Spitfire TE311 (Mk LF XVIE)
Spitfire Mk XVI TE311, the latest addition tothe Memorial Flight fleet, is a low-back/bubble-canopy Spitfire with ‘clipped’wingtips.
TE311 was built atCastle Bromwich just after the war had ended, being taken on charge by the Air Ministry on 8th June 1945, anddelivered to No 39 Maintenance Unit (MU) at Colerne, where it wasplaced in storage. From October1945 to February 1946, TE311 was flown by the Handling Squadron of the Empire Central Flying School(ECFS) at Hullavington.
It was thenstored at No 33 MU at Lyneham until May 1951 when it wasallocated to No 1689 Ferry Pilot Training(FPT) Flight at Aston Down. On 21st June1951, TE311 suffered damage in anaccident. Repairs were completed byVickers Armstrong and the aircraft was returned to 1689 FPT Flight on 31stDecember 1951. It was subsequentlyallocated to the Ferry Training Unit at RAF Benson until September 1953 beforebeing returned to 33 MU at Lyneham. InJanuary and February 1954, TE311 served briefly with No 2 CivilianAnti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit at Langham, Norfolk, before being returned tothe MU at Lyneham again on 23rd February 1954.
On 13th December 1954, TE311 wasofficially grounded and transferred to non-effective stock. For the next 12 years the aircraft was a‘gate guardian’ on the main gate at RAF Tangmere. Then, in 1968, TE311 was loaned to SpitfireProductions Ltd, who temporarilymodified it with a false rear fuselage to resemble a Mk 1 Spitfire and restoredit to taxying condition so that it could be used during filming ofground sequences for the epic film ‘Battle of Britain’. When filming was completed, a RAF workingparty restored the Spitfire to its original configuration and it was thenallocated to the RAF Exhibition Flight. For over 30 years, from 1968 to 1999, TE311 was displayed as a staticexhibit at many air shows, regularly being dismantled and re-assembled fortransportation by road.
In January 2000 TE311 wasdelivered to RAF Coningsby for ‘spares recovery’ (along with Spitfire Mk XVITB382, which was broken up for spares and struck off charge). ChiefTechnician Paul Blackah MBE decided that the aircraftmerited a re-build to flying condition. This was started in October 2001, with a small team of engineersinitially working on the aircraft in their own time, until official approvalwas received from the Ministry of Defence in 2007 to return TE311 to flyingcondition as part of the Flight. After apainstaking re-build lasting 11 years the aircraft was returned to an immaculateand extremely authentic standard, and it took to the air again, for the firsttime in 58 years, on 19th October 2012. Greatcredit is due to the Memorial Flight engineers, especially Paul Blackah – theteam leader and the driving force behind the project – whose skills andperseverance have resulted in another airworthy Spitfire being added to thelimited numbers of these iconic aircraft.
TE311 ispainted to represent Spitfire Mk XVIe TB675 ‘4D-V’ of No 74Squadron, the personal aircraft of Squadron Leader AJ ‘Tony’ Reeves DFC, theSquadron’s Commanding Officer from the end of December 1944. No 74Squadron was part of 145 Wing, 2 TAF. InMarch 1945, whilst based at Drope, just inside Germany, the Squadron receivedSpitfire XVIs, which it flew alongside its LFIXs, using them as fighter-bombers on armed-reconnaissance and close air supportoperations during the advance into Germany. The ground targets attacked by the Spitfires during the lastmonths of the war were numerous and varied. These operations exposed the Spitfires and their pilots to extremelydangerous return fire from the ground – everything from deadly 88mmanti-aircraft guns to small arms fire.
Header Image: Spitfire TE311 2013 (Mark Meades)
Image 1: Spitfire Mk XVI TB675 ‘4D-V’ of 74 Squadron at Drope in March 1945, bombed up with two 250-pounders under the wings and a 500-pounder on the centreline.
Image 2: Spitfire XVI TE311, Dec 2012 (Richard Paver)