Battle of Briatin Film

 
         
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The survivors

Spitfire Mk.HFIXc MH434

Squadrons:

Type: VS361

Engine: Merlin 76

Serial No. /Reg.MH434 (G-ASJV)

Sqdn - code: 222-ZD-B, 350-MN-, 349-GE-, 322RNAF

Other codes carried: 316 – SZ-G

Role in film: Flew, Currently: Airworthy

History

This aircraft was part of a batch of no fewer than 2,190 assorted Mk.V and Mk.IX aircraft built at Vickers-Armstrongs’ Castle Bromwich works under an amendment to Contract No. 981687/39, being manufactured in August 1943 and test flown by Alex Henshaw. By 19th August, MH434 was in service with No222 (Natal) squadron Hornchurch, where it was flown by Flt Lt H P Lardner-Burke, FDC, WHO WAS South African. It was while it was engaged in “Ramrod” daylight escort duties, escorting B-17’s, on 27th August that 434 was credited with an FW190, shot down in the Mardyck area, another fw190 was damaged during the same sortie and a third fell to its guns on 5th September near Nieuwpoort. Just three days later a part share in a Bf109F was credited to Burke and 434.

Early the following year the aircraft was transferred to No.350 squadron, still at Hornchurch, but returned to No.222 in March before being allocated to No.84 Group Support Unit, possibly for repairs, later in the month, seeing subsequent service with 349 squadron. Twelve months later 434 was put into store at No.9 MU Cosford, and transferred to No.76 MU Wroughton in 1946 for disposal.

On 19th February 1947 the aircraft was sold to the Royal Netherlands Air Force and was delivered, crated, to Tilbury docks on 19th May for shipment on the SS Rotti alongside 25 other Spitfires. The ship left Tilbury on 13th June 1947 and delivered six aircraft direct to Holland, where they were stored at Leeuwarden. The remaining 20 aircraft were transported to Batavia, arriving on 22nd July. The aircraft were then transported overland to Kali Djati air base, some 10 miles inland and there assembled and test flown by crews from No.322 squadron LSK. MH434 was the first to be completed and was test flown by Sgt “Tub” Bruggink on 10th October 1947. In Dutch service it became H-105 (changed to H-68 in July 1948) of No.322 squadron, and was used against the Nationalists forces from Kali Bentang airbase, near Semarang, Indonesia, the first six Spitfires being pronounced operational on 22nd December 1947 under the command of Captain Thijsen.

It is believed that MH434 flew some 165 sorties, completing an estimated 192 hours, during which the aircraft dropped fifty 250lb bombs, plus food and medical containers for the troops and was engaged in strafing operations. A belly landing on 7th May 1949 put paid to her operational career, pilot Gerard Nijwening bringing her in at Kali Bentang Air Base with hydraulic failure, and she was shipped to Andir air base for storage.

With the Dutch withdrawal from Indonesia, H-68 as returned to Holland, overhauled by Fokker with job number B-13 and test flown on 10th March 1953 before delivery to the Belgian Air Force as SM-41 on 9th October that year. Following service with the Ecole Pilotage Avance, SM-41 passed to No.13 Wing at Brustem in May 1954.

It was sold to the COGEA organisations and placed on the Belgian Civil Register as OO-ARA on 26th March of that year. It remained as such, based at Ostend for contract target towing use, until 1963, when it was bought by the then 24 year old Tim Davies, arriving at Stanstead on 29th June 1963. It was subsequently flown to Elstree, where it was overhauled to emerge as G-ASJV; IFR radio and a transponder were fitted to permit airways flying, camera guns were installed and No.222 squadrons Black Horse motif was added on either side of the windscreen. Although originally flown with its original clipped wings, Elstree’s short runway necessitated the refitting of elliptical wingtips, which lower the stalling speed by five knots.

Davies relinquished ownership of ‘SJV’ in November 1967 and it joined the growing fleet for the Battle of Britain. Following film use it was acquired by Adrian Swire, in whose ownership it was well known as “AC-S”. There were several film and television appearances during this period, including “A Bridge Too Far”, but in April 1983 it was auctioned at Christies Duxford sale for a staggering £260,000 and acquired by Nalfire Aviation Ltd a consortium led by Ray Hanna.

It is now operated by Hanna's Old Flying Machine Company (OFMC) based at Duxford. It underwent a rebuild in 1994-95. MH434 has become a regular movie co-star and airshow performer and when not in make up for a role is flown in the authentic 222 Sqn. Codes ZD-B.

Current location – Old Flying Machine Company, Duxford, Cambs - airworthy.

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