The Probus Club of Sarum welcomed back Kevin Patience to its recent meeting to give a talk on how he found, dug up and identified a spitfire in Malta.
Kevin grew up in Kenia and joined as a Boy Entry in the RAF in 1961. In addition to flying, training and navigation school, he was trained as a diver and diving instructor.
Diving became very much his passion in addition to his enthusiasm for Spitfires.
In 1967 he was posted to Malta. In addition to his RAF engineering duties he engaged in seabed searches for sunk spitfires.
As Kevin explored the underwater world off Gozo, he came across the remains of a World War II-era aircraft.
The unmistakable shape and distinct features left no doubt in his mind: after extensive search he had found the Spitfire. Kevin and his team had known there must be a spitfire wreck in the bay. However, drifting sand and prolific seaweed turned it into a very difficult find.
Kevin carefully examined the wreckage, noting the aircraft’s (partial) serial number and taking photographs from various angles. He wanted to document his find and share it with the world.
Over the following days, Kevin and his team meticulously researched the aircraft’s history. They learned that this particular Spitfire had crashed during a mission in 1942, when it was shot down by enemy fire. The pilot had managed to eject safely, but the plane had sunk into the depths.
Driven by his passion, Kevin collaborated with local authorities and historical organisations to protect and preserve the site.
Together, they eventually arranged a comprehensive survey and recovery mission to document and salvage at least parts of the Spitfire.
As word spread about Kevin’s discovery, it caught the attention of historians, aviation enthusiasts, and the media.
He also engaged with the locals who recalled that they had cut up and salvaged the pilot’s parachute in July 1942 while they filled the pilot with wine.
From this information and the partial serial number, Kevin and his helpers were able to identify this plane and his pilot, Saunders.
The pilot eventually became a test pilot at Castle Bromwich and sadly died in a flying accident there.
The recovered spitfire is now on display in the Malta War Museum.
Probus Club of Sarum meets every second and fourth Friday of the month at the White Hart Hotel.
Its members are retirees who value intellectual stimulation as well as a sociable atmosphere. Guests and new members are always welcome.
T: 01722 392 043