground of Antimachia after German Luftwaffe bombing.

Its loss may not have been recorded in the SAAF records as there is not enough information on all the squadron’s planes that were shot down or destroyed at Kos.

For the 74 RAF there are no reports of the loss of any of its aircraft in Kos, historical sources only report their capture as loot, five squadron aircraft (74th RAF) by the German forces during the battle of Kos October 1943 at the reserve airfield at Alykes (Tigaki), where along with the Spitfires of the 74th there was also one of the 7th SAAF.”

According to respected researcher and author Giannis Mylonas, at Kos in September – November 1943 it appears that 3 Spitfires of 7 SAAF of 1943 were destroyed, two of them JK667 & JK671 on 27/9/1943 and the third JK677 which crashed into the sea on 19/9/1943.

A small commemmoration plaque placed by Giannis Liontis on the side of the wooden cabinet.
A small commemmoration plaque placed by Giannis Liontis on the side of the wooden cabinet.

This is probably JK671 and probably belonged to 7 SAAF as no unit is listed:

Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.VcT
Serial No.: JK671
Make: CBAF
Engine: RR Merlin 50
Delivered: 8MU 21-2-43
To: 82MU 27-2-43
To: Fort La Morne 12-3-43
To: Takoradi 20-4-43
To: Middle East 7-5-43
To: 7 SAAF 8-43 (possibly)
History: Damaged by Bf109s over Kos 27-9-43 abandoned on evacuation of airfield SOC 30-9-43