Supermarine Spitfire Prototype (K5054) - replicaSupermarine Spitfire Prototype (K5054) - replica

Supermarine Spitfire Prototype (K5054) - replica  [@ RAF Tangmere]

Supermarine Spitfire Prototype (K5054) - replicaThe legendary Supermarine Spitfire was designed by a team under the direction of the brilliant designer Reginald Mitchell and traced its ancestry to Supermarine’s racing floatplanes developed for the Schneider Trophy contest.

After the success of the “S” series, Mitchell’s team thought that designing a fighter to the Air Ministry specification F.7/30 would be a relatively simple affair.  The first attempt, the Type 224 design, was first flown in 1934 and its gull winged design was not a success, however, it should be considered a valuable stepping stone to the Type 300 that followed.  The design was also hampered by the evaporative cooling design of the 660 hp Rolls Royce Goshawk engine.  The F.7/30 fighter contract was eventually awarded to the Gloster Gladiator biplane because of its climb rate advantage over the monoplane designs.

Even before the type 224 was rejected for the F7/30 specification Mitchell had begun work on a new project, the type 300, which would become the Spitfire.  It was intended to use the Goshawk engine so again the design included a strong metal leading edge in front of the wing spar to act as the condensation tank for the steam cooling.  When the new Rolls Royce PV12 engine (later to become the Merlin) was substituted, the strong metal leading edge was retained because the Merlin was originally envisaged as having steam cooling like the Goshawk (albeit with a small back-up radiator).  After the first few Mk A and B Merlins used this composite cooling system the Mk C and all subsequent Merlins switched to an all-liquid system.  This used Ethelene Glycol, which transferred heat energy better than water, and hence meant the radiators could be made smaller.

The strong leading edge structure of the Spitfire's wing was no longer needed as a condenser tank, but it was retained.  Out of such fluke design evolutions was the classic Spitfire wing developed, the key to the aircraft's success.  The wing was extremely strong, having a central spar made up of hollow sections that slotted into each other.  The result was not unlike a leaf-spring, providing great resilience.  The metal leading edge "box" in front of the spar adding to this strength.  The wheels retracted outwards into the wing, meaning the undercarriage mechanism could be put in the thickest part of the wing, this kept the wing thin.  The undercarriage retracted into bays to the rear of the wing spar meaning the structural integrity of the spars leading edge "box" was not impaired.  As if this not enough the wings incorporated "wash-out" meaning the angle to the air flow was slightly greater near the fuselage than at the tip.  It meant the pilot got plenty of warning of a stall as the aircraft would start to "talk" to the pilot through feedback to the controls.  This is particularly important in combat as in a tight turn the aircraft needs to be kept just on the "edge" of stalling to get the minimum turning circle.  The Spitfire's wing turned out to be capable of withstanding very high "mach" numbers.  In fact the wing's performance at high speed was better than the wings designed for the early jet fighters ten years later!

Mitchell gave the type 300 a monocoque fuselage, which meant that the interior was unobstructed by bracing struts or wires.  This was in contrast to the Hawker Hurricane, which had a fuselage constructed like a fabric covered biplane.  The space inside the Spitfire was put to good use in photo reconnaissance Spitfires where large cameras were mounted behind the pilot pointing downwards and to the side.

Spitfire-Wind-Tunnel-ModelThe Spitfire prototype, with the serial number K5054, first flew from what is now Southampton airport at 4:35 pm on the 5th March 1936 for an 8 minutes flight with Mutt Summers, Vickers chief test pilot, at the controls.  Upon landing he spoke the legendary Spitfire words "I don't want anything touched" - meaning it handled beautifully - no adjustments were needed.  In subsequent test flights and after slight modifications K5054 reached 348 mph in level flight and 380 mph in a dive, with Jeffery Quill at the controls.  On the strength of the first RAF test flight by the commander of RAF Martlesham’s A Flight, Humphrey Edwards-Jones, a contract for 310 planes was placed with Supermarine by the Air Ministry.  The total price of the contract was £1,395,000 or £4,500 per aircraft, excluding the engine, radio and guns.  The contract was for the planes were officially issued on the 3rd June, just eight days after the RAF’s first flight.  In its summary of the flying qualities, the final report stated: - "The aeroplane is simple and easy to fly and has no vices.  All controls are entirely satisfactory for this type and no modification to them is required .  .  .  .  The controls are well harmonized and appear to give an excellent compromise between manoeuvrability and steadiness for shooting.  Take-off and landing are straight-forward and easy .  .  .  In general the handling of this aeroplane is such that it can be flown without risk by the average fully trained service fighter pilot."  The final cost of K5054 was about £20,765, with the Air Ministry and Rolls Royce paying £12,478 and £7,500 respectively, leaving Supermarine's final cost for building the Type 300 prototype Spitfire at around £787.  K5054 was further refined and modified to become the pattern for the successive II and III Spitfires.  Ironically K5054 was destroyed in an accident on the 4th September 1939; a day after the declaration of was on Germany, at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.  The pilot, F/Lt White, died of his injuries.

There was no doubting that Mitchell had delivered a thoroughbred! It had required a superhuman effort, working not only the long hours and dealing with a multitude of technological problems but also fighting the pains and anxieties of cancer.  He lived long enough to see the prototype fly for he died on the 11th June 1937, just 42 yrs old.

In 1983 Jeffrey Quill, the famous Spitfire test pilot, decided that the contribution to military aviation by Reginald Mitchell had never truly been recognised.  Accordingly, a group comprising Quill, Dr Gordon Mitchell (Mitchell's son) and members of the original design team joined forces with the Spitfire Society and decided to sponsor a full size replica of Spitfire prototype K5054 (the original having been destroyed in the late 1930s).  Fund-raising began and a partnership was forged with Aerofab Restorations of Andover who would construct the aircraft.  The result of these endeavours was unveiled at the RAF Tangmere museum in May 1993 when Quill was able to report that the replica is "99% the original prototype".  K5054 is on long-term loan from the Spitfire Society.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (K9942)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (K9942)  [@ RAF Cosford]

On the 4th August 1938 Jeffery Quill,  delivered K9789 the first production Spitfire to 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford, a unit then equipped with the Gloster Gauntlet biplane, the predecessor of the Gloster Gladiator.  The first Gauntlet had been delivered to the RAF in February 1935, just three and a half years earlier.

Of the 1566 Spitfire Is that were built, K9942 is the oldest surviving example of its type, the 155th aircraft off the production line and was delivered to 72 squadron on 24th April 1939.  Flying Officer James Nicholson often flew the aircraft during its operational career with 72 Squadron; he was later awarded the only Fighter Command Victoria Cross.  The aircraft went on to serve with various OTU`s during the war years before being allocated for museum use on 28th August 1944.  K9942 is now restored to its 1939 appearance when it was allotted to 72 Squadron.  72 Squadron was formed on the 2nd of July 1917 at Upavon and was disbanded on the 22nd of September 1919.  The Squadron was re-formed from a flight of 1 Squadron at RAF Tangmere on the 22nd of February 1937 in Gloster Gladiators.  It was in the April of 1939 when they received their first Spitfire's.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (X4590)Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (X4590)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (X4590)  [@ RAF Hendon]

Merlin-IIIOrdered from Supermarine on the 9th June 1940 (an inspection in 1995 revealed that the port wing dated from the 11th March 1938) and fitted with a Merlin III (photograph - right) engine, X4590 was delivered to 609 Squadron on the 8th October 1940 and first flew on the 10th October 1940.  X4590 claimed its first (half share) kill on the 21st October 1940 when it downed a Ju 88 A5 (w/nr 8116, code 9K+BH of 1/KG51) that had been on a mission against the Gloster Aircraft Works at Brockworth, then busy producing Hurricanes.  During this period X4950 flew alongside Spitfire R6915 (see below).  Transferred to 66 Squadron on 24th February, to 57 OTU on 7th April 1941, to 303 (Polish) on 18th July 1941, to 43 Groups' Disposal Account as surplus to requirements and then to 37 MU for storage on the 31st October 1941.  On the 14th February 1942 X4590 was allocated to 53 OUT and remained with the unit until 20th March 1944.  During this period X4590 was involved in a number of flying related accidents and flew alongside Spitfre K9942 (see below).  Both aircraft were sent to 52 MU on the 28th August 1944 to be packed for Museum purposes.  In September 1954 X4590 went on public display for the first time at Horseguards Parade, London, during Battle of Britain Week.  During the 1960s and the early 1970s X4590 and K994 were used for mobile display work but, unlike K9942, X4590 was not used in the making of the “Battle of Britain” film.  Formally transferred to the RAF museum collection on the 15th November 1972, X4590 arrived at Hendon in 1978. 

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (P9444)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (P9444)  [@ Science Museum]

P9444 was delivered to the RAF on 5th April 1940 and assigned to 72 Squadron with whom it flew in the Battle of Britain.  Unfortunately, it crashed on 3rd July 1940 and was moved to 1 Civilian repair unit.  Although 9444 never flew operationally again it was used for training and display duties before being transferred to the Science Museum in 1954.  P9444 is currently displayed in 72 Squadron markings.

