The most famous military aircraft of all time and one of the most beautiful ever built, the Supermarine Spitfire is perhaps chiefly remembered as the symbol of the Battle of Britain.
The Spitfire was developed by Supermarine’s brilliant chief designer, R.J. Mitchell, and was the only British type in continuous construction throughout World War II. The RAF’s first Spitfires were delivered to No 19 Squadron at Duxford in 1938 and by July 1940, on the eve of the Battle of Britain, nineteen RAF squadrons were equipped with the new fighter.
During WWII, thanks to constant improvements and modifications, the Spitfire was never outclassed as a short-ranged piston-engined interceptor apart from a brief period in 1941-1942, when it first encountered the Focke-Wulf FW-190 and Messeschmitt Bf 109. The aircraft also claimed several of the German jet fighters and was used in interception of high-speed German rockets headed to English soil. Highly regarded by friend and foe alike- and rightly so – the Spitfire went on to see extended service in the post-war years which further solidified its stature in the annals of military aviation history.
One of the Spitfire’s most important contributions to Allied victory was as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft from early 1941. Superior high-altitude performance rendered it all but immune from interception, and the fuel tanks that replaced wing-mounted machine guns and ammunition bays gave it sufficient range to probe western Germany from British bases.
In late 1943 Spitfires powered by Rolls-Royce Griffon engines developing as much as 2,050 horsepower began entering service. Capable of top speeds of 440 miles (710 km) per hour and ceilings of 40,000 feet (12,200 metres), these were used to shoot down V-1 “buzz bombs.”
The original airframe of the Spitfire was designed to be powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engine with the early version producing 1030hp. Due to the robust design of the original airframe it was able to be modified to accommodate the increasingly more powerful Merlin and then later the Rolls Royce Griffon V12 engine which generated upto 2035hp.
During World War II, Spitfires were exported in small numbers to Portugal, Turkey, and the Soviet Union, and they were flown by the U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe. When production ceased in 1947, 20,334 Spitfires of all versions had been produced, 2,053 of them Griffon-powered versions.
Fighter versions of the Spitfire were dropped from RAF service during the early 1950s, while photo-reconnaissance Spitfires continued in service until 1954.
Supermarine Spitfire F IX MH434
- Max Speed: 450mph
- Rate of Climb: 4,000ft/min
- Max Ceiling: 40,000ft
- . Wing Span: 36ft. 10ins.
- Length: 31ft. 4ins.
- Height: 11ft. 5ins.
- Engine: Rolls Royce 1,710hp, 63 piston engine
- Crew: One
- Construction: All metal construction with fabric covered control surfaces.
The most famous of all Spitfires still flying today, MH434 was built in 1943 at Vickers, Castle Bromwich. This Spitfire is completely original, and has never been fully rebuilt.
At the beginning of August 1943, MH434 was air tested by Alex Henshaw – a record breaking pilot from pre-war days (we highly recommend Alex Henshaw’s book “Sigh for a Merlin.”
Within the month MH434 was scoring with 222 Squadron. It was flown in combat by South African pilot Flt Lt Henry Lardner-Burke, DFC (1916-1970), seven and a half kills, three damaged, retiring as a Wing Commander. On the 27 August in the St Omar area over France, Lardner-Burke shot down a Focke-Wulf FW-190 and damaged a second during a mission to escort USAAF B-17 bombers.
On the 5 September 1943 Lardner-Burke and MH434 shot down another FW-190 in the Nieuport area, and on the 8 September 1943 claimed a half share in the downing of a Messerschmitt Bf-109G in Northern France.
In 1944 MH434 was transferred to 350 Sqn. Hornchurch, before being returned to 222 Sqn. After 79 operational sorties, MH434 was retired in March 1945.
MH434’s guns were loaded again when bought by the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1947. The Spitfire served with 322 Sqn. As H-105 – mainly ground strafing and light bombing missions – before crash-landing in Semarang, Java. After spending some time in storage, MH434 was repaired and flew again in Holland on the 10 March 1953.
The Belgian Air Force became the next owner of this Spitfire, and as SM-41 she served at the Advanced Pilot School at Koksijde and with 13 Wing at Brustem.
