Fellow Spitfire Association members,
I was privileged to take a guided tour of the Biggin Hill Heritage Museum on Wednesday – http://bigginhillheritagehangar.co.uk/
Paul Campbell provided an outstanding and very enthusiastic tour of the two hangers, filled to the brim with Spitfires in various stages of restoration ranging from airworthy to early re-builds. There was also a Messerschmitt Bf 109E (Bf 109 E-7; W.Nr. 4091) awaiting its newly restored Daimler Benz engine and a Hurricane. More of these two aircraft later, but Spitfires first.
SPITFIRE HF Mk IX (TA805)
This Spitfire IX is where it all started for the Biggin Hill Heritage Museum. In April 1944 an order was placed for 1,844 Spitfire Mk IXs. As part of that order TA805 was rolled out of the Castle Bromwich factory with the construction number CBAF IX 10372 in the autumn of 1944 and allocated to 39 Maintenance Unit at Colerne on January 3, 1945.
On 24th June 1945 TA805 joined No.183 Squadron based at Chilbolton. In August it was transferred to No. 234 Squadron at Bentwaters.
On 15th September 1945, TA805 took part in the mass fly-past over London commemorating the Battle of Britain and it was subsequently placed in storage until being sold to the South African Air Force.
Another distinguished aircraft in the collection and one very special for our Association. This aircraft was flown by Tony Gaze (OAM DFC and 2 Bars) whilst with 453 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force based at Hornchurch. For those members who have not seen the memory to Tony Gaze and the ABC “Talking Heads” interview with Tony please go to: http://www.tonygaze.com/
Spitfire T.R. 8
I was looking at the second Spitfire IX just out of the shot below when I heard Paul say, “this is a Spitfire T.R. 8.” I realised immediately that here was another very special aircraft and that I was looking at the only one in existence; in fact the only one ever built, being the prototype of what became the T.R. 9.
A Mk VIII was selected for conversion to a two pilot version, the aircraft you see below, with all future aircraft being conversions from Mk IX’s. The original cockpit, as with all T.R.’s is supplemented by a second one just behind. The hapless instructor would sit in the rear cockpit which was without brakes and engine starting could only be done from the front cockpit; with the further disadvantage of even worse visibility on the ground than the already poor view from the main cockpit.
The aircraft is in original condition and remarkably also includes the Rolls Royce Merlin fitted at the time of manufacture which is almost unheard of. What is even more amazing is that it wasn’t the case when purchase. When the Museum was looking for spare Merlins they went to view two for sale and realised one of the engines they were looking at was from the T.R. 8………………SOLD! Engine and airframe were re-united.
A familiar office to some of our members
Hurricane Mk 1 (AE 977)
Built as Hurricane I by Canadian Car & Foundry, Spring1941. Initially delivered to RAF the transferred to Royal Navy in 1941. Converted to Sea Hurricane Mk X by July 1942.
The aircraft has been restored to Hurricane I specification.
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7; W.Nr. 4091
Unfortunately I can’t share photos of this aircraft as the owner has asked that images not be presented in published form. The picture above shows this aircraft, flown by Ace Hans-Joachim Marseille after he claimed his 7th aerial victory on 28 September 1940 but had to crash land near Théville due to engine failure. Marseille was attached to Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2) (Demonstration Wing 2) which was a Luftwaffe unit operating three fighter, night fighter, reconnaissance and ground support Gruppen (groups). Lehrgeschwader were in general mixed-formation units tasked with the operational evaluation of new types of aircraft and/or with the development/evaluation of new operational tactics or practices. Each Gruppe within the unit was equipped with a different type of aircraft. Each Gruppe consisted of several Staffeln (squadrons). (Ref Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-344-0741-30,_Frankreich,_notgelandete_Me_109.jpg)
It is believed Stanford Tuck shot Marseille down on 23 September 1940 during a separate engagement and he was forced to swim in The Channel before being rescued by an He 59 before returning to duty.
Remains of Spitfire P9372
The explanation included with this photo needs no further detail.
I hope reading this brief overview has been as enjoyable as my day at the Biggin Hill Heritage Museum. If you are in the UK, don’t miss the chance to visit. For those keen enough you can also fly in one of their Spitfire T.R. 9’s. I will be next year!
Next week I’ll have images and a write up of Duxford Flying Legends which I’m attending with Lysle. Here’s hoping the notoriously fickle English weather holds out.
Cheers for now,
Geoff Zuber, President