UK Spitfires Part 3: The Teens…

Concluding the look at UK based Spitfires, it is now time to look at the Spitfire’s Teenage years, with the Mk XIV, XVI, XVIII and XIX.

Mark XIV:

The Mark XIV was an important development in the grand scheme of the Spitfire. The Rolls Royce Griffon engine had been introduced to the Spitfire in 1941, in the shape of the MK XII/IV. However only 100 of these interim designs were ever built and mass production never got going.

This left the Mark XIV to become the first mass produced Spitfire to be powered by the new Rolls Royce Griffon. With the new 2000hp+ engine the performance increase from that of the mark IX’s in speed and climbing performance, though manoeuvrability was much the same.

The XIV was also the only Griffon engine Spitfire to see significant wartime service, playing a particularly crucial role in fighting the V1 doodlebugs during 1944.

MV293 / G-SPIT:- 

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G-SPIT at Goodwood in 2011.

Currently the only example of the mark XIV in Europe, the Fighter Collection’s Duxford based example was built late on in 1944. Placed into storage until the beginning of 1945, ‘293 then moved on to 33 Maintence Unit at Lyneham, before ultimatley being shipped out to India.

Mk XIV MV298 at Biggin Hill in 2015.

Mk XIV MV293 at Biggin Hill in 2015.

Eventually the Spitfire found its way back to England and to Blackbushe, where restoration work started in 1979. After many years the aircraft was bought by the Fighter Collection who finally returned the aircraft to flight in 1992. This mark XIV has the distictive bubble canopy as well as clipped wings. When combined with the long bulged nose of the Griffon engine, five bladed propellor and large chord rudder you get an aircraft that looks extremely removed from those early Mk I’s looked at in Part 1.

Mark XVI: 

It is at this point where the Spitfire development timeline becomes a little off balanced, logic would have dictated that the XVI would be a clear development on from the Griffon engined XIV. This was not the case however, the Mark XVI was, more of less a mark IX airframe powered by the American built Packard Merlin.

While powerplant provided the main differnce there were versions of the mark XVI which featured later spitfire design features such as the bubble canopy configuration.

TD248 / G-OXVI:- 

One such Spitfire XVI that features a bubble canopy is TD248, built at Castle Bromwich and delivered to number 6 maintence unit in May 1945 before moving on to 695 squadron. The aircraft moved around the country being put on display at various bases before eventually ending up on a pole at RAF Sealand in 1967, where the aircraft remained untill 1988. Though ‘248 did get a brief reprise from these duties in 1968, when she was used in the Battle of Britain film.

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Leaving Sealand in 1988 the aircraft was sold to Historic Flying Ltd, with the rebuild to fly starting at Audley End. The aircraft flew again in November 1992. Since that first flight the aircraft has been a constant prescence on the European airshow scene, for many years wearing the disctintive post war silver and red scheme. Now returned to a more subdued camouflage the aircraft is based at Humberside airport, owned by Richard Lake.

TE184 / G-MXVI:- 

A close view of TE184 at Biggin Hill.

A close view of TE184 at Biggin Hill.

Built at Castle Browmwich, ‘184s first role was at number 9 maintenance unit, being delivered on the 30th May 1945. After passing through further Maintenence units the Spitfire ended up with 607 Squadron in February 1950. Shortly after this she was placed into storage, ultimatley ending up with 1855 Squadron ATC at Royton until 1967. After being used in the Battle Of Britain film a new home was found at Finningley to join a museum. After passing through Kemble and Aldergrove she was displayed outside at the Ulster Folk and Transport museum until 1977.

Then placed into storage ‘184 was eventually purchased by Richard Grace in 1986. Rebuild work began and the Spitfire flew again in November 1990. In 1995 she was sold to Alan de Cadenet and stored at RAF Halton. In 1996 she moved again, this time to Hawker Restorations, where she was repainted in Free French markings.

Mk XVI - TE184 taxiing at Biggin.

Mk XVI – TE184 taxiing at Biggin.

In 2004 she moved up to Duxford with the Old Flying Machine Company, but did not fly in this time. Following a move to Booker in 2006 she was restored once again to stock condition and was eventually sold to Stephen Stead, the current owner, the aircraft spends some time at Biggin Hill as well as staying in mainland Europe.

TE311:-

MK.XVI TE311 seen here under maintenance at RAF Coningsby.

