The Making of the film:
Spitfire Mk.LFVc AR501
Engine: Merlin 45M
Serial No. /Reg. AR501(G-AWII)
Sqdn - code: 310-NN-D, 504-TM-, 312-DU-, 442-Y2-
Role in film: Flew, Currently: - Airworthy
This aircraft was built by Westland Aircraft under Contract No. 124305/40. Fuselage No. WASP/20/223. Delivered to No.8 MU Little Rissington on June 22nd 1942 before moving to No.6 MU at Brize Norton on 7th July. Its first operational squadron was on July 19th when it went to 310 (Czech) Sqn at Exeter. Its first operation was a 1hr 25min patrol over an Allied convoy off Start Point in the English Channel, piloted by Sgt Skach on 3rd August. Then it was assigned to Sqdn Ldr F.Dolezal, DFC in whose markings it is shown above. On September 18th while he was leading the squadron in formation practice, he was ordered to intercept bandits over Teignmouth. Dolezal dived through cloud and spotted two FW190’s ahead, flying south at 300ft. Although he “gated” the throttle on the Merlin 45, the FW190’s easily pulled away from the Spitfires. After landing Dolezal sent a signal to his superiors, complaining about the Spitfire Mk.V’s lack of speed.
Cat.B damage was inflicted when it was hit by Mosquito NFII DD634 at Exeter, (probably of 264 squadron), the Mosquito leaving the runway during an overshoot and AR501 was dispatched to No.67 MU for repairs on 22nd July, being passed to Westlands the following day. It was ready for collection on 3rd July 1943 and was delivered to No.33 MU at Lyneham on 17th July being issued to No.3501 Support Unit at Cranfield on 16th August, followed two days later by a transfer to No.504 squadron at Church Stanton (Culmhead), Somerset. It remained with this unit for a mere two days before being transferred to the station flight with which it served until 10th October, when it was assigned to No.312 (Czech) squadron, which transferred to Ibsley that December. Its first mission from Tangmere being to escort B-26’s attacking Everex. Over the following months AR501 escorted Bostons, Mitchells, Marauders and B-17’s, at least once escorting what was to become one of the most famous of all B-17’s, Memphis Belle. On November 10th Fg Off Smolik flew AR501 as escort to four Whirlwinds attacking shilling off Guernsey, during which he raked a 250-ton German flak ship from a range of 500yds down to 100yds. The last mission for AR501 was on 29th January 1944, on fighter escort for 36 Marauders attacking Noball sites south-east of Dieppe. Its next unit was No.442 (Canadian) squadron, formed at RAF Digby, to which it was delivered on 27th February 1944 while the squadron was waiting for Mk.IX’s, followed by No.58 OTU at Grangemouth on 30th March, No1 Tactical Exercise Unit at Tealing on 26th April and No.61 OTU at Rednall on 4th July 1944.
Its run of good luck came to an end on 9th September, when Cat.B damage was inflicted again. This time Air Service Training Ltd were assigned to repair it and it was with them from 22nd September to 23rd November, being converted to an LFVc with Merlin 45M and clipped wings, together with a variety of other mods and then delivered to No.33 MU on 2nd December. Here it remained in storage until issued to the Central Gunnery School at Catfoss, Yorkshire on 24th April 1945, but its operational life was soon to end and it was delivered to No.29 MU High Ercall for storage on 22nd August 1945.
It was from here that the aircraft was acquired by Loughborough College and delivered to them by air on 21st March 1946 for use as an instructional airframe; total airframe hours recorded as 511:35. It served in this capacity for the next 15 years, but by 1961 a Spitfire was not particularly suited for training a new generation of engineers and it was transferred to the Shuttleworth Collection in exchange for a Jet Provost prototype, G-AOBU. It remained dismantled until 1967, when it was surveyed for use in the film “The Battle of Britain” and rapidly restored to airworthiness at Henlow by Simpsons Aeroservices as G-AWII. The film over, AR501 was flown to the RAE airfield at Thurleigh by “Dickie” Millward and placed in storage until dismantled and flown to Germany by a Canadian Armed Forces C-130 for use in a colour presentation ceremony. This duty completed the CAF delivered her to Duxford on 7th May 1973 where the Spitfire was stripped for a two-year rebuild from which it emerged in full flying trim for the first air test in the hands of the late Neil Williams on 27th June 1975.
The aircraft has been flying from Old Warden ever since. Temporarily in new paint scheme in 2000 for Pearl Harbour film with markings AR474 (RF-Y).
Current location – Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, Beds - airworthy