Battle of Briatin Film

 
         
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The survivors

Spitfire Mk.FRXIVc NH904

Squadrons:

Type: VS379

Engine: Griffon 65

Serial No. /Reg.NH904, (G-FIRE), (N114BP)

Sqdn - code:  414-WZ-P, 610-DW, 600BAF

Role in film: Spares, Currently: Airworthy

History

Built at Aldermaston against Contract No. 1877/C23 and carries c/n 6S/648206. Delivered to No.6 MU Brize Norton on 24th March 1945 and issued to No 414 Sqdn shortly afterwards, its only recorded operational sortie was made on 13th April, when, in the hands of Flt Lt L. Woloshuk, it made contact with enemy mechanized transport in the Cloppenburg area. Two days later F/O W.L.C.Bishop returned to base at Rheine (B108) and found that the throttle would not close. As a result a wheels up landing was made and NH904’s war was over. Taken by road to Air Service Training Ltd. In December 1945 it was repaired and ready for collection by 25th May 1946, returning to No.6 MU Brize Norton. From here it was issued tonNo.610 (RAuxAF) Sqdn at Hooton Park and served with them until May 1949, suffering a minor accident on 21st May 1948. On 1st August 1950 it was declared non-effective stock and on 14th November sold via Vickers-Armstrong to the Belgian Air Force following overhaul by the parent company.

Although Belgian records indicate that NH904 became SG128, Which was written off in a fatal accident, detailed examination of the airframe indicates that NH904 actually became SG108, taken on charge on 9th April 1951 and which served with Flight 600 Esc. De Remorqurge as ‘B2-K’ and the Ecole de Chasse (Fighter School) at Coxyde as ‘IQ-V’ before being sold to scrap dealer Oscar Dewachter, who parked it on the roof of his premises near Ostend c. 1957.

Here it remained, outer wings axed off, until 1966, when a car dealer, Bunny Brooks, bought it for £250 and had it shipped to Hoylake, Cheshire. Brooks acquired a second Mk.XIV, RM694, which had previously been gate guardian at Hornchurch, and fitted its wings to the Belgian Fuselage, displaying the hybrid on his garage forecourt for a short time. Although a rebuild to flying condition was started by Flt Lt Barry Stott at RAF Valley, this was soon brought to an end and NH904 was sold to Hamish Mahaddie for possible use in the film ‘The Battle of Britain’. Moved to Henlow it was assembled but not used and was noted in a glossy “Nimrod Blue” colour scheme in 1969, when it was said to be the property of J.R.”Jeff” Hawke.

NH904 remained at Henlow until sold to Sir William Roberts in August 1971, moving first to his farm at Flimwell, Sussex, and in January 1977 to Strathallan. Here it remained stored until sold to Spencer Flack in January 1979 and moved to his Hertfordshire home, where restoration to flying condition was commenced in the capable hands of Nigel Huxtable and Les Choles. The Griffon 65 was despatched to Dave Zeuschel’s Zeuschel Racing Engines of Sylmar, California, for a complete overhaul /rebuild, although several parts had to be obtained from some ex-Firefly Griffons at Unimetals Failsworth scrap yard near Manchester. The radiators went to Delaney Gallay for overhaul and the Rotol propeller to Roder Precision at Egelstrach, near Frankfurt, Germany. Two years later, following a great amount of reskinning and a total system rebuild, the aircraft, now registered G-FIRE was assembled at Elstree and on 14th March 1981 it flew once again in the hands of Ray Hanna.

Current location - Eden Prairie, Minnesota, USA.

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