Firing the Wrong Weapon

Spitfire Switch


The Flying Heritage Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VC was equipped with four Browning .303-inch machine guns and two 20 mm cannons. A complex rocker switch mounted on the control stick fired the guns. In the excitement of battle, it was quite easy to hit the wrong part of the “trigger,” thus activating the wrong weaponry. Spitfire pilots came up with a simple solution to memorize the tricky switch; they turned a common acronym into a mnemonic device. “BBC” became their key to good gunnery. An acronym known by most to mean the British Broadcasting Corporation, to Spitfire pilots BBC meant Brownings, Both, Cannon. If a flyer hit the top of the switch, he would get machine guns only (Brownings), press the middle and all guns fired, and the bottom part of the switch activated the cannons alone.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: