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The survivors - other airworthy examples

Seafire Mk.FR47 VP441

Squadron:

Type: VS388

Engine: Griffon 61

Serial/Reg. VP441/N47SF

Sqdn-code: 804 - 139/O

History

Built at South Marston as part of an order for 64 Seafire FR 47 under contract No. Air/5794/CB.5(b) dated 8th April 1946. Serial allocations of VP427 - 465 and VP471 - 495. All were built between November 1947 and 1948. The first aircraft to be delivered was VP428 on the 11th November and the last was VP495 on 17th November 1948 all at a fixed price of 8900 each.

The aircraft was delivered to the Royal Navy at South Marston and brought on charge on 29th November 1947. It was test flown by Sqn Ldr W J G Morgan on 30th November 1947, its first flight. The aircraft was flown to No1 Aircraft Receipt and Despatch Unit (ARDU),  RNAS Anthorn (HMS Nuthatch) near Carlisle in Cumbria 15th December 1947. Subsequently delivered to RNAS Lee-on-the-Solent (HMS Daedalus) in January 1948. The aircraft was delivered to 804 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Ford (HMS Peregrine) during February 1948 and coded 139. The squadron moved to RNAS Eglinton, Northern Ireland on 25th May 1948 for a work up. The aircraft embarked on HMS Ocean as part of the 14th Carrier Air Group (CAG) on 24th August 1948 and recoded 139/O. *1

The aircraft was transferred to RNAS Hal Far (HMS Falcon), Malta in November 1948 probably for the repair of damage caused in an accident on board HMS Ocean when the propeller struck the deck on landing. Although repaired it was held in store, then transferred to the strength of Rear Admiral Reserve Aircraft and transported back to the UK and appeared at the Aircraft Holding Unit (AHU), RNAS Ford on 11th March 1949 where it was held in store.

VP441 Just prior to recovery by MARTSU

Arrived at the Royal Naval Aircraft Repair Yard (RNARY) Fleetlands, Gosport, Hampshire on 6th May 1949. Subsequently transferred to the AHU at RNAS Abbotsinch (HMS Sanderling), Renfrewshire (now Glasgow Airport) on 16th May 1949 then moved back to Fleetlands on 1st July 1949 and stored. It was sent to Vickers-Armstrong for upgrading in January 1951. On completion of this upgrade it was stored at the AHU, RNAS Stretton (HMS Blackcap) south of Warrington in Cheshire from July 1951 until at least January 1952. Another move this time to RNAS St Merryn, HMS Vulture, Cornwall, maybe as a Ground Instructional airframe in July 1953.

Moved to the Royal Navy Engineering College RNEC, Manadon (HMS Thunderer ), Plymouth, for ground instructional use on 20th January 1954, where it was struck off charge and given an instructional airframe number in the 2300 series and prefixed A but this was never carried by the aircraft.

Around mid-1958, the RN were looking to dispose of the aircraft and, rather than scrap it, it was offered to 335 (2nd Plymouth) Sqn of the ATC. The aircraft fitted in nicely between two of the Sqn's wooden training huts. Unfortunately, during mid-1963, access to the aircraft was gained by some of the more mindless local youths who set about trying to inflict as much damage to it as possible. Happily, the Historic Aircraft Preservation Society, one of the earliest such groups in the UK, had taken an interest in it and arranged for it to be recovered by Bill Fisher and an RN team (MARTSU) and taken to RNAS Culdrose for restoration to static condition in January, 1964.
 

Displayed at RNAS Culdrose.On 20 July, 1969, the aircraft was taken from Culdrose and moved to its new home with the Reflectaire Museum at Lavenham, Suffolk. It stayed at this location until the Museum was forced to move in January, 1970. A temporary home was found for the collection at RAF Hullavington. Because access to the site was limited, this was not an ideal solution. on 25 June, 1970, the collection moved again to what was hoped would be a more permanent home at Squires Gate Airport, Blackpool. Where it was restored to static display condition.
It remained at Squires Gate Airport, Blackpool as part of the Reflectaire Museum collection until 1972. Due to the short sightedness of Blackpool council the collection was auctioned off.

The aircraft was reported as sold by Bernard Phillips Ltd. to Mr T O'Farrell on 22nd March 1972. It spent a short time with Doug Bianci at Personal Plane Services (PPS), Booker on 6th November 1972. From here it left the UK for the final time spending time with John J. Stokes, Rebel Aviation, San Antonio, Texas between 1975-1977. Where it was registered as N47SF. It was acquired by the Confederate Air Force, Harlingen, Texas for 8400 arriving on 4th December 1980 here it remained until 1992 having been restored by John Stokes at San Marcos Texas 1986, it was subsequently stored dismantled.

                                                                                                                                                                             How far does a Seafire travel?

Moved to Ezell Aviation, Breckenridge, Texas on 14th September 1995, remaining there until 1997 where its restoration to flying condition commenced. It is still owned by James E. Smith of Kalispell, Montana after making its first flight on 14th April 2004.

*1 The 14th Carrier Air Group (CAG) was formed on 30th June 1945 for HMS Colossus with 827 Barracudas and 1846 Corsairs, disbanding when the ship arrived home from Ceylon 23rd July 1946.

It reformed at Eglinton 1st Oct 1946 with 804NAS (Seafire) and 812NAS (Firefly) squadrons for HMS Theseus for service in the Far East, disbanding on return home on 21st December 1947.

Reformed at RNAS Ford on 15th January 1948 with the same squadrons, but having later marks of the two aircraft types. The CAG moved around RNAS Donibristle, Ford, and Eglinton before embarking in HMS Ocean on 24th August 1948. Sailing for Malta, it arrived at RNAS Hal-Far 1st September, and alternated with Ocean for various cruises in the Mediterranean. In July 1949 804NAS changed its Seafires for Sea Furies, and 812NAS for Firefly FR5's, in addition to which were added 4 NF 1s forming Black Flight which became known as the 14th CAG Night Fighter unit. In November 1949 Ocean was relieved by HMS Glory thus becoming the CAG's new home.

Current location USA airworthy.

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