Following on from the last Spitfire post which looked at the early short nosed survivors of the type, it is now time for a look at the most common version of the Spitfire seen in UK skies, the Mark IX.
With the advent of the larger Merlin 60 series, the Spitfire gained a longer nose, this combined with the wing cannons added during the Mk V’s development led to a very different looking aircraft. The IX remains, in my eyes the best looking of all the Spitfire variants, before its classic lines got spoiled by the long nose of the griffon and the bubble canopies. (though those variants are not ugly by any stretch!)
So without further ado, lets take a look through at the impressive collection of mark IX Spitfires based on this island.
MH434 / G-ASJV
Where else to start in a post about Mark IX Spitfires than with arguably the king of them all, MH434. Arguably the most famous Spitfire post war, ‘434 has a rich history that has become something of an airshow legend.
Built at Castle Bromwich in 1943 and test flown by the great Alex Henshaw, the aircraft was then sent to 222 squadron in August of that year. ‘434 was flown in combat by Flt Lt Henry Lardner-Burke and claimed a victory over a Focke-Wulf 190 on the 27th August.
MH434 was retired in 1945 and was eventually sent to the RNAF, where the aircraft was operated until a belly landing in 1949 when it was placed into storage. After this period of storage it was time for another change of air force, this time to Belgium. MH434 was retired from service in March 1954 following another accident.
‘434 soon began civilian life again in 1956 joining the Belgian register as OO-ARA until 1963 when it was transferred over to Tim Davies at Elstree where the registration G-ASJV was applied. Following a flying role in the Battle Of Britain film in 1968, it changed hands again, this time to one of its more famous owners, Adrian Swire.
While at Booker with Adrian Swire, the Spitfire was flown by legendary pilot Neil Williams for much of its time, as well as by Ray Hanna, a name of course that would become synonymous with MH434.
When MH434 went up for sale in 1983, Ray Hanna made the necessary arrangements to purchase it for the fledgling Old Flying Machine Company. So began a pilot and aircraft relationship that is worth a whole post in itself. (in fact I recently did one here.)
To me and many others MH434 is the Spitfire, the longer nose and cannons highlight the beautiful lines of the original designs and I have great memories of her being flown so well by Ray Hanna amongst others.
Another of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s aircraft, built at Castle Bromwich and delivered to Cosford in February 1944, later moving to 433 Canadian squadron in March 1944 and was used in operations leading up to the D-Day landings. In August of 1944 ‘356 was transferred to 83 support unit before moving to RAF Halton in 1945.
Becoming the gate guardian at RAF Hawkinge in 1951 there was then a short restoration before being put on a pole at RAF Locking in 1961. Like so many this Spitfire got a second life in October 1967 when allocated to the Battle Of Britain film, after which it was placed in the RAF reserve collection. Finally, in 1992 the restoration to flight started, with the first flight taking place in 1997, shortly after which the aircraft joined the Memorial Flight, where ‘356 remains today.
MK912 / G-BRRA :-
The next Mark IX has been a busy one, spending time in the UK, Netherlands, Java, Belgium and Canada. MK912 came off the production line in 1944, its main front line service was carried out with 312 Squadron. Following a few years in store, ‘912 moved to the Royal Netherlands Air Force and was promptly sent out to Java, before returning to Holland in 1950.
In 1952 another move took the Spitfire over to Belgium, eventually being struck off charge in 1955. After years spent in Belgian Air Force training schools she was acquired by the Historic Aircraft Company in 1989. After a brief return to Belgium restoration was completed at Audley End, with new owners Historic Flying Ltd. The aircraft finally returned to the skies in 2000, following two years flying from Duxford ‘912 moved across the Atlantic to Ed Russell’s collection in Niagara Falls.
MK912 came up for sale in 2011 and was purchased by Biggin Hill based collector Peter Monk, the aircraft has been based at the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar ever since. Sadly the aircraft was suffered an engine failure in 2015 and sustained substantial damage. This aircraft is currently not in airworthy condition.
