Cockpit Clocks & The Spitfire

Clocks were not standard issue in all Spitfires. Although later models were equipped with clocks at the factory, most cockpit diagrams in various Pilot’s Notes booklets for the earlier Spitfire models do not mention or show a clock. Nevertheless, it is well known that Air Ministry clocks were made and issued for this purpose and many Spitfires were fitted with clocks exactly like this fine example. The clock displayed on this page was removed from a Spitfire currently located in Canada. It is my opinion that it is of the right age (1940 issue) and type to have been installed in an earlier model Spitfire (1940 -42).
In fact, you can see a clock in the instrument panel photo at right taken from the cockpit of a restored Spitfire Mk V-B. The clock is mounted on the instrument panel on the left-hand side. (blow-up shown in insert photo)

It is a similar if not identical clock to the Smith’s 6A/579 clock featured on this page. FYI: The Mk V Spitfire was first flown in 1941.(cockpit photo copyright P. Croser)

What are “Dummy Hands”?

One of the most interesting features of this unique clock, after the mighty bezel-winder, is the use of "dummy hands". The red hands were set by the pilot to help in navigation. When the Spitfire pilot created a flight plan, he would calculate how long each leg should take allowing for distance, ground speed, wind aloft, and so on. At the start of each leg he would turn to the proper compass bearing, set his air speed and set the red dummy hands to start timing that leg. Time would be set to the time the pilot expected to arrive at the end of that leg. When the real time matched the dummy time, he should have been where he planned to be.

This is one of the most unusual and interesting military clocks I have come across. One doesn't need much imagination to picture some of the life and death adventures this venerable timepiece might have participated in during the early days of World War II.

More Detailed Photos of the Spitfire Clock...
copyright 2002 E. C. Frederick
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