Battle of Briatin Film

 
         
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Spitfire Mk.HFIXb MH415

Squadrons:

Type: VS361

Engine: Merlin 66

Serial No. /Reg.MH415 (G-AVDJ) (OO-ARD) (N415MH)

Sqdn - code: 129-DV-, 222-ZD-E, 126-MK-, 322RNAF

Role in film: Flew, Currently: Storage

History

MH415 was ordered from Vickers Armstrongs Ltd on 28th May 1942, as a Mk.V against contract No. B981687/39 Fuselage No. CBAF1061. It was built in the summer of 1943 at the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory as an LFIXb with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 as part of batch MH413-456.

The aircraft was delivered to No.129 (Mysore) squadron at Hornchurch in August 1943, transferring to No.222 (Natal) squadron in October 1943.

Transfer to the Air Fighting Development Unit at RAF Wittering followed on 2nd January 1944, where the aircraft stayed until late September when it was transferred to No.126 squadron at Bradwell Bay, Essex. The aircraft must have suffered some damage that is not recorded in its records, for in early January 1945 it was transferred to Vickers Armstrongs at Oxford for repairs and modifications. These were soon completed and MH415 was on its way to No.6 MU Brize Norton for storage. On 6th February it was on the move again, this time to De Havillands at Whitney in Oxfordshire for an overhaul. This was completed by late May and a move to No.9 MU Cosford was made for further storage.

In August 1946 MH415, along with other Spitfires, were sold to the Dutch Government and it was soon on its way to No.76 MU Wroughton, to be followed by a move to No.47 MU Sealand, Cheshire, for packing. Early in May 1947 it was shipped from Tilbury Docks on the SS Rotti bound for the Dutch East Indies, where it was given the Dutch serial H-108, later to be changed to H-65. The aircraft served with No.322 squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force in Java, and was later shipped back to Holland. It was stored at Rotterdam Docks for some time before being sold to the Belgian Air Force, who required additional Spitfires to make up accident losses. MH415 was overhauled by Fokker NV at Schiphol Airport and test flown with serial B-12. Delivery to the Belgian Air Force followed in April 1953 and the aircraft served with serial SM-40 with the L’Ecole de Chasse at Koksijde before being retired in 1956.

MH415 was sold in June 1956 to a Belgian company COGEA, which had a target-towing contract with the Belgian and NATO forces.

It was delivered to the COGEA base at Middlekerke, Ostend, where it was registered OO-ARD, and soon entered service. In 1961 it was leased for film use in The Longest Day, which was filmed on location in France. The aircraft was painted in camouflage and flown with 340(Ile de France) squadron codes GW-B. In September 1961 the aircraft caused a stir by appearing at the RAF Battle of Britain air display at Biggin Hill, flown by Pierre Laureys, a French World War II Spitfire pilot.

MH415 had by this time been purchased from COGEA by Rousseau Aviation of Dinhard in France, where the aircraft was in open storage for some years.

In 1966 Hamish Mahaddie was collecting aircraft together for the forthcoming film The Battle of Britain, and after survey by John Simpson, MH415 was bought for an undisclosed sum. The aircraft was dismantled and shipped by Simpsons Aeroservices Ltd at Elstree for an overhaul, registered G-AVDJ to Mahaddie on 29th December 1966, and it was test flown and delivered to the film unit at RAF Henlow in early 1967 by T.A.Davies.

The aircraft was stored, its Merlin 66 engine inhibited, during most of 1967, and it was not flown again until November, when it was given a new C of A, being test flown on the 29yh of that month by T.A.Davies at Henlow.

In early 1968 filming had started in Spain, and as a Spitfire was required for location work, MH415 was chosen and prepared at Henlow and Luton. A 90-gallon drop-tank was fitted and various test flights carried out at Henlow, Luton and Farnborough by Lt Cdr M.T.Hynett during February. In late March MH415 left the UK, flying via France to Tablada Air Base in Spain. For this long flight it was flown by V.H.Bellamy.

Film location work as N3312/AI-C followed in Spain, flown in the main by Lt Cdr Hynett, the aircraft arriving back in England at Manston on 11th May 1968, in company with a gaggle of Messerschmitts, two Heinkels and Jeff Hawke in a B-25 camera-ship.

On 14th May MH415 arrived with the film unit at RAF North Weald in Essex, and was later based at Debden, Duxford and Hawkinge. The weather in 1968 was typically British and the film company were running out of time. Finance was also causing problems, so it was decided to move the aerial unit to the good weather of the South of France. MH415 and a number of other Spitfires and some Messerschmitts were flown out to Montpelier in August for three weeks, and the necessary footage was obtained in the sunshine.

MH415 wore many markings during filming, including N3312/AI-C, N3311/CD-B, N3321/AI-M, N2210/CD-A, N3310/AI-A, N3322/AI/N, N3319/DO-K and N3314/AI-E. This Spitfire was fitted with strobe lights in the machine gun ports and was flown for a total of 125 hours during filming. In October 1968 it was based at Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, and later that month was used in filming bale-out shots at Netheravon Wiltshire. One of the film unit pilots, Texan Wilson “Connie” Edwards, bought MH415 on completion of its film duties and it was dismantled at Bovingdon by Simpsons Aeroservices for shipment to Houston, Texas, where it arrived in January 1969.

MH415 was soon delivered to the Edwards ranch at Big Spring and was registered N415MH. It was repainted and 222 squadron codes ZD-E were applied. The aircraft has flown little since its arrival in the USA.

Current location – still believed to be in Texas in storage.

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