TA805 / G-PMNF :-
Staying with the Heritage Hangar now, this time with the Spitfire that first moved in to the collection, TA805, “Spirit of Kent”, otherwise known as the Kent Spitfire.
Delivered to the RAF in 1945, ‘805 was assigned to 183 Squadron on the 24th June before moving to 234 Squadron in August. Following RAF Service “Spirit of Kent” moved down to the South African Air Force in 1949, before passing through civilian companies and latterly the South African Air Force Museum in 1981. Though by this stage the aircraft was just a fuselage hulk.
Returning to the UK in 1989, ‘805 was placed into storage. In 1996 Peter Monk took over ownership and restoration work could begin. The Spitfire took to the air again in 2005, moving to Biggin Hill shortly afterwards and being dubbed The Kent Spitfire.
TA805 is one of the most active aircraft in the Heritage Hangar collection and can be seen around events small and large all over the country, usually expertly displayed by Dan Grittiths.
TD314 / G-CGYJ :-
Another Spitfire with Biggin Hill links now, this time one of the Hangar’s in house restoration projects. Delivered to the South African Air Force in 1948, TD314 passed through a number of civilian owners in South Africa and Canada until 2002 when the Spitfire moved to Biggin Hill.
TD314 flew again following restoration on the 7th December 2013. The Spitfire is now part of the Aero Legends company, who offer Spitfire flight experiences from Headcorn and Sywell. TD314 is currently based at Duxford.
RR232 / G-BRSF :-
Another ex South African Air Force machine now, struck off charge from the SAAF in 1954, ‘232 moved through a number of civillian hands including Charles Church, who moved the Spitfire back to the UK in 1986. Restoration efforts started in 1995 with the latter stages of the project taking place at Filton airport in Bristol. The Spitfire finally flew on the 18th December 2012, in the hands of Jonathon Whaley. This test flight was historic in more ways than one, as it was also the final flight from Filton before it was closed later in the year. The aircraft has made a number of airshow appearances since appearing on the circuit in 2015 and now spends much of its time at Goodwood.
Not so many years ago, seeing a two seater Spitfire was quite a rare sight, often with only the Grace Spitfire making regular appearances at Airshows, in the last few years there has been a rise in the UK population, no doubt this trend will continue with the new legislations allowing passenger flights in Spitfires to be carried out.
ML407 / G-LFIX :-
Undoubtedly the most famous of the twin seat Spitfires currently flying, ML407 was built as an LF.IXc and transferred to 485 Squadron in April 1944. While being flown by Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC on June 6th 1944, ML407 claimed the first enemy aircraft shot down on D-day, making this Spitfire an important piece of history.
Post war ‘407 was converted to Two Seat standard and transferred to the Irish Air Corps untill 1961. From here the Spitfire was placed into storage, untill 1979 when it was aquired by Nick Grace.
From here Nick started restoration work including what is now known as the Grace In Line Canopy conversion, which removes the bubble rear canopy and maintains the sleek looks of the Spitfire. On the 16th April 1985 ML407 took to the air again at the hands of Nick Grace, with his wife Carolyn in the back. Tragically Nick was killed in a road accident in 1988.
This tragedy led to Carolyn learning to fly the Spitfire, which she has displayed now for countless years. In the past few years her son Richard Grace has also taken over flying duties of the family Spitfire. ML407 is now based at Bentwaters.
PT462 / G-CTIX :-
PT462 was built at Castle Bromwich in 1944 and was soon sent out the Meditaranean theatre to join 253 Squadron. After the war the Spitfire was transferred to the Italian and Israli air force. Found buried in Israel, ‘462 was returned to England in 1983. Charles Church bought and restored the aircraft to T.IX standard in 1985, flying again in 1987. This T.IX also features the in line cockpit arrangement.
Following Charles Church’s death ‘462 moved over to Florida in the 1990s, before Anthony Hodgson brought the aircraft back to the UK in 1998. The Spitfire is now based at a Private strip in Wales and as such is known by many as the Welsh Spitfire.
MJ267 / G-BMSB :-
Like the other remaining two seater Spitfires in this list, MJ267 features the “Original” two cockpit configuration, with the rear canopy raised up with a large bubble.
