The Making of the film:
Spitfire Mk.LFIXe MK356
Engine: Merlin 66
Serial No. /Reg. MK356
Sqdn - code: 443-21-V, BBMF-21-V
Role in film: Static, Currently: Airworthy
MK356 was built at Castle Bromwich in early 1944 against Contract No. B981687/39 and was delivered to No.9 MU at Cosford on 4th February. At that time it was fitted with a Merlin 66 engine and type C armament. Just over one month later, on 11th March, it was allocated to No.443 squadron RCAF of No.144 Canadian Wing at RAF Digby and issued to B Flight with the code “21-V”. One week later the squadron moved to Holmsey South, followed by Hutton Cranswick on 27th March and Westhampnett on 9th April, its first operational sortie being on 14th April when it flew a low level patrol over the Paris area. 23rd April saw yet another move – possibly to Funtingdon – and on 14th May the squadron was to be found at Ford on the Sussex coast. A few days after D-Day. On 13th June 1944, a wheel fell off as MK356 was taking off for a sortie over the Normandy beaches with Flg. Off. Gordon Monroe at the controls; he completed the patrol and returned safely to Ford, where a wheels up landing was performed. The aircraft was allotted to No.84 Group Support Unit at Bognor for repairs in August 1944 and no further details of its life are known until it was allocated as an instructional airframe, 5690M, to No.1 S of TT at Halton on 2nd October 1945. What is known is that MK356 carried out some 60 sorties over enemy territory and was shot up three times during its operational career.
1953 saw the aircraft transferred the famous Battle of Britain fighter base at Hawkinge, where it was displayed in post war silver colours as M5690 until 1958, when it was recamouflaged with the serial M5690, later changed to “MK365”. On the closure of Hawkinge on 8th December 1961 the Spitfire was transferred to No.71 MU at Bicester, arriving early the following year, and here it was overhauled and repainted as “2J-“with no individual code letter. Following this restoration MK356 was dispatched to RAF Locking and displayed “up the pole” at the gate until 1967, when it was loaned for use in The Battle of Britain and transported to Henlow, North Weald and Duxford for the duration of the film. Carrying the spurious serials and codes N3328/AI-R & N3317/BO.
By August 1968 MK356 had been returned to Henlow, where it was restored to Mk.IX status and placed in storage until 18th August 1969, when it joined the RAF Museum’s Reserve Collection at St Athan, South Wales where it was restored in its correct colours and codes of No.443 squadron as “21-V”.
Over an 8 year period it was restored to flight on November 7th 1997. Joined the BBMF on November 14th 1997. Since 2008 the aircraft has been presented as UF-Q, MJ250 of No 601 (County of London) Squadron the aircraft of Flt Lt Desmond Ibbotson DFC.
Current location – BBMF, Coningsby, Lincs – airworthy.