Did a Spitfire Really Tip the Wing of V1?

Facebook has built a reputation for being notoriously insecure, taking payments from attackers with little to no concern for the safety of its users; but a pattern of neglect for information security is not exactly the issue when a finance guy in Sydney, Australia gives a shout-out to a Facebook user for what he calls an “amazing shot” in history:

As anyone hopefully can see, this is a fake image. Here are some immediate clues:

  1. Clarity. What photographic device in this timeframe would have such an aperture let alone resolution?
  2. Realism. The rocket exhaust, markings, ground detail…all too “clean” to be real. That exhaust in particular is an eyesore
  3. Positioning. Spitfire velocity and turbulence relative to V1 is questionable, so such a deep wing-over-wing overlap in steady formation is very unlikely
  4. Vantage point. Given positioning issue, photographer close position aft of Spitfire even less likely

That’s only a quick list to make a solid point this is a fabrication anyone should be able to discount at first glance. In short, when I see someone say they found an amazing story or image on Facebook there’s a very high chance it’s toxic content meant to deceive and harm, much in the same way tabloid stands in grocery stores used to operate. Entertainment and attacks should be treated as such, not as realism or useful reporting.

Now let’s dig a little deeper.

In 2013 an “IAF Veteran” posted a shot of a Spitfire tipping a V1.

This passes many of the obvious tests above. He also inserts concern about dangers of firing bullets and reliably blowing up a V1 in air, far away from civilians, versus sending it unpredictably to ground. Ignore that misleading analysis (shooting always remained the default) and revel instead in authentic photographic image quality of that time.

After this 2013 tweet several years then pass by, and nobody talks about V1 tipping, until only a few weeks ago a “Military aviation art” account posts a computer rendered image with a brief comment:

Part of a new work depicting the first tipping of a V-1 flying bomb with a wing tip. Who achieved this?

It is a shame this artist’s tweet wasn’t given proper and full credit by the Sydney finance guy, as it would have made far more sense to have a link to the artist talking about their “new work” or even to their art gallery and exact release dates:

Who achieved this? Who indeed? The artist actually answered their own question in their very next tweet, where they wrote…

First to physically tip a V1 bomb was Ken Collier, 91 Squadron, in a Spitfire MkIVX. He scored 7 V1 victories and was later KIA. #WWII #WW2.

On the bright side the artist answers their own question with some real history, worth researching further. On the dark side the artist’s answer also sadly omits any link to original source or reference material, let alone the (attempted) realism found above in that “IAF veteran” tweet with an actual photograph.

The artist simply says it is based on a real event, and leaves out the actual photograph (perhaps to avoid acknowledging the blurry inspiration to their art) while including a high-resolution portrait photo of the pilot who achieved it. Kind of misleading to have that high-resolution photograph of Ken Collier sitting on the ground, instead of the one the IAF Veteran tweeted of a Spitfire in flight.

The more complete details of this story not only are worth telling, they put the artist’s high-resolution fantasy reconstruction (of the original grainy blotchy image) into proper context.

Fortunately “V1 Flying Bomb Aces by Andrew Thomas” is also online and tells us through first-person accounts of a squadron diary what really happened (notice both original photographs are put together in this book, the plane and the pilot).

And for another example, here’s what a Vickers publicity photograph of a Spitfire looked like from that period.

A Spitfire delivers beer to thirsty Allied troops

It shows the “Mod XXX Depth Charge” configuration (two 18 gallon barrels of bitter “beer bombs” to deliver into Normandy) and you can be sure an advertising/propaganda agency would have used the clearest resolution possible — the British don’t mess around with their beer technology.

Strong’s Brewery Barrels Locked and Loaded.

Back to the point here, V1 would be shot down in normal operations not “tipped”, as described below in a Popular Mechanics article about hundreds destroyed in 1944 by the 22mm cannon configuration of a Tempest.

Popular Mechanics Feb 1945

Just to make it absolutely clear here, since the above Popular Mechanics’ details about cannons unfortunately doesn’t explain shooting versus tipping, here’s a log from Ace pilots who downed V1.

