Anyone who knows the British know that they love their beer (warm by the way), and this desire for their favorite brew led to an interesting modification to the famous Spitfire known as "Modification XXX". No, it's not a triple-x rated aircraft! It's 1944 and thousands of Allied troops have landed at Normandy ready to drive the Germans back and defeat them on their home turf. The logistics for supplying all of these troops left little room for the finer things in life - like beer!
Enter The "Sourcers"
During war times men appear who seem to know how to get anything - for a price! These men were known as "sourcers", men who could get wine and other luxuries from the locals as the army marched through the countryside. A sourcer need to be resourceful and have the ability to negotiate and trade in order to find a source for the desired product. Today men like the sourcers of WWII are known as "Traditionalists" with a reputation for getting things done.
Heneger & Constable Brewery Donates Free Beer
When the Heneger and Constable Brewery offered free beer to the troops in France after the Normandy landings the sourcers went to work. Royal Air Force pilots came up with an idea to fly kegs of beer to the troops. The Spitfire Mk IX had pylons under the wings to carry extra fuel tanks or bombs. Ever inventive the Brits figured out how to modify the bomb pylons to carry kegs of beer!
Spitfire Mod. XXX
Soon long range fuel tanks were modified to carry the free beer instead of fuel, and the modification even received the official designation of Mod. XXX. The modified Spitfires would routinely be sent back to Great Britain for maintenance or liaison duties and return to France with beer kegs under their wings.
War Beer Run Hazards
Tony Jonsson, an Icelander pilot in the RAF, recalled flying war beer runs while he was with the 65 squadron. He hated these flights because upon return with war beer in the drop tanks everyone watched the landing and if a rough landing resulted in the loss of the war beer by dropping the tanks that pilot quickly became the most hated man on the base. Desmond Scott wrote a book titled "Typhoon Pilot", and in the book he recalls Typhoon drop tanks filled with beer; however, the beer acquired a metallic taste not appreciated by all.
Americans Not To Be Outdone!
Here is a short story by a crew chief in the Air Force in the late 50s:
In the late 1950s I served as crew chief on F-86 Ds and Ls at Moody AFB, Valdosta Georgia. At this time Coors beer was most sought after, and only available in Colorado or nearby locations. This beer would spoil readily as it wasn't pasteurized, so normal means of shipping were out of the question for we on the east coast. GI ingenuity kicks in. The -86 was equipped with a rocket package that held 24 each 2.74 X 24 inch rockets. Most flights at our training base left with empty rocket packages. Cross country flights were common place for the instructor pilots and, strangely enough, many were to Colorado where the rocket packages were loaded with Coors beer. A little quick math and we see five cases per trip. The crew chief, of course, was rewarded with a few beers to cooperate. Not a difficult trade to make. I still haven't had a beer with such a great taste as those original Coors. Mother's own milk. Why didn't they bust at altitude? Must have been enough heat from the engine to prevent freezing, but they came in real cold! -Pete B., Valdosta, Ga
Dancing In The Skies
You can read more about these war beer runs in the former RAF pilot Tony Jonsson's book "Dancing in the Skies". In the meantime keep your wings straight and level Hersch! Please share "RAF Pilots Fly Spitfire War Beer Runs!" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for updates via email for "All Things Aviation" here!