On the 26 March 1956 MH434 was put up for sale and bought and brought back to Britain by airline pilot Tim Davies. As G-ASJV the Spitfire was moved to Stansted then Elstree for a full overhaul. The aircraft was flown purely for pleasure and took part in it’s first movie role, Operation Crossbow.
November 1967 saw MH434 join the motion picture airforce of Spitfire Productions Ltd. Set up by Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie for the film “Battle of Britain”. At the end of the movie in 1968 MH434 was sold again. The new owner, Sir Adrian Swire, Chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways, had the Spitfire painted in 1944 camouflage colour scheme with his initials AC-S, as squadron codes. There were several film and television appearances during this period, including “A Bridge Too Far”.
Flown for the first time by Ray Hanna in February 1970, a famous partnership was quickly established. MH434 was sold to him at auction in 1983 and became one of Old Flying Machine Company’s (OFMC) founding aircraft. The first major rebuild took place in the winter of 1994-95. MH434 has become a regular film and airshow performer and is flown in the authentic 222 Sqn. Codes ZD-B.
MH 434 is based at the historic airfield, Duxford (now home to the Imperial War Museum), where it is maintained and operated with great pride by the Old Flying Machine Company.
Supermarine Spitfire MkLF Vb EP120
- Manufacturer: Vickers Supermarine Ltd
- Type: Spitfire LF VB
- Serial No: CBAF 2403
- Year of manufacture: 1942
- Engine: Rolls-Royce Merlin 55
- Propeller: Dowoty Rotol RS5/RA1976
EP120 is one of four airworthy examples of the Mk V Spitfire anywhere in the world, although there are others undergoing restoration at the moment. The machine was taken on charge to the RAF in 1942 and spent time with 501 Sqn, where she accounted for a Do 17 at the hands of the Wing Commander. She then spent some time in Cornwall with 19 Sqn and was later taken on to the strength of 402 RCAF Sqn.
At the same time the Sqn commander changed and the new boss adopted EP120 as his machine, although other squadron pilots flew her during the period she was with 501. Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Northcott accounted for seven German aircraft over the year or so following his joining 501 Sqn, six of them whilst he was flying EP120. At seven kills, she is the most credited Mk V in existence – and maybe the most credited WWII fighter. An accident cut short her career with 501 squadron, and she returned to Castle Bromwich for repairs.
After service with 19 sqn and 402 she was allocated to an OTU, a ground instructional role and several gate guard posts in the following years. She was a static aircraft in the Battle of Britain film – in 1967/68, and then found her way back on to the gate at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk where she was lovingly cared for and restored until the RAF reconsidered the long term fate of all their Spitfires.
She joined all the remaining RAF Spitfires in store at RAF St Athan, in South Wales, until she was liberated by the Fighter Collection in 1993. EP120 was airframe overhauled by Historic Flying at Audley End, a stones throw from Duxford, and actually flew again in September 1995. She starred in the Flying Legends show at Duxford in July 1996.
She has flown on a regular basis since that time, proving popular with both the crowds and the pilots. In 2000, EP120 was the lead Spitfire in the major feature film Pearl Harbour.
Owned by The Fighter Collection and based at Duxford. Wears the markings EP120 / AE-A from 402 (RCAF) Squadron,
which it wore when it flew with the Squadron.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Ia – AR213
- Aircraft Type: Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia
- Year of Manufacture: 1941
- Powered by: Rolls Royce Merlin 35
- Colour Scheme: 71 Eagle Sqn. RAF
As of today the aviation world has one Supermarine Type 300 Spitfire Mk. I in airworthy condition again. AR213 (G-AIST) has completed its first flight after four-years restoration to the original Mk. I configuration.
AR213 was one of the last production Mk. Is. Built by Westland, it was delivered to 12 Maintenance Unit in July 1941. It didn’t see combat, but directly relegated to trainer role with 57 and 53 OTUs.
Spitfire Mk Ia G-AIST was never used in combat during it’s life with the Royal Air Force. After completion she was delivered to 12 MU (Maintenance Unit) July 24, 1941. From there she was transferred to 57 OTU (Operational Training Unit) July 31, 1941 and transferred to 53 OTU on February 20, 1943. She went to 8 MU for storage on August 17, 1944 until it was struck off charge on November 30, 1945.