MK.XVI TE311 seen here under maintenance at RAF Coningsby.

The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flights most recent addition is another “low back” Bubble canopy version of the XVI, as well as being clipped wing. First taken on by the government in June 1945 ‘311 was placed into storage. From October 1945 through to Feburary 1946 it was flown by the Empire Central Flying School at Hullavington.

Following another period in storage there was a breif time used as a ferry pilot training aircraft. In 1954 ‘311 was struck off charge, soon becoming the gate guardian at RAF Tangmere until 1966 when it then became a static at many airshows as part of the exhibition flight, a role it performed for over 30 years.

TE311 displaying at Bicester in June.

TE311 displaying at Bicester in June.

In 2001 restoration work was started by the BBMF team, with TE311 returning to the skies again in 2012. Since then she has been one of the most busy aircraft in the fleet being seen by thousands up and down the country.

RW382 / G-PBIX

Mk XVI RW382 at Biggin Hill.

Mk XVI RW382 at Biggin Hill.

Built in 1945 ‘382 was built as a low back XVI and issued to No.604 Royal Auxillary Air Force Squadron on the 1st April 1947 at North Weald. After three years service she was retired to No.33 MU at RAF Lyneham. ‘382’s service flying career was completed at Middle Wallop in July 1953, with the last flight taking place later that year. She was struck off charge on December 14th 1954.

After time in storage she was moved to Church Fenton in 1955, before later becoming a gate guardian at RAF Leconfield in 1957. Like many, ‘382 was breifly relieved from this duty in 1967 for a role in the Battle Of Britain film before being returned in 1969. Later in life she was moved to RAF Uxbridge where she would be gate guardian from 1973 to 1988.

After Uxbridge ‘382 ended up with Historic Flying Ltd and later aquired by David Tallichet. The Spitfire flew again in 1991 at Audley End. Though the owner was based on the other side of the Atlantic ‘382 remained based in the UK untill 1995, when she was finally shipped over having been sold to Thomas Jackson. Sadly in June 1998 the aircraft was involved in a fatal accident, killing Jackson.

In 2005 ‘382 was returned to the UK for restoration, with the initial work being carried out on the Isle of Wight. In 2010 she moved to Biggin Hill and made her post restoration flight in November 2013. Since then the aircraft has made a select number of appearances at airshows around Europe.

Mark XVIII

Broadly based on the later versions of the MK XIV, the XVIII featured the Bubble canopy design with two cannons in the wing. They were used post was as fighter recconasaince aircraft and were mostly used in the far east.

SM845 / G-BUOS

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Only one MK XVIII is kept in flying condition in Europe, currently based at Duxford. SM485 was built in 1945 and was shipped out to Karachi in Feburary 1946, being delivered to the Indian Air Force in 1947. Remaining in flying service until the late 50s it was later used as an airfield decoy in the 70s. Recovered in 1977 the airframe was returned to the UK, its stay was only breif however and was on its way to California in 1978. Restoration work began at Chino in the 1980s, ulitmatley being completed back in the UK, with a first flight in 2000.

Following years as a very regular UK airshow performer, she was sold to Biltema in Sweden in 2009. In August 2010 the aircraft was tragically involved in a fatal accident.

The Spitfire was soon aquired by Humberside based collector Richard Lake and restoration work was started, with SM845 flying again in December 2013 resplendent in a striking post war all over silver scheme with a bright red spinner. The combination of late Spitfire lines and a post war scheme really creates the illusion that this aircraft could in fact be a much later example.

Mark XIXs

The XIX was the last of the photo reconnaissance Spitfires, construced using the fuselage from a XIV and wings from a PRXI, this was the only PR Spitfire to be powered by the Griffon engine. The last operational RAF flight by a Spitfire was made in 1954 by a PRXIX.

PS853 / G-RRGN:- 

G-RRGN at Duxford in 2007.

G-RRGN at Duxford in 2007.

The only civilian operated Spitfire XIX is currently owned and operated by Rolls Royce and based at East Midlands airport. Initially delivered to the PR unit at Benson in January 1945. During 1945 she passed through 16 and 268 Squadrons, before returning to a reformed 16 Squadron at Celle in September.