A Supermarine S.6B [below right], which flew at a maximum speed of 407 mph, won the International Schneider Trophy [below left] outright in 1931. 

Schneider Trophy  Schneider Victor

Mitchell's design was so superior to the original Air Ministry Specification F.36/34 to which it had been submitted that a new one was drafted to cover the production of a prototype.  This aircraft, K5054, made its first flight on 5th March 1936 and, like the Hawker Hurricane, with which it was to share so much fame, was powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin C engine.  The Air Ministry issued a contract for the production of 310 Spitfires in June 1936, at the same time as the Hurricane contract, and the first examples were delivered to 19 Squadron at Duxford in August 1938.  Eight other squadrons had equipped with Spitfires by September 1939, and two Auxiliary Air Force units, 603 and 609, were undergoing operational training.  The total production of the Spitfire was 20,351 and  2334 examples of the naval version, the Seafire.  The last aircraft in the Spitfire/Seafire lineage, VR971 - a Seafire 47, left the production line at Supermarine on the 28th January 1949.

The photograph on the right shows a stainless steel model of a Mk I which was used in 1941 for wind tunnel investigations into high speed dive characteristics.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (R6915)Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (R6915)Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (R6915)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (R6915)  [@ Imperial War Museum]

Built by Supermarine Aviation at Wooston, Southampton, during 1940 as a part of the contract B19713/39.  Powered by a Merlin III, R6915 entered RAF service with 6 MU based at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, on the 11th July 1940 before being transferred for operational duties to 609 (West Riding) Squadron, 'B' Flight Blue Section, based at RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire, on the 21st July 1940.  Between the 20th July and 7th Oct 1940 R6915 flew 57 operational sorties during the Battle of Britain, accounting for 2 kills, another 2 shared kills and 4 damaged while serving with the Squadron.  One Me 110 damaged (12th August), two Ju-87 damaged (13th August), one Me110 destroyed (25th August), one He111 destroyed (25th September), one Bf-109 destroyed with two Do-17 probables (26th September), one Me110 destroyed (27th September) and a claimed damaged He111 (30th September).  During this period R6915 was damaged twice (25th August, 27th September) by fire from He111s and was flown by.  On the 2nd October the Squadron was transferred to RAF Warmwell, Dorset.  R6915 destroyed another Me110 on the 7th October but during the action was hit by cannon fire from a Bf 109.  As a result R6915 was sent to 1 Civilian Repair Unit (CRU) which was established at the Cowley works of Morris Motors for repairs on the 14th October.  R6915 was then transferred on the 12th December to 12 MU at RAF Kirkbride, Cumbria, before being allocated to 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron based at RAF Prestwick, Ayrshire, on the 21st January 1941.  R6915 moved with the Squadron on the 15th April to RAF Ayr, Ayrshire, and was later transferred to 61 OTU based at RAF Heston, Middlesex, on the 6th July since the Squadron was being updated to the Spitfire MK IIa and moving south to RAF Kenley, Surrey, on the 10th July.  Until finally SOC on the 21st June 1947 R6915 spent the rest of the war years with various MU units, two more OTU units (61 OTU based at RAF Heston (21st June 1942 – 20th April 1943) and 57 OTU based at RAF Eshott, Northumberland, (13th June 1943 – 21st September 1943).  Both of these Units were setup to train single-seat fighter pilots.  R6915 is displayed in its original wartime colours and has been at the Imperial War Museum since August 1946.  Initially displayed on its undercarriage at ground level, R6915 was then suspended with the undercarriage lowered and later moved to the Atrium and suspended by cables (photograph 1).  During December 2012 R6915 was transported to RAF Duxford for conservation (post restoration - photographs 2 & 3).

The Spitfire Mk I was powered by a Merlin [photographs below] II or III engine and 1,583 were built.  It was this variant that saw the most combat in the Battle of Britain.

Merlin-1940-engine   Merlin-1940-engine   Merlin-1940-engine

The Mk II with the Merlin XII, being issued to the squadrons of Fighter Command in September 1940.  The Mk II production, including the Mk IIb, which mounted two 20mm (0.79in) cannon and four 7.7mm (0.303in) machine guns in place of the standard eight 7.7mm (0.303in), totalled 920 aircraft.  During the battle, from 1st July to 31st October 1940, 361 of the 747 Spitfires delivered to Fighter Command were destroyed, not all in combat.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (N3200)Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia (N3200)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (N3200)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Powered by a Merlin III, N3200 was built by Supermarine Aviation at Southampton and first flown from Eastleigh on the 29th November 1939.  Delivered to 8 MU based at RAF Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, on the 2nd December 1939 and then allocated to 19 Squadron based at RAF Duxford, Cambridgeshire, on the 19th April 1940.  During a sortie on the 27th May 1940, to protect the evacuation of the B.E.F from the Calais area, N3200 was hit by gunfire from German fighters.  The pilot Sqdr Ldr Geoffrey Stephenson, the Squadron’s commanding officer, made a force landing on the beach close to Sangatte and escaped capture.  Captured in Brussels on the 4th June 1940 Sqdr Ldr Geoffrey Stephenson later became a POW at the famous Colditz Castle where he became involved with the Glider escape plan.  Following the recovery of the remains in 1986 N3200 eventually arrived at RAF Duxford during 2007 for restoration to flying condition.  Powered by the rebuilt original Merlin engine the first flight of N3200 was on the 26th March 2014.  In the photograph N3200 is shown in the livery of 19 Squadron.

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (P9374)Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (P9374)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Ia (P9374)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Powered by a Merlin III, P9374 was built as an F Mk 1a at the Supermarine Aviation Woolston works as one of the 138 Spitfires built under the Air Ministry contract B980385/39.  Delivered to 9 MU based at RAF Cosford on the 2nd March 1940 and then allocated to 92 Squadron based RAF Hornchurch, Essex, on the 6th March 1940.  Flown by at least eight different pilots who probably included the Commanding Officer of 92 Squadron, Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, later ‘Big X’ of the Great Escape fame.  On the 23rd May Pilot Officer Williams claimed a Messerschmitt Bf 110 destroyed over the French coast when piloting P9374.  P9374 failed to return from an operational sortie on the 24th May when it was shot down and crash-landed on the beach at Calais.  Piloted by another Great Escape veteran, Flying Officer Peter Cazenove, this sortie was his first and last combat sortie of the war.  Surviving the crash the pilot eventually became a prisoner of war.  Just 55 minutes into a flight P9374 was hit by a single bullet fired from a Dornier 17 bomber.  Records show that P9374 had amassed a total of just 32.05 hrs in the air.  Recovered from the Calais beach in September 1980 and stored at the Musee de l'Air, Le Bourget, France in 1981.  Moved to other collections P9374 eventually arrived at Duxford during August 2007 for full restoration to flying condition.  Previously parts of P9374 had been used in the restoration of PP972, a Supermarine Seafire F.2.  P9374 returned to the air on the 9th September 2011.  In the photograph P9374 is in the exact livery as when it was shot down on the 24th May 1940.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIa (P7350)Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIa (P7350)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk IIa (P7350)  [@ RAF Coningsby]

P7350 is the oldest airworthy Spitfire in the world and the only survivor of the Battle of Britain still flying and believed to be the 14th aircraft of 11,989 built at the Castle Bromwich ‘shadow’ factory, Birmingham.  Delivered to 6 MU in the August of 1940, P7350 first flew with 266 [on Sept 6th as UO-T] and later 603 Squadron.  Around the 25th October 1940 P7350 was involved in combat with Bf 109s and forced to crash land.  The repaired bullet holes can still be seen on the port wing.  Quickly repaired, P7350 flew again on the 15th November only 3 weeks after the crash landing.  P7350 later served with 616 [from 18th March 1941] and 64 [from 10th April] Squadrons.  After April 1942, P7350 was relegated to support duties serving with the Central Gunnery School [from April 1942 to February 1943] at Sutton Bridge.  After another accident P7350 went to 57 OTU on the 31st March.  Stored at 39 MU from July 1944 until sold as scrap to John Dale & Sons [for £25] who realized its importance and presented it to RAF Colerne where P7350 was used for display until 1967.  Brought to flying condition for 'The Battle of Britain' film and flown as G-AWIJ by Spitfire Productions in 1968.  P7350 now flies with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The Spitfire Mk III was an experimental ‘one-off’ Merlin XX powered aircraft (2 built), while the Mk IV (229 built) was a photo-reconnaissance (PR) Merlin 45 powered variant.   It was actually produced after the next variant, the Mk V, which began to reach the squadrons in March 1941.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb (BL614)Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb (BL614)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Vb (BL614)  [@ RAF Hendon]

