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MH434 is considered to be the most famous Supermarine Spitfire still flying in the 21st century.[6]

History

World War 2

Built by Vickers at Castle Bromwhich in 1943, MH434 was test flown by Alex Henshaw at the beginning of August 1943, before joining 222 Squadron on August 19th, where it was allocated to Flt. Lt. Henry Lardner-Burke. While escorting B-17 bombers of the USAAF over St Omar, France on 27th August, Lardner-Burke used MH434 to destroy one Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and damage a second.[6] Again flying MH434, Lardner-Burke shot down another Fw 190 in the Nieuport area on 5th September, and claimed a half share in a Messerschmitt Bf-109G downed over Northern France on 8th September.[7]

MH434 was transferred to 350 Squadron in early 1944 before being returned to 222. [8] The aircraft was then passed to 84 Ground Support unit on 15th June[9]

Post War

MH434 POC

Side view of MH434 in Piece of Cake colour scheme.[10]

In 1947, MH434 was passed to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, who used the aircraft on 165 operational sorties against Nationalist forces in Indonesia,[11] using fuselage codes H-105 and H-68. Transferred to the Belgian Air Force in 1953, and operated by their Fighter School as SM-41, it was acquired by COGEA, a Belgian target-towing company in 1956, becoming OO-ARA,[2] before returning to the UK in 1964. Used in the film Battle of Britain, MH434 became the property of Sir Adrian Swire during 1970, before ownership passed to a syndicate led by former RAF "Red Arrows" leader Ray Hanna at the Christies' auction at Duxford in 1983-becoming one of the founding aircraft of what would become the Old Flying Machine Company.[11]

Notes

  1. Used to depict the reconnaissance aircraft that captured photographic evidence of the V-2 rocket. The scene features the then-owner of the aircraft, Tim Davies, dressed as an RAF pilot talking to a ground crewman from the cockpit as the urgently-awaited film is unloaded.
  2. Appeared with serials N3310, N3313, N3314, N3315 and N3319, and codes AI-A, AI-D, AI-E, AI-K and CD-F.[3]
  3. A number of brief appearances in the fourth series.
  4. Flown by the late Neil Williams, MH434 appears as a low-level "FR.IX" fighter-reconnaissance Spitfire looking for a hidden tank unit covering the approaches to Arnhem Bridge. The scene involves the Spitfire sweeping in low over the flat countryside and buzzing a young dutch resistance fighter riding a bicycle. MH434 was to have appeared in a second scene, but this was dropped from the final film cut.
  5. A little-known 1973 film starring the late Peter Sellers, MH434 features in the opening scenes attacking the cliff-top fortifications in which a group of french forced labourers take shelter and are trapped during the first hours of D-Day. MH434 was flown by Ray Hanna for the filming, which took place on the Channel island of Guernsey.
  6. MH434 features in one quick scene pursuing a Pilatus P.2 trainer in Luftwaffe markings at low level, before performing a climbing victory roll. Filmed in 1987 for Writer/Director John Boorman, this was the first role in a major film whilst owned by Ray Hanna and The Old Flying Machine Company, who still operate this Spitfire today.
  7. One scene known to feature MH434 depicted 'Moggy' Cattermole (Neil Dudgeon) flying under a bridge during Hornet Squadron's time in France. This was filmed in Tyneside, with MH434's regular pilot Ray Hanna at the controls.[4] MH434 was one of six airworthy Spitfires flown in the series and appears in nearly every flying sequence filmed. It was the aircraft that the six full-size, non-airworthy, aluminium and GRP replica Spitfires built for the mini-series were crafted upon.
  8. Appears in the opening sequence as the 'Mayfield Kestrel' fighter prototype. MH434 was repainted in an all-over anonymous light Grey colour scheme with no other markings for the episode, filmed on the former Battle of Britain airfield at West Malling. This scheme was altered into an RAF high-altitude scheme and then Norwegian Air Force scheme later in the summer of 1989.
  9. 1990-series starring Nigel Havers, whose character is badly burned during an air battle in 1940, and then struggles to get back to front line duty. This was the third time MH434 featured a Battle of Britain-style paint finish (with codes "CK:D"). On 30 April 1990, during filming of the series, MH434 was photographed in formation with ML417 (as CK:E) and MT719 (as CK:C).[5] The scheme on MH434 was later modified into a Belgian Air Force scheme.
  10. Filmed in 1993 and based on the life of Luftwaffe ace Hans Joachim Marseille, MH434 appears twice, firstly as a victim of air combat with the starring-aircraft (Hispano-Built HA1112-M1L/Bf109J 'G-BOML' painted as Marseilles' "Yellow 14") and secondly, as victor. The air-to-air work was shot over two days at Duxford. MH434 was flown by Rolf Meum and wears a 1941-style No. 121 "Eagle" Squadron scheme as "AV:H, which it wore from 1992 until the start of it's first ever complete rebuild in 1994.
  11. A BBC mini-series based on experiences on the arrival of USAAF B-17 bomber groups in Britain, MH434 was the only Spitfire which actually took part in aerial work. A number of other preserved Spitfires featured in the opening scenes, shown at dispersal around the RAF airfield where the squadron is based. This series is notable in that two Daimler Benz-engined Bf109G "Gustavs" were used for the airfield attack scene and for some air-to-air combat scenes with preserved B-17 bomber "Sally B".
  12. Used in the 'Woeful Second World War' Take That parody "The Few" (RAF Pilots).
  13. Essentially using flying scenes shot for "Piece of Cake" edited with new material, MH434 appeared as an aircraft testing new radar technology whilst being flown by the central character's son, who is a serving RAF pilot. MH434 had it's spinner painted black to more closely match the "Piece of Cake" footage, although wears a later war scheme. Lee Proudfoot was the aircraft's pilot in the newly-filmed segments.
  14. Featured at the Finchmere Airshow. While commentating on the display, Perry Darnley (Robert Bathurst) describes the aircraft as a Spitfire Mk II.

Sources

  1. Wikimedia
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://www.aeromovies.fr/articles.php?lng=fr&pg=48&mnuid=1425&tconfig=0
  3. http://www.sonsofdamien.co.uk/BoBPG3.htm#Back%20to%20top
  4. Ray Hanna Obituary
  5. Fly Past Magazine October 2019 Page 59
  6. 6.0 6.1 van Geffen, Tony. Radio Controlled Model World.. May 2006. Page 86
  7. van Geffen, Tony. May 2006. Pages 86/89
  8. van Geffen, Tony. May 2006. Page 89
  9. Morgan, Eric B. and Edward Shacklady. Spitfire - The Complete History Revised Edition. 2000. ISBN 0-946219-48-6..
  10. Key Publishing
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Real Warbirds: The elite of the preservation world - Airworthy WW2 aircraft with genuine combat histories. Supplement to Aeroplane Magazine - June 2005.. Page 10
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