After it was struck of charge she was sold to Group Captain Allen Wheeler on March 10, 1947 and registered G-AIST. The original plan was to use her for air racing, but this never happened. She went into storage until 1967 when it was brought back to flying condition for “the Battle of Britain” film.
She was then flown by Allen Wheeler at Wycombe Air Park for several years before being sold to Hon Patrick Lindsay in 1978. Following Lindsay’s death on January 9, 19866, she was sold to Victor Gauntlett and Peter Livanos at Personal Plane Services (PPS) at Booker, High Wycombe, in April 1989. Victor Gauntlett died in 2003 and G-AIST underwent a major overhaul and reconstruction at PPS, Booker, High Wycombe and was operated by Sheringham Aviation.
Her permit to fly expired in 2002 and it was decided to completely rebuild her to give her another 20 years of airworthy life. She underwent an intensive and costly restoration by Personal Plane Services to bring the aircraft as close to its original build as possible.
Her first post-restoration flight was on November 12, 2007 from Booker, High Wycombe, still in primer and awaiting a new paint scheme. She was finally repainted in authentic 57 OTU colours, and coded JZ-E. This colour scheme represents AR213 as personal aircraft of Flight Lieutenant James Harry ‘Ginger’ Lacey while he was posted as an instructor pilot for a rest period.
Supermarine Spitfire Vb BM597
• Aircraft Type: Supermarine Spitfire Vb
• Year of Manufacture: 1942
• Powered by: Rolls Royce Merlin 45 1,440hp
• Colour Scheme: RAF 317 Squadron
Combat veteran, Spitfire Mk.Vb, (G-MKVB), BM597 is one of 1000 aircraft built at Castle Bromwich against contract B981687/39, BM597 was delivered to No.37 M.U. at Burtenwood on 26 February 1942, being assigned to 315 Sqdn on 7 May 1942 and on to 317 Sqdn on 5 September 1942, both at Woodvale. On 1 February 1943, it suffered Cat B damage when F/O Birtus lost brake pressure whilst taxiing and overturned the aircraft; it was removed for repair on 28 February.
It was ready for collection again on 2 June when No. 33 M.U. took delivery and on 9 June it was allocated to Vickers Armstrong for an undisclosed purpose. It returned to No.39 M.U. Colerne on 23 November before moving to No. 222 M.U. High Ercall (Packing Depot) on 4 January 1944 and then back to No. 39 M.U. on 14 April. It was stored there for almost a year until it was issued to No. 58 OTU, its last operational unit from which it was retired on 16 October 1945. It was then transferred to instructional airframe status at No. 4 S of TT, St Athen as 5713M.
Following St Athans, BM597 was assigned as gate guardian to Hednesford (1950-1955), Bridgenorth (1955-1960) and Church Fenton (1960-1989). On 23 January 1967 it was dispatched from Henlow to Pinewood where it was used as the master for the moulds that were made to cast the fibre glass replicas used in the film ‘Battle of Britain’. It remained at Pinewood until August 1968 when it was returned to Henlow and finally in 1969 to Church Fenton. Tim Routsis, the founder of Historic Flying, recovered the aircraft in 1989 as part of a deal with the RAF and sold it to HAC in 1993 with Historic Flying undertaking the complete restoration to original specification and flies now in the colours of 317 Squadron, though in an earlier camouflage paint scheme.
The HAC team have been in contact with a number of Polish veterans who flew BM597 whilst in service with the Polish 315 (PK-C) and 317 (JH-C) Squadrons RAF. Squadron Leader Ludwik Martel and Squadron Leader Tadeuz Anderz were reunited with the aircraft at the Old Hay Charity Fly-in in July 2000. S/Ldr Franciszek Kornicki, was reunited with BM597 and sat in his former cockpit at Chailey in 2004. Their signatures can be found on the inside of the cockpit door. From squadron records, other pilots who flew the aircraft were Sgt Slonski, P/O Widziszewski, P/O B. Semmerling, F/O H. Wyrozemski, F/S J. Adamiak, P/O S. Blok, P/O J Zbrozek, Sgt Alexsander Chudek, F/LT Waleriaw Jasiowowski and F/LT W.J. Zajac. F/LT Zajac flew BM597 on several occasions including acceptance checks and tests when BM597 was assigned to 315 Squadron in May 1942.