BL614 was built by Vickers Armstrong at Castle Bromwich and under ordered Air Ministry contract B981687/39 as a batch of 1000 Mk Vbs.  Originally ordered as an Mk.III,  BL614 was delivered to 8 MU at RAF Little Rissington on the 4th January 1942.  Transferred to 611(West Lancashire) Squadron at RAF Drem, near Edinburgh on the 7th Feburary 1942 the first operational sortie of BL614 was over Firth of Forth on the 18th Feburary 1942.  Damaged in a dogfight on the 8th March1942, BL614 returned after repair to RAF Drem to serve with 242 (Canadian) Squadron on the 2nd June 1942.  When 242 Squadron had moved to RAF North Weald BL614 stayed at RAF Drem and transferred to 222 (Natal) Squadron on the 11th August 1942.  On the 16th August 1942 BL614 move with 222 Squadron to RAF Biggin Hill, Kent, to cover the landings at Dieppe (Operation Jubilee) three days later. Damaged during the raid, possibly by small-arms fire, BL614 was quickly repaired and returned with the Squadron to RAF Drem on the 20th August 1942.  During March 1943 BL617 moved to 64 Squadron who were based at Ayr but on the 17th August 1943 the Squadron moved to RAF Friston, Sussex, and a few days later to RAF Gravesend, Essex.  In September 1943, 64 Squadron moved to RAF Coltishall, and BL614 together with other 64 Squadron Spitfire Vbs transferred to 118 Squadron who were based at RAF Peterhead, Grampian.  From the end December 1943 BL614 was with 6 School of Technical Training, RAF Hednesford, Staffs as an instructional airframe.  Between 1955 and 1967 BL614 was on gate guard duty at RAF Credenhill, Hereford as AB871.  BL614 was one of 18 RAF Spitfires loaned to Spitfire Productions Ltd for use in the 1968 ‘Battle of Britain’ film and was used as one of seven taxying Spitfires during filming, the others all being Mk.XVIe (not available in the Battle of Britain) aircraft.  Place into storage at RAF Wattisham after filming, BL614 later moved to the RAF Museum, RAF St. Athan, from August 1975 to 1982 and then onto Manchester, Air & Space Museum from 1982 to 1985 and the Museum of Science & Industry from 1985 to 1996.  Restored for static display between March 1995 and 1997 by the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society BL614 entered RAF Hendon on the 27th October 1997.

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Vb (BM597)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Vb (BM597)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built at Castle Bromwich under the Air Ministry contract B981687/39, BM597 was delivered to 37 MU at RAF Burtonwood, Cheshire, on the 26th April 1942.  The entire frontline service of BM597 was spent with Polish Squadrons, the first being 315 Squadron based at RAF Woodvale, Lancashire, on the 7th May 1942.  When the squadron returned to RAF Northolt, West London, in the September to resume operations over France BM597 was transferred to 317 Squadron on the 5th September 1942.  Now based at RAF Woodvale 317 Squadron had transferred from RAF Northolt.  The operational career came to an abrupt halt on the 13th February 1943 when BM597 suffered Category B damage.  Delivered to de Havilland for repairs and then to Vickers Armstrong for modification on the 9th June.  BM597 then spent time in storage with 39 MU based at RAF Colerne, Wiltshire, from the 23rd November 1943 and then with 222 MU (Packing Depot) based at RAF High Ercall, Shropshire, on the 4th January 1944 before returning to 39 MU on the 14th April 1944.  BM597 remained in storage until March following year and was then transferred to 58 OTU (Operational Training Unit) based at RAF Poulton, Cheshire.  Finally retired on the 16th October 1945, BM597 was then reclassified as an ground instructional airframe (5713M) and issued to 4 School of Technical Training (SoTT) at RAF St Athan.  Saved from the scrapyard, BM597 served as a gate guardian at a variety of RAF establishments throughout the 1950s and 1960s.  These included Hednesford (1952-1954 as Spitfire AR614), Bridgnorth (1960-1962), Church Fenton (1966-1975), Linton-on-Ouse (1975-1979), and Church Fenton (1979-1988).  In 1967 BM597 was transported to RAF Harlow for the filming of the motion picture the "Battle of Britain", but instead of enjoying a flying role, BM597 was sent to Pinewood Studios to serve as a master for the glass fibre moulds made by Spitfire Productions for the replica aircraft produced for the film.  Acquired by the Historic Flying Ltd in 1988 in a deal that saw a large number of Spitfires sold by the Ministry of Defence to the Essex-based company, BM597 was stored at the HFL’s Audley End premises for five years before being purchased in 1994 by the Historic Aircraft Collection.  The latter commissioned HFL to restore HFL and by the summer of 1997 the refurbished airframe had been paired up with a Merlin 35 engine from a Boulton Paul Balliol.  Painted in an authentic scheme replicating its appearance with 317 Squadron in the autumn of 1942 and completed the first post-restoration flight on the 19th July 1997.  During 2000 BM597 flew as AR352 (RF-C) of the Eagle Squadron in the making of the movie “Pearl Harbour”.

Converted from Mk I or II airframes and strengthened to take the Merlin 45, the Mk V was to be the major Spitfire production version, with 6479 new examples, together with Mk I and Mk II conversions, completed.   The type came in three wing configurations, the Va with eight machine-gun armament, the Vb with four .303 machine guns and two 20mm cannon and the Vc (the universal wing) which would take two or four cannon and four machine guns and the provision for the carriage of 500 lb of bombs.   Each type was also produced with wings clipped from 36' 10" to 32' 2" for low altitude work.   The Spitfire V, however, failed to provide the overall superiority Fighter Command needed so badly.  At high altitude, where many combats took place, it was found to be inferior to the BF 109F, and several squadrons equipped with the Mk V took a severe mauling.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb (AB910)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Vb (AB910)  [@ RAF Coningsby]

Built at Castle Bromwich in 1941, and originally ordered among a batch of Mk Is, the production run coincided with the arrival of the Rolls Royce Merlin 45 engine and the batch were delivered as Mk Vs.  Spitfire AB910 had an amazing front-line operational career spanning almost 4 years.  Initially allocated to 222 (Natal) Squadron at North Weald on the 22nd August 1941 but was soon re-allocated to 130 Squadron with whom AB910 flew several convoy patrols and also escort patrols to the daylight bombing raids against the battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in December 1941.  In June 1942 AB910 was delivered to 133 Eagle Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill.  No. 133 Squadron was formed on 1st August 1941 at RAF Coltishall from volunteer pilots from the USA flying Hurricanes IIBs. By October they had converted to Spitfire IIs and later flew Vbs and IXs before being transferred to the USAAF on 29th September 1942 to become the 336th Squadron of the Fourth Fighter Group.] AB910 flew 29 operational missions with this unit, including 4 sorties on 19th August 1942 during the fierce aerial battles in support of the Dieppe Raid, AB910 pilots being credited with one Do217 destroyed and one damaged during these combats.  AB910 continued to fly operationally up to July 1944 serving with 242 (Canadian) and 416 and 402 (RCAF) Squadrons. With 402 Squadron she flew numerous cover patrols over the Normandy invasion beachheads on D-Day itself (6th June 1944) and on subsequent days. From mid July onwards AB910 was relegated to support duties with 53 OTU at Hibaldstow and then with 527 Squadron (a radar calibration unit).  While at 53 OTU AB910 had its most famous (infamous?) flight. It was common practice for pilots using high power settings while on the ground to avail themselves of any convenient passer-by to lie over the tail of the aircraft to prevent the aircraft from nosing over. Flt Lt Neil Cox was detailed to fly AB910, and was aided in his ground running by Leading Aircraftswoman Margaret Horton acting as a tail weight. After the ground run, the pilot lined up into wind and took off. In the circuit it was clear that the trim of AB910 was not normal and flew in a tail-down attitude. After the remainder of the 1000 feet circuit AB910 returned to the ground. On stopping, Margaret Horton was seen sliding off the tail unit where she had been determinedly clinging for the whole of the circuit!  After the War AB910 was used for air racing before being purchased by Vickers-Armstrong. After a career of air shows in the hands of Jeffrey Quill AB910 was presented in September 1965 to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

To counter the activities of high-flying German reconnaissance aircraft the Spitfire Mk VI (100 built) was produced, with a long, tapered wing and a pressurized cockpit.  Basically an high altitude version of the Mark V with the wing-span extended to 40'2" and powered by the Merlin 47.  The Merlin drove a four-bladed propeller which remained the standard airscrew until the introduction of five-blade propeller on the Griffon engined Mk XIV.

