Spitfire X4276 KLB Rolls-Royce Merlin
This very important desk clock features an extremely rare Battle of Britain 1940 vintage Rolls-Royce Merlin engine piston from Supermarine Spitfire X4276 KL-B.
X4276 was the personal Spitfire of legendary Royal Air Force ace Al Deere for the latter stages of the Battle of Britain and 1940, crashing following a collision with another Spitfire in December 1940, Deere bailing out safely.
Although buried in the ground for over forty years prior to being excavated in the 1980’s, the overall condition of this piece is excellent. The steel conrod shows a small degree of rust pitting but still has a nice shine to it, whilst the aluminium piston is largely corrosion free. The piston does, however, show significant damage to one side caused by the Merlin’s impact with the ground when the Spitfire crashed, but this damage only enhances the piece visually, adding to the provenance and intrepid story it tells.
Whilst originally made as purely functional unseen engine components, those with an interest in engineering will appreciate the exemplary standard of the machined and polished con-rod and forged piston, both of which are of absolutely superb quality, in effect being works of art, so well finished are they. We have intentionally avoided over polished either the con-rod or piston as we want to retain the surface engineering and use marks, these being an integral part of their history and provenance.
The clock itself is superb and very high quality circa 1914 Longines car dash board clock mounted into the con-rod’s ‘big end’ via purposefully engineered brass collar. The clock has the perfect look and size, the brass collar contrasting beautifully against the silver coloured steel conrod and aluminium piston.
It must be emphasised that original Merlin pistons in this condition, with provenance, are incredibly rare, such that once the remaining examples from X4276 KL-B’s engine are used its unlikely any further will be obtained in this condition and with this strength of provenance.
This particular piston is marked “B-1”, meaning that it was the leading piston of the six in “B” bank, hence being damaged during the crash. The piston carries the individual serial number “612R” and is also marked “6-1” (the compression ratio), “D10952” (the Merlin piston’s part number), and “3 lbs, 0 ozs, 1 drms”, (its weight). In addition, importantly, it also bears three Rolls-Royce inspection stamps, verifying that it was an actual Rolls-Royce made component, dating from early 1940 (most Battle of Britain pistons were made by Wellworthy and marked WLtd, these not having R-R stamps).
The addition of the period clock has turned what would otherwise purely be a highly desirable collectible into a useable artefact – a desk clock that very effectively combines function with history and form, guaranteed to gain comment from anyone who sets eyes upon it. And, once commented upon, there’s the fascinating background story to tell – that the piston and con-rod used to be part of legendary WW2 ace Al Deere’s Supermarine Spitfire!
To finish the piece off the piston sits upon an ultra-high quality turned oak plinth, this light coloured wood complementing visually the silver colour of the aluminium piston and conrod. Also there is an engraved brass plate affixed to the rear of the ‘big end’ outlining the history of the piece.
The Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine Mk 3 Serial Number 30363
The Rolls-Royce Merlin, a 27 litre V12 aero engine which produced just over 1,000 horsepower in its 1940 guise, has become legendary in its own right, being utilised in many different aeroplanes throughout, and after, World War 2. However, it is primarily associated with the Battle of Britain as it equipped both the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force that were so pivotal in preventing the planned Nazi invasion of England during the summer of 1940.
The Merlin engine fitted to X4276 KL-B, an early Mk III (3), bore the serial number 30363 and the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust kindly researched the history of this particular engine, official records revealing that this Merlin was built in July 1940, fitted to Spitfire X4276 and delivered to 54 Squadron on 28th August 1940. It then underwent its maiden flight with the squadron commander, Squadron Leader James Leathart, on 1st September 1940 and by Al Deere five days later, following which Deere ‘claimed’ X4276 as his personal aircraft, it clearly, in his view, being better than the rest.
Spitfire Mk I X4276 KL-B
Spitfire X4276 KL-B, which was nicknamed “KIWI 3”, was the personal Spitfire of the legendary World War 2 Royal Air Force ace Al Deere. Of New Zealand birth (hence christening his Spitfire “KIWI”) Al Deere was one of the most successful and distinguished of all RAF fighter pilots, being responsible for the destruction of 22 enemy aircraft with another 10 probables. X4276 crashed on 28th December 1940 following a mid-air collision with another Spitfire. Deere later wrote an account of the incident in some detail within his autobiography, “Nine Lives”.