Spitfire PS915 (Mk PRXIX)
Built at Southampton in 1945, Spitfire PR Mk XIX PS915 entered service just too late to see service in World War Two, joining 541 Squadron at Benson in June 1945 before moving to the PR Development Unit to take part in tests of new cameras. In April 1947 she was assigned to No 2 Squadron at Wunstorf in Germany, flying ‘Cold War’ strategic reconnaissance sorties in connection with the East/West divide of Europe and during the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49. She was returned to the UK in 1951 and, after a period in storage at Cosford, joined the Temperature and Humidity Monitoring (THUM) Flight at Woodvale in 1954. In 1957, PS915 became a founder member of the Historic Aircraft Flight, the forerunner of the BBMF, being flown to Biggin Hill from Duxford on 11th July 1957 by Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Peter Thompson DFC. However, she was quickly retired to gate-guardian duties, serving in that capacity for nearly 30 years at West Malling, Leuchars and Brawdy. She re-joined the BBMF in 1987 after being refurbished to flying condition by British Aerospace (Warton Division) and modified to take an ex-Shackleton Griffon 58 engine with a specially-manufactured reduction gear driving a single propeller. (This is now the standard power plant configuration on the BBMF Mk XIX Spitfires).
PS915 currently wears the colour scheme and markings of PS888, a PRXIX of 81 Squadron based at Seletar in Singapore during the Malaya Campaign. This aircraft conducted the last ever operational sortie by an RAF Spitfire when, on 1 April 1954, it flew a photographic mission over an area of jungle in Johore thought to contain hideouts for Communist guerrillas. For the occasion the aircraft’s ground crew painted the inscription ‘The Last!’ on the left engine cowling. The longevity of the Spitfire design is evident, as the aircraft type which first entered service in 1938 was still serving operationally with the RAF 16 years later, despite rapid developments in the performance of military aircraft during that time.
Header image: ( Larger size) Spitfire PS915 in flight
Image 1: ( Larger size) Spitfire PS915
Image 2: ( Larger size) Sqn Ldr Swaby exits a Spitfire PS888
Image 3: ( Larger size) Spitfire PS915 taking off