The Mk VII (140 built), also with a pressurized cockpit, was powered by a Merlin 61 engine, a two-stage, two-speed, inter-cooled power-plant which was to take development of the Merlin to its ultimate.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc (AR501)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk Vc (AR501)  [@ Shuttleworth Collection]

AR501 was built by the Westland Aircraft at Yeovil and was delivered to 8 MU on the 22nd June 1942.  On the 19th July 1942 AR501 was allocated to 310 (Czech) Squadron at RAF Duxford and remained there until March 1943.  While serving with 310 Squadron AR501 escorted USAAF B17 Flying Fortresses and B24 Liberators bombers and may well have escorted the "Memphis Belle" during this period.  AR501 also saw RAF service with 3501 Support Unit, 504 Squadron, Church Stanton Station Flight, 312 (Czech) Squadron, 442 (Canadian) Squadron, 58 OTU, 1 Tactical Exercise Unit and 61 OTU.  After damage on the  9th September 1944 AR501 was converted to an LF VC and served with the Central Gunnery School from April 1945 until storage that August.  AR501 was acquired by Loughborough College in 1946 as an instructional airframe.  By 1961 it was obsolete for teaching purposes and was exchanged for a Jet Provost from the Shuttleworth Collection.  Restored to flying condition for the film “The Battle of Britain” AR501 was subsequently stored until 1973 when a two year rebuild to authentic wartime condition resulted in a test flight on the 27th June 1975.  AR501 is the only Spitfire in the world still flying with an original de Havilland three-blade propeller.  In 2000, AR501 was temporarily repainted with the markings AR4474 (RF-Y) for the film “Pearl Harbour”.  Over the winter of 2000/2001 AR501 was repainted and elliptical wingtips were refitted, which returned AR501 to the condition in which it was originally delivered to 310 Squadron in July 1942.

The Mk VIII preceded the Mark IX on the drawing board but entered service later.  Without pressurisation the Mark VIII was the medium to low altitude version of the Mk VII.  Powered by a Merlin 63 or 66 it had a retractable tail-wheel, later versions had a wider chord rudder, and had a top speed of 408 mph (compared to 357 mph for the Mark V) and provision for one 500 lb and two 250 lb bombs.  By 1946 it equipped only RAF units in the Middle and Far East.  A total of 1,658 were built.

Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VIIIc (MV239)Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VIIIc (MV239)Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VIIIc (MV239)

Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VIIIc (MV239)  [@ Royal Australian Air Force Museum]

Built by Supermarine during 1944 as a HF Mk.VIIIc and delivered to 6 MU RAF based at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, as MV239 during March 1945.  Disassembled, shipped and delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as A58-758 on the 26th June 1945.  Having arrived too late for wartime service MV239 was placed directly into storage at RAAF Richmond, NSW.  Struck off Charge during September 1949 MV239 was acquired by the Sydney Technical College, Ultimo, NSW as an instructional airframe.  Sold during 1969 and placed into open storage in a dismantled state.  MV239 was loaned to the Camden Museum of Aviation, NSW, between July 1972 and 1982.  While at the museum MV239 was restored to a taxying condition.  Sold during 1982 and finally restored to full flying condition with the first flight being on the 29th December 1985.  In the photograph MV239 is in the livery of A58-602 / RG-V (ex RAF MV133) as flown by Robert 'Bobby' Gibbes DSO DFC the Wing Commander of 80 Wing RAAF, base at Morotai, Dutch East Indies, in 1945.  The Wing comprised of three Squadrons, 457,452 and 79.  MV133 arrived in Melbourne Australia on the 25th October 1944 but didn’t reach 457 Squadron until 23rd January 23 1945.  All of the Squadron's aircraft were painted with a shark's mouth, earning it the nickname the "Grey Nurse Squadron".  Damaged by flak over the Ternate Islands on the 7th April 1945 MV133 was Struck off Charge a year later.  Gibbes had served in the Western Desert, scoring ten kills and fourteen probables while flying P-40 Tomahawks and Kittyhawks with 3 Squadron RAAF.  [The photographs of MV239 are by the kind permission of Alf Batchelder of the RAAF Museum]

By the end of 1945 the Mk Is, IIs, IVs and VIIs were out of RAF service completely and the last Mk VIII left 253 Squadron in December 1947.

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc (MH434)Supermarine Spitfire IXc (MH434)Supermarine Spitfire IXc (MH434)

Supermarine Spitfire F IXc (MH434)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Arguably the most famous Spitfire in the world, MH434 has been maintained in airworthy condition ever since it came off the production line at Castle Bromwich in August 1943.  MH434 spent its entire frontline career in the RAF flying with the Hornchurch Wing - primarily with 222 ‘Natal’ Squadron as well as 349 and 350 “Belgian” Squadrons.  Both squadrons were formed during the Second World War under British command.  350 Squadron, the first Royal Air Force squadron to be formed by Belgian personnel, was formed at RAF Valley on Anglesey, Wales, in November 1941 while 349 Squadron at RAF Ikeja (near Lagos), Nigeria, in November 1942.  Both squadrons were disbanded during October 1946 and transferred to the Belgian air force.  MH434 was delivered to the Essex fighter station on the 19th August 1943, and it was immediately ‘acquired’ by Malta Hurricane ace Flt Lt ‘Pat’ Lardner-Burke DFC.  The South African soon added to his tally by downing an Fw 190 and damaging a second whilst on a Ramrod escort with USAAF B-17s over St Omer on the 27th August.  A second Fw 190 kill was achieved over Nieuport nine days later and his (and MH434’s) final claim was logged on the 8th September when he shared in the destruction of a Bf 109G over northern France.  By mid-1944 MH434’s brief frontline career was all but over, and it was duly placed in storage with 9 MU at RAF Cosford in March 1945, before transferring to 76 MU at Wroughton for disposal.  MH434 beat the scrapman’s blow-torch when MH434 was sold to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF) in early 1947.  Shipped from Tilbury to Batavia, in the Dutch East Indies, MH434 saw further action with the RNAF’s 322 Squadron against Nationalist forces struggling for independence - a total of 165 sorties were flown by MH434 in-theatre.  Following a belly landing in 1949, MH434 was returned to Holland, refurbished by Fokker, and sold to the Belgian Air Force.  After service with the Ecole de Pilotage Avancé (Advanced Pilots' School) and 13 Wing MH434 was sold into civilian hands in March 1956 for use as a target tug.  MH434 remained in this role, flying from Ostend, until 1963, when MH434 was resold and flown back to Britain.  Based at Elstree for several years, the aircraft was acquired by Spitfire Productions Ltd for the filming of the "Battle of Britain" in November 1967 (this was not the fighter’s screen debut, however, as it had made a cameo appearance in MGM’s "Operation Crossbow" in 1965).  In April 1983 MH434 was acquired at a Christie’s auction and now flies from RAF Duxford.

The answer to the problems experienced with the Spitfire V [see Fw 190] was to marry an Mk V airframe with a Merlin 61 engine.  The resulting combination was the Spitfire Mk IX, which for a stopgap aircraft turned out to be a resounding success! Deliveries to the RAF began in June 1942 and 5665 were built, more than any other mark except the Mk V.  Many Mk IXs were production-line or retrospective conversions of the Mk V to the IX standard.  With the Merlin 61 it had a similar performance to the Mk VIII, although the tail-wheel was fixed.  It came in three types according to altitude, the LF (Low Flying) with clipped wings, the standard span medium altitude fighter (F) powered by the Merlin 63 and the HF (High Flying) with a standard wingspan and powered by a the Merlin 70 engine.  The types were fitted with either the "b", "c" or "e" wing, the latter accommodating two 20mm cannon and two 0.5 calibre machine guns.  Some later models had the broad-chord rudder, a cut-down rear fuselage and tear-drop canopy.  The type was finally withdrawn from RAF operational service in May 1948.

Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk IX / T Mk IXSupermarine Spitfire HF Mk IX / T Mk IX (SM520)

Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk IX / T Mk IX (SM520)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built by Vickers Armstrong, Castle Bromwich, in 1944 as one of 103 Spitfire Mk IXs constructed to Government contract ‘B981687/39’. Originally a Merlin 70 powered HF Mk IX, SM520 was delivered to 33MU, RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire, on the 23rd November 1944.  After a brief RAF service SM520 was sold to the South African Air Force (SAAF) and shipped from the UK on the 27th May 1948 to Durban by the MS Halesius along with seven other Spitfires, serials ‘BS408’ (SAAF ‘5564’), ‘MA477’, ‘PL215’, ‘TE307’, ‘TE329’ and ‘TE333’.  SM520 was one of 136 Spitfires for delivery to the SAAF between 1947 and 1949.  Eighty of these aircraft were the F. MK IXe variant powered by the Merlin 63 and 86 were the HF Mk IXe variant with the Merlin 70.  Fifty of these aircraft were flown out to South Africa and the balance shipped to either Cape Town or Durban.  SAAF evidence suggests that SM520’s may have been re-assigned with the serial number ‘5563’ and may have survived a number of accidents.  However SM520 is recorded as having been held at Ysterplaat “for disposal” by the 31st January 1952 and being formally SoC and sold to the South African Metal & Machinery Company, Cape Town, for scrap on the 22nd January 1954.  The remains of SM520 survived at the scrap yard until the 17th November 1979 when the forward fuselage, fire wall and numerous other related components from SM520 and other Spitfires were recovered by the South African Air Force Museum and returned to AFB Ysterplaat for detailed assessment.  In 1981 the “remains” were taken to the SAAF Museum, Snake Valley AB, before being sold and returned to the UK.  In 2002 Classic Aero Engineering Ltd. (CAE) at Thruxton were contacted to restore SM520 to a T Mk IX specification.  SM520 flew again on the 17th October 2008 from Thruxton with just 15 hours ‘on the clock’.  In the photograph SM520 is painted in the colours of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) with serial H-99.  The original H-99 was ex-RAF, serial BS147, and delivered to the RNLAF on the 22nd March 1948.