Excerpted from “V1 Flying Bomb Aces” by Andrew Thomas

So you can see how debris after explosions was a known risk to be avoided, even leading to gun modifications to hit with longer-ranges. It also characterizes tipping as so unusual and low frequency it would come mainly at an end of a run (e.g. with gun jammed).

Just for a quick aside for what came after WWII, as I wrote on this blog last year, shooting drones down in the 1950s turned out to be far more dangerous than tipping them because of the increased firepower used (missiles) compared to shooting at the V1 with cannons.

Again, the book “V1 Flying Bomb Aces” confirms specific ranges in the 1940s were used for shooting bombs so they exploded in air without causing harm, preferred against tipping.

…the proper range to engage the V1 with guns was 200-250 yards. Further out and the attacker would only damage the control surfaces, causing the V1 to crash and possibly cause civilian casualties upon impact. Any closer and the explosion from hitting the V1’s warhead could damage or destroy the attacking aircraft.

Apparently the reason it could be tipped at all was Nazi-designed control systems only had a gyro stabilizer for two dimensions, lacking control of roll movement.

V1 Flying Bomb Gyro. Source: MechTraveller

Tipping really was a dangerous option, sending the bomb out of control and to explode on something unpredictable.

In the case of the artist rendering that started this blog post, a Spitfire pilot found himself firing until out of ammo. He became frustrated without ammo so decided to tip a wing of the V1. Shooting the V1 was preferred, as it would explode in air and kill far fewer than being tipped to explode on ground. Only because he ran out of bullets, and in a frustrated innovative state, did he decide to tip…of course later there would be others, but the total tipped this way was in the dozens out of the many thousands destroyed.

Does finance guy in Sydney feel accountable for claiming a real event in an artist’s fantasy image? Of course not, because he has been responding to people that he thinks it still is a fine representation of a likely event and he doesn’t measure any harm from confusion caused; he believes harm he has done still doesn’t justify him making a correction.

Was he wrong to misrepresent and should he delete his “amazing shot” tweet and replace with one that says amazing artwork or new rendering? Yes, it would be the sensible thing if he cares about history and accuracy, but the real question is centered around the economics of why he won’t change. Despite being repeatedly made aware that he has become a source of misinformation, the cost of losing “likes” probably weighs heavier on him than the cost of having low integrity.

5 thoughts on “Did a Spitfire Really Tip the Wing of V1?”

  1. Well, while that photo may be a fake, we have [examples of random people editing wikipedia too]

  2. Whomever wrote this has zero knowledge of air combat. Interfering with the wing of the flying bomb spun the gyro out of sync, and flew the bomb into the ground…ostensibly in a non populated area. Pilots were trained to do this…without damaging their flight surfaces. Within six inches was enough…which leads me to believe this was a training photo. The gyro would compensate for the reduced lift on the affected wing, then when the plane withdrew, it would overcompensate, sending the V1 into an unrecoverable spin.

  3. Hi @Ryan. Your statement “leads me to believe this was a training photo” doesn’t follow logically from any of your prior sentences.

    Don’t lose sight of the fact that because a thing happened, it does not in any way make an artist rendition of that thing an actual photograph of it. If I paint a tree, just because trees do exist doesn’t make a painting the same thing as a photograph of an actual tree.

    I have proven not only that the image is a fake, produced by an artist, I have shown you the original image from the artist where they admit to making it up. For you to say you believe a fake is a real photo…is just icing on the cake of why this blog post was written.

    Also while you compliment me for having “zero knowledge” I can assure you my familiarity with Japanese planes is not nearly as good as British and American.

  4. Looking in to RAF records and talking to veterans.
    There was no training or any orde given to tip over these bombes. Some attempts where success full but also very stupid. An RAF vet explain that he only knew 6 attempts where made. He said most spitfire couldn’t keep up long enough.
    They had to dive to the v1 to get it like wise for the mustang.
    That’s why typhoons and or tempest and meteor jets got the task to hunt them and shoot them.

    So not training and or order to tip over these bombes.

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