In September 2005 Spitfire BM597 became the first Spitfire to return to the Mediterranean island of Malta since the filming of Malta Story in 1952. It flew there together with Hurricane “Z5140” as part of the Merlins Over Malta project.
Supermarine Spitfire XIX PS890
Built as a PR.XIX with a Griffon 66 engine at Supermarine Aviation(Vickers) Ltd. in 1944 and given production prototype engine mount modifications on 29 November 1944, arriving at 6 Maintenance Unit on 9 April 1945.
Then moving onto RAF Benson (PRU) for storage on 30 April 1945. PS890 then joined 542 Squadron on 13 June 1945 followed by 81 Squadron at Seletar , Singapore on 22 January 1951. It was then transferred to The Royal Thai Air Force as U14-26/97 on 3 June 1954. In 1962 it was donated by King Bhumibel of Siam to Ed Maloney of the Air Museum at Claremont, California, U.S.A. and put into storage.
During a rebuild PS890 was fitted with a Shackleton engine and retained contra-rotating propellers. It flew again in May 2002, operated by Planes of Fame , Chino under the registration N219AM. In 2005 it was sold to Christophe Jacquard and based at Dijon-Darois, France.
PS890 was overhauled during the winter of 2008/2009 at Dijon – Darios, France. The contra-rotating propellers have now been replaced with a five blade propeller and it also has another Rolls – Royce Griffon engine. It has a new camouflage colour scheme with 152 Squadron codes UM – E of South East Asia Command during World War Two, including a ‘leaping leopard’ motif over the roundel.
She suffered a spectacular takeoff accident at Longuyon-villette Aerodrome during an air display on 11 June 2017. The pilot started his takeoff run to open up the powerful Griffon engine too quickly and allow the tail to rise too far.
The aircraft is expected to fly again in the spring of 2019.
Supermarine Spitfire LF XVIE TD248
Essentially a late-build Spitfire Mk IX fitted with a Packard Merlin 266 engine, an all-round-vision canopy and ‘E-type’ clipped wings for improved low-altitude handling, LF XVIE TD248 left the Castle Bromwich line in early 1945 and was delivered straight to No 6 MU at Brize Norton on 11 May 1945.
Spitfire TD248 was issued to No 695 Sqn soon afterwards, and here it remained until passed on to No 2 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit on 31 August 1951. Placed in storage with No 9 MU on 27 May 1954, the aircraft was transferred to No 610 ‘County of Chester’ Sqn in October 1955 to serve as a gate guard at the auxiliary unit’s Hooton Park base. It returned to storage at the airfield in 1957 following the disbandment of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in March of that same year.
Allocated to the Air Training Corps’ No 1366 Sqn in April 1959 as instructional airframe 7246M, the fighter moved to Sealand and eventually became the responsibility of No 30 MU. Put on display outside the officers’ mess in January 1967, TD248 was mounted on a pole at the main gate some years later. Exposed to the elements for more than two decades, the Spitfire was acquired in 1988 by Cambridge businessman Tim Routsis following three years of intensive negotiations with the MoD. He agreed a unique exchange deal with the latter organisation and the RAF Museum that saw Spitfire TD248, and four other RAF gate-guardian Spitfires, pass into private hands for rebuilding to flying status.
Moved to Routsis’s HFL premises at Audley End in June 1988 and bought by BAC Windows founder Eddie Coventry of Earls Colne two months later, the fighter was the subject of an intensive restoration from 1990 until its first flight on 10 November 1992. Restored in the striking silver and red livery of a No 41 Sqn Spitfire F 21 that participated in the Blackpool Air Races of 1948/49, the fighter was reacquired by HFL in 1998.
Offered for sale at Duxford on 12 October 2000 together with Spitfires LF IX MK912 and FR XVIII SM845 for a combined price tag of £4 million as part of the ‘Millennium Collection’, TD248 was badly damaged in a heavy landing at the airfield on 10 May 2001. Repaired at Duxford, the fighter had been returned to airworthiness by the spring of 2002. It was sold to Tom Blair in 2005 and kept at Duxford as part of his Spitfire Ltd collection. Maintained by ARCo, the aircraft was resprayed in late-war No 74 Sqn colours (with the addition of ‘CR-S’ codes for Spitfire Ltd’s chief pilot, Air Marshal Cliff Spink), and it retains that scheme today.
