Battle of Briatin Film


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The survivors

Spitfire Mk.LFVb AB910


Type: VS349

Engine: Merlin 35

Serial No. /Reg. AB910 (G-AISU)

Sqdn - code: 222ZD-, 130-AP-, 133-MD-, 242-LE-, 416-DN-, 402-AE-, 527-


Role in film: Flew, Currently: Airworthy


AB910 was one of a batch of Mk.Vbs ordered from Castle Bromwich and carried constructors number CBAF1061. Its first recorded unit is No.222 squadron at North Weald, to which it was delivered on 22nd August 1941. Shortly afterwards, on 2nd September, it was allocated to No.43 Groups Disposal Account, presumably as a result of damage sustained in some way, as on 5th September it was recorded as being allocated to Air Service Training Ltd for repairs. The comment Repair occurs again on 20th September and on 30th September the aircraft was assigned to the storage depot of No.37 MU at Burtonwood. Nearly three months were to pass before AB910 was allocated to No.130 squadron based at Perranporth, Cornwall. Where it flew escort and daylight bombing raids and convoy patrols. In December it acted as an escort for attacks on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau but in less than five weeks, on 15th January 1942, it was recorded as being sent for repairs by Westland Aircraft, presumably at Yeovil. It was awaiting collection on 28th March and on 8th April was delivered to No.6 MU at Brize Norton, where it was stored for a further two months before allocation to No.133 (Eagle) squadron at Biggin Hill on 13th June 1942. During its time here it flew four sorties during the Dieppe raid, destroying one Dornier Do217 and damaging another. Its service with the American volunteers was relatively short and it was transferred to No.242 squadron at Digby on 2nd September but despatched to the aircraft storage depot of No.12 MU Kirkbride on 12th November. The comment R & P appears on its record against the date 31st March 1943, but its significance is unknown, the next definite posting being to No.33 MU Lyneham on 8th June 1943. Here it was prepared for service and issued to No416 squadron (RCAF) on 2nd July. Six days later it was with No,3501 SU (Support Unit a General Duties Flight) returning to the squadron at Coleby Grange on 17th July only to be transferred to No.402 squadron (RCAF) at Digby on the same day. With 402 Squadron she flew numerous cover patrols over the Normandy invasion beach heads on D-Day itself (6 June 1944) and on subsequent days.

Its next recorded unit is No.53 OTU at Kirton-in-Lindsay, to which it was delivered on July 1944 and with which it served until 17th May 1945, apart from a brief spell with Vickers between 4th April and 4th May 1945, where it is presumed to have undergone major servicing. It was while AB910 was in service with No.53 OTU at Hibaldstow that it flew a circuit with WAAF Margaret Horton clinging on to its tailplane! The student pilot had taken off without realising that she had not let go following a full-power check.

AB910 was allocated to No.527 squadron on 17th May 1945, but by 18th April the following year was to be found with the RWE (Royal Wireless Establishment) at Watton, Norfolk, from which it passed to the storage unit of No.29 MU High Ercall, Shropshire on 30th May. It was here that it was acquired by Group Captain Allen Wheeler on 14th July 1947. Bearing the civil registration G-AISU the Spitfire obtained its C of A at White Waltham on 17th October of that year, and painted in a smart blue colour scheme, it was used by its owner primarily as a racing aircraft until sold to Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, who restored it to its military markings as QJ-J, in which guise it was displayed by Jeffrey Quill until presented to the BBMF on 15th September 1965.

Since transfer to the BBMF AB910 has been involved in two flying accidents. The first was at Duxford in June 1976, when an undercarriage leg collapsed on landing causing Cat. 3R damage which was repaired at No.5 MU Kemble, the aircraft rejoining the flight on 21st December 1976. The second and more serious mishap occurred in August 1978, when a Harvard swung on take-off and collided with the Spitfire, causing considerable Cat.3S damage. This happened at the International Air Show at Bex, Switzerland and the Spitfire was despatched to Abingdon for extensive repairs, during which some parts of Mk.IX MK732 were absorbed, and the resurrected aircraft was re-delivered to Coningsby on 26th October 1981, powered by the Merlin 35 previously fitted to P7350.

During the winter of 1985-86 AB910 underwent an overhaul at Cranfield, Beds., from which it emerged wearing the codes of No.457 squadron to represent X4936, BP-O, a presentation Mk.Ia named in memory of R.J.Mitchell and which flew with the unit between June and October 1941.

AB910 currently wears the desert camouflage scheme of the Commanding Officer of 244 Wing, Wing Commander Ian Richard Gleed DFC, from the Tunisian campaign of 1943. Widge Gleed was a Battle of Britain ace with a total of 15 kills to his credit. His aircraft carried his initials in place of unit codes and Figaro nose art on the starboard side. On 16 April 1943 he failed to return from a fighter sweep and was posted Missing in Action.

Built a Castle Bromwich in 1941 and delivered to 222 Sqn on August 22nd that year. It subsequently served with 130 Sqn, 133 (Eagle) Sqn, 242 Sqn, 416 Sqn (RCAF), no 3501 Support Unit, 402 Sqn (RCAF), 53 OTU, 527 Sqn and the RWE, finally going into store at 29 MU on May 30th 1945. On July 14th 1947 it was bought by Allen Wheeler who used it mainly for racing as G-AISU. It was sold to Vickers-Armstrong in 1959 was presented to the BBMF on September 15th 1965 and appeared in 'The Battle of Britain' film in 1968. It still flies with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).

Current location BBMF, Coningsby, Lincs airworthy.

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