Returning to the UK in March 1946 she moved to 29 MU. Following repairs after an accident in 1949, ‘853 ended up as part of the Met flight at Short Brothers where it stayed till retirement. Its final service flight was on the 9th June 1957, with a further flight on the 14th to Biggin Hill where she joined the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight. Before fully joining the flight she was assigned to Biggin Hill station flight, then North Wealds in 1958. in may 1958 ‘853 was struck off charge becoming a gate guardian at West Rayham until 1961. A few years at Binbrook followed when the aircraft was actively maintained throughout its time.

In April 1964 she finally joined the BBMF, flying in the Battle Of Britain film in 1968.The Spitfire was sold to Rolls Royce in 1996 and regularly performed around the country until 2010, when a major rebuild was started at Duxford. Shortly after the aircrafts return to flight it suffered damage on landing at East Midlands airport in January 2013, after some repair work the aircraft flew again in July 2013.

PM631:-

under maintenence at RAF Coningsby.

PM631 under maintenance at RAF Coningsby.

Built at Reading in late 1945 PM631 was delivered to 6 MU. Soon put in store until 1951, when she moved to the Met flight with Short Brothers in July. She was used for temperature and humidity flights until 1957. In July 1957 she joined the Historical Aircraft flight, now the BBMF. The aircraft has remained with the BBMF ever since.

One brief period the aircraft spent away from the flight was in 1964, when it was used at Binbrook in combat trials with English Electric Lightnings!

PM631 currently wears the colours of 541 PR Squadron, which would have flown missions over Europe from early 1944.

PS915:- 

PS915 taxiing at Duxford in 2007.

PS915 taxiing at Duxford in 2007.

Built in April 1945 ‘915 was sent to Benson on the 26th. She remained at Benson untill July 1948 when she joined 2 Squadron at Wunsdorf in Germany. After an accident ‘915 was repaired and joined the Met flight at Woodvale in June 1954 and stayed there until being retired to the BBMF on the 13th June 1957.

She was then grounded and served as gate guardian at both West Malling and Leuchars before performing a static role in the Battle of Britain film. After this it was a return to Gate Guardian duties, this time at RAF Brawdy. Restoration work was started at Warton, with a first flight in 1986. PS915 rejoined the BBMF in March 1987 and has been part of the flight ever since.

‘915 has most recently been wearing the colours of PS888 an 81 Squadron PRXIX which flew the final operational Spitfire flight on the 1st April 1954. The aircraft was moved to the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford in October 2014 for a major rebuild. It is likely the aircraft will return in a new paintscheme.

And Finally…

That concludes the look at the UK’s airworthy Spitfires, but there is one other aircraft that is very much deserving of a mention in this series, the Seafire.

Seafire XVII: SX366 / G-KASX:-

G-KASX at Old Warden in 2006.

G-KASX at Old Warden in 2006.

The carrier borne version of the Spitfire underwent just as much development as its landbased cousin, but only one of the family remains airworthy in the UK.

SX366 is a MK XVII example, featuring late Spitfire looks; a Bubble canopy and a Griffon engine.(though in this case a 4 bladed prop.) Other changes to the airframe are of course the arrestor hook and folding wings.

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The aircraft’s fuselage was recovered from a scrapyard in 1973 and passed through a number of owners before ending up with Tim Manna in 2001. At this stage a long term restoration was started, eventually being completed in 2006. The post restoration flight took place on the 3rd May, with the aircraft making its display debut at Old Warden later in the year. The unique sight of a Seafire on the circuit was very welcome and impressive and seeing such an early version of a Griffon powered Spitfire was great to see.

The Seafire making a return to display flying at Shuttleworth in July.

The Seafire making a return to display flying at Shuttleworth in July.

The aircraft suffered a wheels up landing in 2011 and flew again in 2014 following repairs. The aircraft made a few flights in July, one of which I was lucky enough to see at Duxford, but after that was not seen again this year. Hopefully the Seafire will be much more active in 2015.

80 Years On:

That concludes this extensive look at airworthy Spitfires in the UK, I believe the total amount came out at 27!! Perhaps with the next couple of years presenting big anniversaries both for the Battle Of Britain and the Spitfires first flight we may well get to see a good percentage of these aircraft together.

One final part of this Spitfire series will take a look at the anniversary of the types first flight, some of the more historic static examples around the world, and a profile of one of the most prolific Spitfire pilots, Alex Henshaw.

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