Spitfires Mk X and XI were unarmed PR variants.  The armament was replaced by cameras which came in three fits, the X fit was two F.8 cameras with a 20in lens, the Y fit one F.24 camera with a 14in lens and the Z fit one F.52 camera with a 36in lens.  Like the Mk VIII the Mk X (16 built) was produced out of sequence.  It was a pressurised XI but fitted with the Merlin 64 while the Mk XI (471 built with some IX conversions) was the PR version of the Mk IX.

Supermarine Spitfire LF IXe / T Mk IXc (PV202)Supermarine Spitfire LF IXe / T Mk IXc (PV202)

Supermarine Spitfire LF IXe / T Mk IXc (PV202)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built as a LF IXe at Castle Bromwich PV202 and entered RAF service with 33 MU based at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire, on the 18th September 1944.  First transferred to 84 Ground Support Unit at Thruxton, Hampshire, and then on the 19th October 1944 to 33 Squadron, 135 Wing of 2nd Tactical Air Force, based at Merville, Northern France.  The Squadron had returned to the UK from the Western Desert in April 1944 and re-equipped with Spitfires before moving to France in October 1944.  During December 1944 the Squadron now based at Maldegem in Belgium re-equipped with the Hawker Tempest and so PV202 returned to the UK and 84 GSU based at RAF Lasham on the 14th December 1944 after 20 operational sorties mainly operating in the ground-attack role.  At the start of the New Year PV202 moved to 83 GSU based RAF Dunsfold, Surrey, before being transferred to 412 “Falcon” Squadron RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) that had re-equipped with the Spitfire IXe from the Spitfire IXb during September 1944.  Operating from Heesch in Holland, the squadron played a key part in action during the Germans' Ardennes offensive (the Battle of the Bulge (16th December 1944 to the 25th January 1945) and in the final months of the war as the 21st Army Group pressed into north-west Germany.  PV202 last operational sortie, the 76th, was on the 4th May 1945 from Wunstorf, Germany.  When the War ended 412 Squadron returned to RAF Dunsfold with PV202 and in July 1945 PV202 was placed into storage with 29 MU at RAF High Ercall, Shropshire.  Removed from storage during 1950 PV202 was converted by Vickers Armstrong Ltd at Eastleigh into a T IXc before being delivered to the Irish Air Corps on the 15th June 1951 as IAC161.  From 1960 PV202 was used at the Ground Technical Training School, Baldonnel, as an instructional airframe until Struck Off Charge during March 1968.  Sold into the private market PV202 was eventually restored to airworthy condition with the first flight being on the 23rd February 1990 at Dunsfold.  Following a fatal crash during a landing approach PV202 was destroyed at Goodwood on the 8th April 2000.  The remains were removed to RAF Duxford for restoration to airworthy condition a year later with the first flight-taking place on 13th January 2005.

Supermarine Spitfire T Mk IXc (ML407)

Supermarine Spitfire LF / TR Mk IXc (ML407)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built at Castle Bromwich as a single seat fighter and delivered to 33 MU during April 1944.  ML407 then entered RAF service on the 29th April 1944 and was delivered to 485 Squadron RNZAF based at ALG Selsey, Sussex, by the famous lady A.T.A. Pilot Jackie Moggridge.  Formed under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme 485 (NZ) Squadron was the first New Zealand squadron to be formed although it was under the operational and administrative command of the RAF.  Flown by Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC on D-Day ML407 was accredited with the first enemy aircraft, a Ju88, shot down over the Normandy beachhead just south of Omaha Beach.  During December 1944 ML407 was transferred to 341 (Free French) Squadron and then to 308 (Polish) Squadron, 349 (Belgian) Squadron, 345 (Free French) Squadron, 332 (Norwegian) Squadron and finally back to 485 (New Zealand) Squadron towards the end of WW2.  In total ML407 flew 176 operational sorties totalling 319 combat hours.  Placed into storage at the end of WW2 ML407 was one of twenty Spitfires during 1950 to be converted by Vickers-Armstrong at Eastleigh, Southampton, to the TR Mk IX standard for the Irish Army Air Corps.  The first flight was at Eastleigh on the 24th July 1951 and entered service with the Irish Air Corps as IAC162 on the 30th July 1951.  ML407 flew in the advanced trainer role until the 8th July1960.  With a total of 763 hours flying hours ML407 was retired to an instructional airframe role.  Placed into storage at Baldonnel AB during 1962 ML407 was purchased by Sir W. J. D Roberts in 1970 and stored disassembled at his museum at Strathallan Airfield, near Auchterardar until 1979.  Purchased by Nick Grace ML407 was restored to flying condition with the first flight taking place on the 16th April 1985.  In the photograph is in its wartime colours, OU-V of 485 Squadron.

The Mk XII (1943) fighter, powered by a Griffon III engine, was developed specifically to counter the low-level attacks by Focke-Wulf 190s.  Only 100 were built and they were out of RAF service by 1946.  Similarly, the PR Mk XIII was out of RAF service by 1946.  Powered by the Merlin 32, only 18 were built.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXc (MK356)

Supermarine Spitfire F Mk IXc (MK356)  [@ RAF Coningsby]

Built at Castle Bromwich and fitted with a Merlin 66 engine, optimised for operations at low level (below 25,000ft), MK356 was delivered to 9 MU at RAF Cosford on the  4th February 1944.  On 11th March 1944 MK356 was allocated to 443 ‘Hornet’ Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force based at RAF Digby and carried the code 21-V.  Latter the Squadron became part of 144 Canadian Wing commanded by Wing Commander J. E. ‘Johnny’ Johnson and was based at various locations on the South Coast of England.  MK356 flew its first operational sortie from RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex, on the 14th April 1944 as part of a ‘Rodeo’ fighter sweep over occupied France.  In the weeks leading up to the invasion of France MK356 was involved in various fighter and fighter-bomber missions.  On  the 7th June 1944 (D-Day+1) during an invasion beachhead cover patrol, MK356's pilot, Flying Officer Gordon Ockenden, a Canadian from Alberta, attacked 4 Me Bf109s at very low level.  He chased one of the Messerschmitts, opened fire and obtained strikes.  His wingman, Flt Lt Hugh Russell finished it off, so they were both credited with a shared kill.  MK356 was damaged three times, including two belly landings, and on the 14th June lost a wheel on take-off; the pilot completing the mission prior to making a third belly landing.  Normally the aircraft would have been repaired on site but the Squadron moved to a forward operating base in France the next day leaving MK356 behind.  On 8th August 1944 MK356 was moved to 84 Group Support Unit for repairs.  In October 1945 MK356 was relegated to a training airframe at 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton, Buckinhamshire, with serial 5690M until 1951 when MK356 was moved to RAF Hawkinge, Kent, as a gate guardian carrying the serial M5690.  In December 1961 MK356 was overhauled at 71 MU RAF Bicester, Oxfordshire, before being pole mounted as a gate guardian for RAF Locking, Somerset.  MK356 joined “The Battle of Britain” film unit fleet at RAF Henlow in October 1967, carrying the spurious serials and codes N3328/AI-R & N3317/BO, and was filmed at RAF North Weald and RAF Duxford. Temporarily stored at RAF Henlow after the film MK356, on the August 8th 1969, joined the RAF Museum Reserve Collection based at RAF St Athan, South Wales.  In January 1992 a complete refurbishment to flying condition was commenced and in November 1997 MK356 flew for the first time in 53 years, subsequently moving to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight on the 14th November 1997 for the 1998 flying season but unfortunately spent part of its time grounded after donating its engine to the BBMF Lancaster.

Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVe (MV293)

Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVe (MV293)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built by Vickers-Armstrong, at Keevil, then to 33 MU on the 27th February 1945 for storage.  Delivered to 213 MU for packing in August and shipment to the Indian Air Force.  Arriving in Karachi in October, MV293 joined the IAF as No 48 in December 1947.  Later with the IAF Technical College, Jalahalli, MV293 was recovered from Bangalore and crated to the UK.  The first flight after restoration at Duxford was on the 14th August  1992.