Built in 1944, ‘267 was allocated to 441 Squadron and was soon credited with shooting down a BF109. Sold back to Vickers in 1950, the two seat conversion was undertaken and ‘267 joined the Irish Air Corps in 1951.
From 1965 untill 1978 the Spitfire was stored in a disassembled state before being aquired by Maurice Bayliss and restoration work began. In November 1993 ‘267 took to the skies again, though its inital flying career was short, with a wheels up landing in 1998 at Coventry. Rebuilt part time by BBMF members, ‘267 flew again in 2002 and soon moved to East Kirkby, where she reamined untill 2014.
In 2014 MJ267 moved to Duxford for a short time before relocating to Goodwood to join the Boultbee Flight Academy, with another recent move to Biggin Hill in November last year which has seen ‘267 receive a new paint scheme applied in January.
PV202/ IAC-161 / G-CCCA :-
Built in 1944 ‘202 saw short service before the end of the war with with 33 Squadron and 412 Squadron. Once again after the war the aircraft went back to Vickers in 1950 for conversion work to T.IX status, joining the Irish Air Corps in 1951, being struck off charge in 1968.
After leaving the Irish forces, the Spitfire spent a number of years stored in a dismantled state, before being acquired by Nick Grace in 1979, soon being sold on, eventually to Richard Parker in 1990. First flying again in 1990, with the Grace in line cockpit solution the Spitfire moved to Goodwood 1991.
Sadly in 2000 the aircraft was destroyed in a fatal accident at Goodwood.
Following the accident it was passed on to Historic Flying at Duxford and restoration began in 2002, this time the aircraft was restored to the traditional two seat configuration and Irish Air Corps colours. It returned to flight in 2005.
Since returning to flight PV202 has been seen at countless airshows around Europe and has also been seen in a number of different paint schemes. As of 2014 the aircraft wears its original 335 Squadron colours.
SM520 / G-ILDA :-
The most recent addition to the two seat population is SM520. Built in 1944 the aircraft eventually moved to the South African Air Force in 1948, though the aircrafts operational history in South Africa is not known. ‘520 was next found in a scrap yard near cape town in the 1970s. This was another Spitfire bought by Charles Church,who started the restoration process. Following Church’s death in 1989 the aircraft changed owners again, before ending up under restoration at Thruxton, where it was first flown again by Jonathon Whaley in 2008. It was sold to the Boultbee flight academy in 2009 and is now based at Goodwood.
While not a Mark IX, the Photo Reccanasaince Mk XI fits better in this category than any other, sharing many features with the MK IX Family, as it stands there is only one MK.XI in Flying Condition.
PL965 / G-MKXI :-
Built in 1944 PL965 was soon sent off to 13 Squadron in the summer of 1944 through to to march 1945, from then on it moved to Holland and Germany before returning to the UK. In 1947 she was relocated to the Royal Netherlands Air Force School of Technical Training at Deelen. Before later moving Dutch National War Museum at Overloon in 1960. In 1987 ‘965 was bought by Nick Grace and Chris Horsely, later being moved the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society at Rochester to be rebuilt.
The first flight was completed on the 23rd December 1992, soon moving up to Duxford to join the Old Flying Machine Company in 1993, where she was flown memorably by Ray and Mark Hanna for a number of years. In 1997 ‘965 was sold to the Real Aeroplane Company and moved up to Breighton in Yorkshire. It was during this time that PL965 was painted in an all over pink scheme, representing a temporary change in tact from the traditional PR Blue.
In 2004 it was time for the aircraft to change hands one more time, this time moving back down south, to Peter Teichman’s Hangar 11 Collection at North Weald. Since moving to North Weald the Spitfire has been repainted into its original service colours and, more impressively been paired with its original wartime engine!
This concludes the second part of the overview of the UK Spitfire population. With the examples covered we have now looked at all the UK examples Powered by Rolls Royce Merlins, the final part will look at those powered by Packard Merlins and Rolls Royce Griffons.