Battle of Briatin Film

 
         
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The survivors

Spitfire Mk.LFXVIe SL574

Squadrons: no crest.

Type: VS361

Engine: Packard Merlin 266

Serial/Reg. SL574

Sqdn - code: EAAS – FG-GU (Empire Air Armament School), CGS – FJW-W (Central Gunnery School), 102FRS (Fighter Refresher School), No.3 CAACU – C (Civilian Anti Aircraft Cooperation Unit), No.11 Gp CF – 41(Communications Flight), 133 – MD-T

Role in film: Static, Currently: display

History

Built at Castle Bromwich, SL574 was delivered to No.6 MU Brize Norton on 14th August 1945, and placed in store for the next two years, emerging to be issued to the Empire Air Armament School at Manby on 30th September 1947. Here it flew, with the code “FG-GU” until 28th October 1948, when a Cat.B flying accident occurred which necessitated the attentions of a party from No.34 MU Montford Bridge, between 3rd and 9th December. Restored to full health SL574 rejoined the EAAS on 10th December, remaining on charge until 19th July 1949, when it was transferred to the Central Gunnery School and assumed the code “FJW-W”, later replaced with “FJT-W”. Its stint with the CGS was relatively short and on 22nd November SL574 was transferred to No.29 MU High Ercall for storage.

16th April 1951 saw the aircraft placed on charge with NO.102 Fighter Refresher School, where it remained until 12th October, when it moved to No.33 MU at Lyneham for another spell of storage. Removed from store after two years SL574 was allocated to No.3 CAACU at Exeter on 15th October 1953 and coded “C”; this posting lasted for almost three years until 25th June 1956, when it was returned to No.5 MU and re-classified as non-effective stock on 16th August. Its spell at Exeter had been interrupted during August 1955 for an appearance as “RV214/QV-R” in the film Reach for the sky.

Transferred to No.32 MU at St Athan on 16th March 1957, the aircraft was prepared for use in the 1957 Royal Tournament and Bath Tattoo. It was classified as Cat.5 (ground instruction) on 20th February 1958, and issued to Biggin Hill for instructional purposes, but was, surprisingly, restored to flying condition and allotted to the station Flights of both Biggin Hill and North Weald on 4th March! Within a few months, on 16th May 1958 SL574 was on charge with the Communications Flight of No.11 Group and based at Martlesham Heath and was coded “41”. A wheels up landing was suffered at Martlesham on 28th May 1959, and SL574 was repaired by a party from No.71 MU Bicester, the initial Cat.5 damage having been reclassified as Cat.3R on 30th June. The Spitfire was back on charge on 31st July, but on 20th September AVM H J Maguire was flying it over South London and suffered an engine failure. A forced landing had to be made on a cricket pitch at Bromley, Kent and 574 was relegated to exhibition status following a further attempt by No.71 MU to repair the damage. The cricket stumps damaged in the forced landing were mounted in a glass case and are held by the Air Historical branch of the MoD. This incident is interesting as it precipitated the decision to ban the Spitfire and Hurricane from the then annual Battle of Britain Day London flypast.

With SL574 grounded it was repaired and issued to HQ No.11 Group (Fighter Command) at Bentley Priory on 30th November 1961. It joined the cast of the Battle of Britain in 1967 and returned to Bentley Priory on 2nd September 1969. Between 3rd March and 14th May 1970, 574 underwent refurbishing at nearby Stanmore Park and on 12th October 1972, it left for a major refurbish by No.5 MU at Kemble, returning home on 23rd May 1973, and remaining on display there until the spring of 1986, when it was taken to Halton, Bucks., for refurbishing to airworthy condition by the RAF Halton Aircraft Renovation Society in preparation for presentation to the American Eagle Squadron of the USA. On arrival at Halton it was noted to be coded “YT-A” with “AZ-B” in pale blue under the paint work. The squadron obtained a P-51 Mustang which was donated to the RAF Museum at Hendon. SL574 went to the San Diego Air and Space Museum where it remains to this day.

Current location – American Eagle squadron, San Diego air and space museum, California – display.

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