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc (MJ783)Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc (MJ783)

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc (MJ783)  [@ Koninklijk Leger Museum, Brussels]

MJ783 served with the RAF and was flown by the Polish Ace Group Captain Aleksander Gabszewicz, OC 131 Wing of the 2 TAF during 1944.  Sold to the Royal Belgium Air Force in 1948 and served as SM-15 until 1951.  Stored at the Musee de l'Armee et d'Historie Militaire/Palais du Cinquantenaire, Brussels, from January 1952 to 1963 and then placed on display at the Musee Royal de l' Armee.  In the photograph MJ783 is displayed as 'MJ360/GE-B’ of 349 (Belgian) Squadron RAF.

Griffon   Griffon

The Mk XIV was based on the Mk VIII with an airframe strengthened to take a Griffon [photograph - above] 65 or 67 engine.  It was the first Griffon engined Spitfire variant to go into large-scale production (957 built) and the first examples were issued to No 322 (Netherlands) and No 610 Squadrons in March and April 1944.  The prototype, built to specification F.4/40, first flew in 1941.  In order to keep the overall length broadly the same as in the Merlin engined variants the camshaft and supercharger gear was moved forward, however, this still made it 1½ ft longer than the Mk IX.  The increase in length together with the inclusion of a five-blade propeller was compensated for by a larger fin and rudder.  The fuselage contours also changed on the nose, with fairings on either side to accommodate the cylinder blocks.  As with the later models of the Mark IX the rear fuselage was cut down and a tear-drop canopy fitted.  The mark also included a clipped wing version for low altitude work and a FR (Fighter Reconnaissance) version which was equipped with an obliquely mounted F.24 camera.  Apart from the four 20mm Hispano cannon there was provision for one 500lb bomb or Mark IX rocket projectiles.

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb (MH367)Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb (MH367)Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb (MH367)

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXb (MH367)  [@ Ardmore Airport, Auckland, New Zealand]

Built at the Castle Bromwich factory and powered by a Merlin 61, MH367 entered RAF service with 65 Squadron based RAF Kingsnorth, Kent, on the 5th August 1943 who were reequipping from the Spitfire Mk V.  During June 1943 65 Squadron had become a part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) who had been tasked to provide close air support for the upcoming invasion of Europe.  During the December 1943 the Squadron reequipped with the Mustang III.  The first operational sortie of MH367 was on the 15th August when, flown by F/L J.R. Heap, provided cover to 36 Marauders bombing the Abbeville marshalling yards.  Following a flying accident on the 12th December 1943, when a jettison tank and a bomb rack fall off during landing, MH367 was sent off for repair to 410 Repair/Salvage Unit based at Biggin Hill on the 18th December 1943.  410 Repair and Salvage Unit (later became a RCAF unit) was also a part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force.  While with 65 Squadron MH367 had completed 31 combat missions over occupied Europe.  Following an extensive period in maintenance MH367 was transferred on the 3rd September 1944 to 229 Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch, Essex.  229 Squadron had flown the Spitfire Vc and XI during the last months of the Defence of Malta before going onto the offensive and flying fighter sweeps over Sicily.  After three months on Sicily the Squadron transferred back to the UK between the 1st April and 24 April 1944.  Piloted by W/O Hinton the first combat mission of MH367 with 229 Squadron was on the 11th September 1944 escorting Lancasters to the Fischer-Tropsch synthetic fuel plant at Bergkamen near Kamen-Dortmund, Germany.  When 229 Squadron started reequipping with the Spitfire XVI from December 1944 MH367 was transferred to 312 (Czech) Squadron.  MH367 had completed 28 combat missions with 229 Squadron.  Equipped with the Hurricane I 312 (Czech) Squadron had formed at RAF Duxford in July 1940 during the Battle of Britain.  By July 1944 the Squadron had to become a part of the 2nd TAF and were based in East Anglia to provide long-range fighter escort for bombers.  During January 1944 the Squadron had reequipped from the Spitfire Vb and Vc to the Spitfire IX.  The first flight of MH367 with 312 Squadron was on the 15th December 1944.  Piloted by F/L J.Sodek, MH367 helped to escort 17 Lancasters to bomb the “E” and “B” boat pens at Ijmuiden, Holland.  When WW2 ended MH367 had completed 30 combat missions with 321 Squadron, the last escorting 822 Lancasters to Heligoland was on the 18th April.  After the war MH367 was transferred to Air Services Training Ltd at Hamble and re-engined with a Merlin 63.  During April 1947 MH367 was transferred to the Empire Central Flying School based at RAF Hullavington, Wiltshire.  After considerable damage due to a landing accident during July 1948 the remains of MH367 were scrapped.  Eventually the remains were rescued from the scrapyard and restored by using parts from ML417 and the wings from BR601 to a two seat variant.  The first flight of the restored MH367 was on the 16th November 2006.  MH367 was purchased in December 2007 and arrived in New Zealand in early May 2008.  In the photographs MH367 is in RAF desert livery with the markings of FL-A, a Spitfire IX flown in the North Africa campaign by Squadron Leader Colin Gray, the C/O of 81 Squadron RAF when based in Tunisia in early 1943.  He was one of New Zealand's top scoring aces during WWII and was credited with 27 individual and 2 shared aerial victories plus 6 probable individual kills + 4 more probable shared kills.  The Squadron had provided fighter cover for the 1st Army during the Tunisia campaign.  [The photographs of MH367 are by the kind permission of Alf Batchelder of the RAAF Museum]

Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVe (MT847)Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVe (MT847)

Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVe (MT847 [@ Manchester Museum of Science & Technology]

MT847 entered RAF service with 6 MU on 28th February 1945 and remained in service with 226 OCU as UU-A until 14th November 1950.  Stored until 1952, MT847 under went Gate Guardian duties until 1986 when it was moved to the Aerospace Museum at RAF Cosford.  Since 22nd March 1995 it as been on loan to the Manchester Museum of Science and Technology.

Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVc (MV246)Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVc (MV246)

Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk XIVc (MV246)  [@ Koninklijk Leger Museum, Brussels]

Ordered the 27th July 1942 for the RAF, MV246 was built in the Aldermaston factory and never served in an operational RAF Squadron. When completed in 1944 MV246 entered into storage with 9MU at RAF Cosford on the 29th November 1944. On the 26th August 1948 MV246 was sold to the Belgian Air Force and moved to 348 Squadron of 1 Wing at Bevekom/Beauvechain as SG-55 on the 1st September. Unfortunately a belly landing accident, following a reduction gear failure, ended the flying career of MV246 on the 11th October 1948 after only 23 hours and 35 minutes. Later moved to the Arsenal of Evere and then to the Museum of the Army where the fuselage of MV246 went on display on the 25th February 1951. The restoration of MV246, using parts from SG-37(RM860) and SG-46 (which collided on the 14th January 1949) was started in 1977 and finally completed in 1997.

Supermarine Spitfire XIV (SM832)

Supermarine Spitfire F XIV (SM832)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Ordered as a Spitfire PR XI and built at Chattis Hill near Winchester in early 1945, SM832 was delivered to the RAF’s 9 MU at High Ercall on the 13th March 1945 as an Mk XIV fighter.  Like many other Griffon Spitfires constructed at around this time SM832 was soon allocated to South-East Asia Command (SEAC) and crated up and dispatched to Bombay in April 1945.  With the war in the Far East having swung firmly in favour of the Allies by the time SM832 arrived on the 15th May 1945 the chance of seeing action was limited.  In fact, it appears that SM832 was never allocated to an RAF unit within SEAC.  Instead SM832 was placed in storage for two years until finally sold to the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the 31st July 1947.  Like virtually all other Spitfires that followed this route SM832 service career with the IAF remains a mystery.  Discarded by the Indian Air Force sometime in the 1950s and "discovered" serving as a gate guardian at Dehra Dun SM832 was one of five Spitfires, four Mk XIVs and a Mk XVIII, brought out of the sub-continent in the late 1970s.  Reported by the recovery team to be in remarkably good condition despite its lengthy spell outdoors SM832 was shipped back to the UK in 1979 and stored at Blackbushe for a number of years.  SM832 was thoroughly overhauled by the Historic Flying Ltd at Audlcy End and eventually took to the air again on the evening of  the 22nd May 1995.  In the photograph SM832 hears the markings of high-scoring RAF ace Sqn Ldr ‘Ginger’ Lacey, who was OC of 17 Squadron in Burma in the final months of WW2.  The chain-mailed glove beneath the aircraft’s exhaust stubs is the emblem of 17 Squadron.

Since the Mk XV was a Seafire variant the next Spitfire to be built was the Mk XVI.  It entered service in 1944 and was a ground-attack variant, very similar to the Mk IX, but powered by a Packard built Merlin 266 engine.  Some later models had the cut-down rear fuselage and rear-view canopy.  This variant (1054 built) was the last Merlin engined Spitfire in RAF front-line service and was withdrawn when released from 63 Squadron in May 1948, however, the type continued in service with 612 Squadron of the RAuxAF until June 1951 and well into the mid 1950s with second-line or training units.