Supermarine Spitfire P7350 Mk IIa
P7350 is the oldest airworthy Spitfire in the world and the only Spitfire still flying today to have actually fought in the Battle of Britain. She is believed to be the 14thaircraft of 11,989 built at the Castle Bromwich ‘shadow’ factory, Birmingham.
Entering service in the August of 1940, she flew in the Battle of Britain serving with 266 Squadron and 603 (City of Edinburgh ) AuxAF Squadron. Whilst serving with the latter at Hornchurch, on or about 25 October 1940, she was involved in a combat with ME Bf 109s and forced to crash land. She was quickly repaired at No 1 Civilian Repair Unit, Cowley, and flew again on 15 November, only 3 weeks after the crash landing; repaired bullet holes can still be seen on her port wing.
She subsequently served operationally with 616 and 64 Squadrons. After April 1942 she was relegated to support duties serving with the Central Gunnery School and 57 OTU and ending her operational career with 19 MU. During the War, ‘P7′ suffered three ‘Cat B’ flying accidents (at Tangmere, Hornchurch and Sutton Bridge). Having survived the War, ‘P7’ was then sold for scrap to Messrs. John Dale Ltd in 1948 for the princely sum of £25; fortunately the historical significance of the aircraft was recognised and she was generously presented to the RAF museum at Colerne.
Restored to flying condition in 1968 for the epic film ‘The Battle of Britain’, she was presented to the BBMF after filming was complete
Supermarine Spitfire FR XVIII SM845
On Tuesday, 17 December 2013, Richard Lake’s Spitfire Mk FR.XVIIIe SM845 took to the skies for the first time since summer 2010, following its rebuild to flying condition by Historic Flying Limited (HFL) at IWM Duxford in conjunction with Airframe Assemblies Ltd on the Isle of Wight. Both have been responsible for several high-profile Spitfire restorations in recent years, with their projects now flying in the UK, Europe and USA.
The Spitfire Mk FR.XVIIIe M845 was built at Chattis Hill, England in 1945 and it was delivered to 39 MU (Maintenance Unit) on May 30, 1945. The aircraft was used in India, first with the RAF, then the Indian Air Force.This aircraft was one of eight Spitfires recovered from India by Duxford-based Ormonde and Wensley Haydon-Baillie in 1977. It passed through several owners before being returned to the air by Historic Flying Ltd. in 1998.SM845 (G-BUOS) was registered as SE-BIN on the 25th of May 2009. Sadly, the experienced pilot, Bertil Gerhardt died when Spitfire SM845 crashed at Tynset in Norway when the aircraft veered off the runway during landing.
The Spitfire was subsequently returned to the UK where it has undergone extensive restoration to flying condition by Historic Flying Limited, in the Aircraft Restoration Company’s hangar at IWM Duxford, for its new owner, Richard Lake. The aircraft is now painted in the striking silver, with the red spinner adding a flash of colour, of No. 28 Squadron, Hong Kong, during July 1950.
Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VIIIc MT928
« Built as MV154 in 1944 at Southampton, delivered to 6MU the same year. She was ferried by the famous ATA-girl Mary Wilkens (some decades later, Mary Wilkens signed, now at the age of 94, in the cockpit. A wonderful piece of history).
In September 1944 the Spitfire was shipped to Australia where she arrived at the end of November and was stored. In 1948, MV154 was assembled and used for some system testing.
In 1961 the rare fighter was sold to “Titus” Oates who wanted to bring her back to airworthy condition. The plan failed and the MkVIIIc was sold to Sid Marshall who stored the airplane in his museum. Robs Lamplough acquired her in 1979 and brought her back to Great Britain.
After 15 years of restoration, this Spitfire took the skies over Filton on 28th May 1994. In 2010 G-BKMI was sold to MeierMotors based at the former military airfield Bremgarten in the South of Germany. Following restoration work, the MkVIIIc was registered in Germany as D-FEUR. She was the first Spitfire registered in Germany since the end of WWII. This aircraft is operated by MaxAlpha Aviation Gmbh, also based in Eschbach, Bremgarten airfield. »