Battle of Briatin Film

 
         
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The survivors

Spitfire Mk.FIIa P7350

Squadrons:

Type: VS329

Engine: Merlin XII/Merlin 35

Serial No. /Reg. P7350 (G-AWIJ)

Sqdn - code: 266 - UO-T, 603 - XT-D, 616 – QJ-, 64 – SH-D

BBMF – ZH-T, SH-D, EB-Z, RN-S, XT-D

Role in film: - Flew, Currently: - Airworthy

History

Ordered against Contract No. 981687/39 of 12th April 1938, this Spitfire carries Fuselage number CBAF14, which indicates that it was the fourteenth of the 11,939 Spitfires which were eventually built at the Castle Bromwich “Shadow Factory”. Test flown in August 1940 it was taken on charge on 13th August and delivered to No.6 MU Brize Norton four days later against Allotment Number 11190.

The aircraft was delivered to No.266 (Rhodesia) squadron at Wittering on 6th September and allocated the unit code letters ‘UO-T’. The squadron moved to Hornchurch, but on 17th October P7350 was transferred to No.603 (City of Edinburgh) squadron of the AAF and the codes were changed to ‘XT-D’. On 25th October the aircraft was damaged during combat with Bf109’s whilst over Hastings and forced landed.  A Cat.B flying accident the aircraft was despatched to No.1 Civilian Repair Unit, Cowley, for repairs, which were complete by 15th November when it was transferred to No.37 MU at Burtonwood, Lancs. for storage. (bullet hole repairs are still visible in the port wing today)

Its next operational unit was No.616 (County of South Yorkshire) squadron, to which it was issued on 18th March 1941, but on 10th April it was transferred to No.64 squadron (it is claimed that during this period P7350 shot down three enemy aircraft). On 5th August the aircraft was with Scottish Aviation Ltd at Prestwick for overhaul and repair, being delivered to No.37 MU once again on 29th January 1942.

27th April 1942 saw P7350 issued to the Central Gunnery School at Sutton Bridge near Kings Lynn and here it spent the next ten months before suffering another Cat. B accident, on 4th February 1943, and being transferred to Air Service Training Ltd at Hamble for repairs. These were completed by 20th March and three days later the aircraft was delivered to No.6 MU Brize Norton, being issued to No.57 OTU on 31st March. The next twelve months were uneventful, but a flying accident on 22nd April 1944 caused Cat.B damage again and Air Service Training Ltd collected it for repairs on 30th April. These were completed and the aircraft was awaiting collection on 13th July, being transferred to No.39 MU Colerne 11 days later and placed in store.

P7350 was still at Colerne on 21st March 1946 according to the Air Ministry’s Home Aircraft Census and the following year it was declared non-effective stock prior to sale to Messrs. John Dale & Sons Ltd. On delivery of the log books the company realised the historical importance of this venerable aircraft and presented it to RAF Colerne as a museum piece, and it remained there until 1967 as part of what became an excellent museum.

The year 1967 saw P7350’s emergence from over 20 years of dormancy with the making of the film ‘The Battle of Britain’. Following a survey by John Simpson of Simpson Aeroservices Ltd, P7350 was delivered by road to RAF Henlow, an overhaul to flying condition commenced in April 1968 and on 20th Mat it was flown to Duxford by Sqdn Ldr M.A.Vickers. Bearing the civil registration G-AWIJ and issued with a restricted category C of A, P7350 was flown at a number of venues during the making of the film and on 11th August took off on a trip to the South of France due to poor weather conditions at home. On 24th September the Merlin XII N0. 12313, which had been fitted since at least 1944, was found to have metal in the oil filters and was replaced with a Merlin 35. P7350 was then flown to Bovingdon for final filming.

In October 1968 P7350 was allocated to the BBMF and flown from Bovingdon to Coltishall by Sqdn Ldr Mills. On 28th April 1969 it was despatched to No.5 MU Kemble for overhaul and respray and returned to Coltishall sporting No.266 squadrons codes of ‘ZH-T’ on 12th June. Since that time P7350 has flown in a number of squadrons markings in keeping with the Flight’s policy of changing schemes at each major overhaul; during 1984 season it flew with codes ‘SH-D’, which were replaced for 1985-86 by the markings of a presentation aircraft, “Observer Corps”, coded ‘EB-Z’ of No.41 squadron. P7350 took part in the 50th anniversary celebrations at Eastleigh on 5th March 1986.

Current location BBMF, Coningsby, Lincs– airworthy.

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