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (RR263)

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (RR263) [@ Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, Paris - Le Bourget]

Built at Castle Bromwich and delivered to the RAF in 1944 RR263 saw service with the 2nd Tactical Air Force from 1944 to 1945.  From November 1949 to 1945 RR263 was loaned to Vickers Armstrong and assigned to experimental duties before being placed into storage.  Transferred to 4CAACU, Llandow, Wales from 1951 to 1954 and was followed by retirement and storage.  Used in the filming of the Douglas Bader biography, “Reach for the Sky”, in 1955 as a static backdrop RR263 returned to perform gate guardian duties at RAF Kenley until 1967. Transferred to 5 MU for overhauling and painting in 340 Ille de France Squadron markings, RR263 was marked as Spitfire TB597 and presented to the French Air Force to commemorate the pilots who lost their lives flying for the Free French Air Force in WW2.  Transported in an RAF Beverly to Tours AB on the 20th May 1977 RR263 entered the Le Bourget museum in 1978.

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (TD248)

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (TD248)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built at Castle Bromwich in early 1945 TD248 was delivered to 6 MU at Brize Norton on 11th May 1945 and then to 695 Squadron until May 1951.  Placed in storage, it latter became an instructional airframe with the ATC, a gate guardian and was used in 'The Battle of Britain' film.  Following intensive restoration from 1990 to 1992 it was painted in 41 Squadron Spitfire F21 red/silver racing colours that participated in the Blackpool Air Races of 1947 but it is now back in war time colours.

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (RW393)

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (RW393)  [@ RAF Cosford]

RW393 entered RAF service with 6 MU on the 20th July 1945 and was transferred in November 1947 to 203 Advanced Flying School.  In 1950, RW393 was made personal a/c of AOC Fighter Command and retired on 6th July 1954 to become an instructional airframe with 602 Squadron.  From August 1956 to 1989 RW393 performed gate guarding duties at RAF Turnhouse as XT-A and was used in the 1968 “Battle of Britain” film.  In 1989, RW393 was sent to RAF St Athan for storage pending disposal and arrived at RAF Cosford in May 1995.

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (TE462)Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (TE462)

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XVIe (TE462)  [@ RAF East Fortune]

Built in 1945, TE462 never saw RAF squadron service and spent most of its active life with various MU units.  For a while it was also the gate guardian at RAF Ouston, Northumberland, before becoming the first aeroplane to be acquired by the Royal Scottish Museum in 1971.

With the Mk XVII designation being allocated to the Supermarine Seafire, the Mk XVIII was just beginning to enter RAF service at the end of WW2.  Essentially an Mk XIV airframe, but with a new wing and increased fuel capacity, all 300 that were built had clear-view canopies.  200 of them were fighter-reconnaissance variants which were fitted with one oblique and two vertical F.24 cameras.  The Mk XVIII Spitfires of 60 Squadron flew the last RAF Spitfire fighter sortie on 1st January 1951 with an attack on a terrorist jungle hideout in Johore, Malaysia.

Like the Mk XVIII the PR Mk XIX was just beginning to enter service at the end of WW2.  It was built around an Mk XIV fuselage with an Mk VC wing and a Griffon 66 engine.  541 Squadron received the first of 225 that were built in June 1944.  This variant was the last Spitfire to fly in British military markings when the remaining three aircraft of the Temperature and Humidity Flight at RAF Woodvale were withdrawn in June 1957.  (All three are now operated by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight)

Supermarine Spitfire XVIIIe (SM845) and PR XIX (PS853)

Supermarine Spitfire F XVIIIe (SM845) and PR XIX (PS853)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Supermarine Spitfire F XVIIIe (SM845)  [@ RAF Duxford]

Built at the Vickers-Supermarine’s Southampton works in May 1945 and delivered to the RAF's 39 MU on the 30th May 1945, SM845 was only the second XVIII to be delivered and saw no service with the RAF.  In December 1945 SM845 went to 46 MU for shipment to India and arrived in Karachi on the 11th February 1946.  SM845 was received into South East Asia Air Command on the  28th February 1946.  SM845 was then transferred to the Indian Air Force on the 31st December 1947 and issued with Serial No HS687.  SM845 served in the I.A.F. until the late 1950's before being used as a decoy.  SM845 was one of eight Spitfires acquired by tender from the Indian government by the Haydon-Baillie Aircraft and Naval Collection in 1977.  In an epic operation, five F XVIIIs, an HF VIII and two FR XIVs were brought back from India, SM845 and three other F XVIIIs being discovered in undergrowth at Kalaikunda, near Calcutta - three of these machines had been dumped just 40 ft from taxiways used on a daily basis by MiG-2ls and Hunters.  Shipped back to the USA for restoration, SM845 eventually returned to the UK in a part restored state in the late eighties.  Totally rebuilt in the space of just two years, SM845 made its first post-restoration flight on  the 7th July 2000 when Charlie Brown completed the 20-minute flight from Audley End to RAF Duxford.  SM845 is one of only two flying Mk XVIII’s, the other is based in the USA, and wears the markings of 32 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Supermarine Spitfire PR XIX (PS853)

Supermarine Spitfire PR XIX (PS853)  [@ RAF Duxford]

PS853 was built as part of a batch of 79 PR XIXs constructed by Vickers-Supermarine at Southampton between November 1944 and May 1945.  The aircraft was delivered to the Central Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at RAF Benson on  the 13th January 1945, and following the installation of cameras, and flight-testing; it was issued to 16 Sqn at Melsbroek, in Belgium.  This unit was part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force’s 34 Wing and by wars end PS853 had completed nine operations against Germany V-weapons sites.  In September 1945 PS853 was transferred to 268 Squadron, which reformed as 16 Squadron at Celle, in Germany, in September 1945, PS853 returned to the UK and was placed in storage with 29 MU in March 1946.  Seeing little use over the next four years, PS853 eventually joined a handful of other PR XIXs at Short Brothers’ Meteorological Flight at RAF Woodvale in July 1950.  Here PS853 remained for the next seven years, carrying out the last productive working flight undertaken by a Spitfire in the RAF on the 9th June 1957.  On the 14th July 1957, PS853 was delivered to RAF Biggin Hill by Group Captain Johnnie Johnson, where it was to be a founder member of the Historic Aircraft Flight (the forerunner of the BBMF) along with other ex-Woodvale Met Flight PR XIXs PM631 and PS915 and Hurricane Mk II LF363.  Its initial stay with the flight was to be very brief for PS853 moved to 32 MU on the 8th November 1957 and was then allocated to the Biggin Hill Station Flight on the 20th December 1957.  Passed on to the North Weald Station Flight on the 1st March 1958, PS853 went to the Central Fighter Establishment on the 14th April and was struck off charge on the 1st May 1958.  PS853 served as the gate guard at RAF West Raynham, Norfolk, until 1961, when it was transferred to 19 MU and restored to airworthiness.  Returned to West Raynham in November 1962 the Air Fighter Development Squadron (AFDS) was transferred from RAF West Raynham to RAF Binbrook in late 1962.  PS853 was handed it to the Station Flight at RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, who maintained it until PS853 was transferred Battle of Britain Memorial Flight on 14th April 1964 and later on PS853 took part in the 1968 "The Battle of Britain" film.  In January 1963 an oil leak developed in the cylinder block due to a damaged ring seal.  An estimate for the replacement of the appropriate ring seal was sought from Rolls Royce but this turned out to be too expensive.  So on the 21st March an Anson was flown from RAF Binbrook to RAF St Mawgan, Cornwall, to collect a Griffon cylinder block lifting hoist.  Upon its return a small team of engine fitters/mechanics removed the cylinder head and replaced the defective ring seal which had somehow been acquired by the local Rolls Royce representative.  This was the first time the task had been carried out by a 1st line servicing unit . (Thanks very much John for this update - John co-led the team).  From 1987 to 1989, PS853 was grounded and, following extensive work, a modified ex-Shackleton Griffon Mk 58M was installed and PS853 flew once more on the 20th July 1989. PS853 flew with the BBMF until sold in early 1994 in order to finance the rebuilding of the flight’s badly damaged Hurricane Mk II LF363 and in September 1996 Rolls Royce purchased PS853.

The Mk 20 (F.20) was the Mk IV renumbered with a Griffon IIb engine but only one was built for experimental use.  The last production variants of the Spitfire, produced until 1947, were the F.21, F.22 and F.24.  The F.21 entered RAF service just as the war in Europe was ending.  It kept the original fuselage profile, canopy and the armament of four 20 mm cannon but the undercarriage was strengthened to cope with a greater all-up weight.  However, it had a new strengthened wing that increased the span by 1" while trying to maintain the classic Spitfire elliptical shape.  Most of the F.21s (122 built) were powered by a Griffon 61 or 64 engine although some of the later aircraft were fitted with the Griffon 85 engine to drive contra-rotating propellers.  In addition, later production aircraft were fitted with a 24 volt electrical system. 


