Spitfire PM631 (Mk PRXIX)
Spitfire PR Mk XIX PM631 was built at Reading too late to see service in World War Two. It is representative though of similar high altitude photographic reconnaissance Spitfires which did serve operationally. Spitfire PR XIXs were unarmed but could fly at 370mph at 40,000 feet (with pressurised cockpits) and had a range of 1,500 miles.
PM631 was delivered to the RAF on 6 November 1945 but was stored until May 1949 when it was issued to 203 Advanced Flying School.
Later, after being modified for meteorological work, she was flown by civilian pilots with the Temperature and Humidity Monitoring (THUM) Flight based at Hooton Park and Woodvale. The THUM Flight made daily ascents to 30,000ft to gather meteorological information.
On 11 July 1957, PM631 was flown to Biggin Hill from Duxford by World War Two fighter ace Group Captain Jamie Rankin DSO* DFC*,in formation with two other THUM Flight Mk XIX Spitfires, PS853 and PS915, to form the Historic Aircraft Flight which later developed into the BBMF.
PM631 is presented as a PR XIX of No 541 Squadron which performed photographic reconnaissance missions over the Europe from early 1944 to the end of the war. Flight Lieutenant Ray Holmes was one of the courageous pilots of 541 Squadron who flew dangerous, long-range, singleton, photo reconnaissance flights over enemy territory.
For more of Ray Holmes’ story and to find out what it was like to fly photo-recce ‘ops’ in PR XIX Spitfires, click on this link.
Header Image: Spitfire PM631 (FTS Images).
Image 1: BBMF ground crew working on Spitfire PM631, Duxford May 2014 (© Jamie Pluck).
Image 2: Spitfire PM631 (© Chris Elcock).