Supermarine Spitfire PR XIX (PS915)  [@ RAF Coningsby]

Built at Southampton and delivered to 6 MU on the 17th April 1945, PS915 entered service just too late for WWII.  Initially assigned to 541 Squadron on the 21st June 1945 at RAF Benson PS915 moved on to join, via the 1 Pilots' Pool at RAF Benson, the Photo Reconnaissance unit at the same base on the  22nd July 1946 to take part in tests of new cameras.  On the 10th October PS915 was issued to 151 RU before joining 2 Squadron at Wunsdorf in Germany on the 8th July 1948.  While based in Germany PS915 flew strategic reconnaissance sorties in connection with the East/West divide of Europe.  PS915 returned to the UK in 1951, moving to 9 MU at RAF Cosford and was placed in storage.  On the 4th June 1954 PS915 joined the Met Flight at RAF Woodvale and served there until retirement in 1957.  From here PS915 was flown to RAF Biggin Hill on the June 13th 1957 to become a founder member of the Historic Aircraft Flight (along with other ex-Woodvale Met Flight PR XIXs PM631 and PS915 and Hurricane Mk II LF363), the forerunner of the BBMF.  Almost immediately grounded, PS915 was quickly retired to gate-guardian duties and served in that capacity for nearly 30 years, first at RAF West Malling, Kent, and then RAF Leuchars, Fife.  After a static appearance in the 1968 “The Battle of Britain” film PS915 became the gate guardian at RAF Brawdy, Penbrokeshire.  During this period PS915 was used as an engine test bed with the BBMF in Griffon installation trials.  Found to be in a restorable condition PS915 was modified to take an ex-Shackleton Griffon 58 engine and was restored to flying condition during 1984-86 by British Aerospace at Warton. The first flight took place on  the 16th December 1986 and PS915 re-joined the BBMF in 1987.

The F.22 (278 built) was similar to the F.21 but with a cut-down rear-fuselage and tear-drop canopy.  Some later models were fitted with a larger fin and rudder, similar to that fitted to the Spiteful.  As with the F.21 some were fitted with the Griffon 85 to drive contra-rotating propellers. 

Supermarine Spitfire F.22 (PK664)

Supermarine Spitfire F.22 (PK664)  [@ Science Museum]

Built at the Supermarine South Marston factory, Wiltshire, PK664 was first flown on the 17th November 1945.  Too late for operational service so PK664 was delivered to 39 MU on the 5th December 1945 for storage.  PK664 returned to the South Marston factory on the 14th March 1947 to undergo modifications before transfer to 33 MU, RAF Lyneham, on the 25th June 1947 for storage.  On the 11th May 1949 PK664 was issued to 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron who were based at Biggin Hill.  While taxiing out for an air-firing sortie at the annual Air Gunnery Practice camp in Sylt, Northern Germany, on the 29th August PK664 suffered an accident.  Apparently the pilot was distracted by an overheating engine and hit a ground sign.  Although repaired PK664 was soon retired to 33 MU on the 14th December 1950.  Refurbishment work on PK664 was started on the 2nd February 1951 with a view to possible export to an overseas customer such as Egypt or Syria; however, when completed at the end of June PK664 entered storage again with 9 MU at RAF Cosford.  PK664 remained in storage until declared a non-effective airframe on 16th June 1953 and sold, on 4th February 1954, back to Vickers for trials with a non-standard Rolls Royce Griffon 85 engine and contra-rotating propellers.  After these trials PK664 was returned to the RAF, and from August 1954 PK664 took up a 'gate guardian' duties at RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, and then with the Central Fighter Establishment (CFE) based at RAF West Raynham, Norfolk, and latter with the CFE at RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, until 1967.  Between 1967 and 1968 PK664 was taken to RAF Henlow for use in the “Battle of Britain” film.  After the filming PK664 returned to RAF Binbrook for 'gate guardian' duties until 1988 then PK664 was transferred to RAF St. Athan for storage pending disposal.  In 1998 the Ministry of Defence donated PK664 to the Royal Air Force Museum who gave permission for PK664 to be used in the exhibition at the Science Museum.  PK664 was specially prepared for this display by the Aircraft Restoration Company based at RAF Duxford.

Only one F.23 flew, a converted Mk VIII, and was powered by a Griffon 61 engine.  It was designed as an F.22 but with an improved wing section.

Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (PK683)Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (PK683)

Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (PK683)  [@ Southampton Hall of Aviation]

Built by Vickers-Armstrong in 1946 PK683 first flew on the 19th February 1946 and was delivered to 33 MU, RAF Lyneham, on the 13th August 1946 for storage.  In 1950 PK683 was allocated to the Far East Air Force and dispatched by 47 MU, Sealand, to Singapore via Birkenhead Docks and the SS Pyllhus.  Upon arrival at Singapore PK683 was place into storage by 390 MU, RAF Seletar, before finally being issued to the Singapore Auxiliary Air Force in 1951.  Unfortunately PK683 suffered an accident in 1952 and was again placed into storage by 390 MU before being SoC in 1954.  Initially allocated to the ATC in Malaya as an instructional airframe, PK683 was subsequently displayed at Kallang International Airport from 1954 to 1960 and then at the Fairey Point Officers Mess, RAF Changi, from 1962 until 1970.  PK683 then returned to the UK aboard an RAF Belfast of 53 Squadron and was placed into storage on the 16th April 1970 at RAF Bicester.  In November 1972 PK683 was transferred to the RAF Museum, RAF Colerne, followed by storage at RAF Shawbury on the 21st August 1976.  PK683 arrived at Southampton to enter the R.J. Mitchell Museum on the 7th February 1976 and finally the Southampton Hall of Aviation in 1984.

Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (VN485Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (VN485)

Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (VN485 [@ RAF Duxford]

VN485 is the last surviving example of its type to be allocated an RAF serial number and was the 11th from last Spitfire to be delivered to the RAF.  Built by Vickers Armstrong at the South Marston Works, Swindon, VN485 was delivered to 9 MU, RAF Cosford, on the 27th September 1947 by Flight Lt Tarkowski.  Although the Second World War was over, tension was escalating in the Far East and in June 1949, VN485 was one of a number despatched to RNAS Renfrew for shipment to Seletar, Singapore.   Placed into storage upon arrival VN485 in September 1950 was shipped to Hong Kong.  In September 1951 VN485 was issued to the RAF’s 80 Squadron at Kai Tak.  On the 31st May 1952 VN485 was transferred to the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force and on the 21st April 1955 VN485 flew its last official sortie as part of a four Spitfire formation for the Queen’s Birthday Flypast. The pilot was Flt.Lt. Adrian Rowe-Evans.  At the end of July 1955 VN485 was placed into storage at Kai Tak and in the September officially SoC.  A year later VN485 was transferred to the RAF Kai Tak museum and then generously gifted to the Imperial War Museum by the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force in 1989 In the photograph VN485 is painted in the silver livery of the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force as it had been in 1954/55.

Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (PK724)Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (PK724)

Supermarine Spitfire F.24 (PK724)  [@ RAF Hendon]

Powered by a Griffon 61 and driving a five-blade airscrew the F.24 was the final production Spitfire.  It carried extra fuel tanks in the fuselage and had the enlarged elliptical fin and rudder of the Spiteful.  Only 54 F.24s were completed (plus some F.22 conversions) with four Hispano Mk V 20mm cannon and zero-length underwing rocket launchers.  Most went into store although 80 Squadron was fully equipped with the type until they were replaced by the Hornet in December 1951.

PK724 was originally ordered under contract No.B981687/39 as one of 800 LF.IXs but with contract alterations was finally delivered to 33 MU at RAF Lynham and placed into storage on the 30th October 1946.  One of 54 incomplete F.22 airframes removed from Castle Bromwich in January 1946 to undergo final assembly by Supermarine at South Marston as a Griffin 61 powered F.24.  PK724 emerged from storage on the 5th April 1949 and was despatched to Westland aircraft for modifications, but just nine days later PK724 moved on, possibly to Scotland, for completion of the work.  Delivered to 9 MU at RAF Cosford on the 9th February 1950 for storage PK724 was eventually declared a non-effective airframe on the 14th December 1954 (most other F.24s that were SoC were scrapped) and transferred to RAF Norton, Sheffield, with just 7 hours of flying time on the clock.  On the 1st December 1961 PK724 moved to RAF Gaydon, Warwickshire, for Gate Guardian and display duties and remained there until 1967 before moving to RAF Henlow for possible use in the 'The Battle of Britain' film.  A survey found “the airframe and engine to be remarkably well preserved” and a rebuild to flying condition was considered but eventually abandoned and so on the 13th August 1968 PK724 returned to RAF Gaydon.  Upon closure of the base PK724 was moved to RAF Finningly on the 20th February 1970 and then onto RAF Hendon on the 11th May 1971.

The more powerful Griffon engine had provided a 100 mph greater top speed than the early Spitfires and almost twice the rate of climb.  The weight of firepower from its four 20 mm cannon had tripled over the types' original fit of eight machineguns.