Spitfire AB910

Spitfire AB910 (Mk Vb)

Spitfire Mk Vb AB910 flew 143 operational missions in a remarkable wartime ‘career’ that spanned almost 3 years on operations. Initially allocated to 222 (Natal) Sqn at North Weald in August 1941, the aircraft was damaged during a forced landing at Lympne within days of arriving. After repair, it was re-allocated to 130 Sqn at Perranporth, Cornwall, flying convoy protection patrols and escorting daylight bombing raids.

'Out of the darkness' Tony Cooper In June 1942, the aircraft was delivered to 133 (Eagle) Sqn at Biggin Hill. AB910 flew 29 ‘ops’ with this unit, including four sorties on 19 August 1942 during the fierce aerial battle in support of Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe Raid. One of her pilots, Flight Sergeant ‘Dixie’ Alexander, was credited with destroying a Dornier 217 bomber in AB910 during these combats.

AB910 continued to fly operationally until July 1944, serving with 242, 416 and 402 (RCAF) Sqns, flying numerous cover patrols with the latter over the D-Day invasion beach heads on 6 June 1944 and afterwards.

From mid-July 1944, AB910 was relegated to support duties, initially with 53 OTU at Hibaldstow and later 527 Sqn (a radar calibration unit). On 14 February 1945, whilst at Hibaldstow, AB910 famously flew with a girl on the tail! LACW Margaret Horton, a WAAF ground-crew fitter, was sitting on the tail whilst the aircraft taxied out to the take-off point (as was standard practice in rough weather) without the pilot, Flt Lt Neil Cox DFC*, realising her presence. He then took off with Margaret still there. The combination of her weight on the tail and her grip on the elevator very nearly had disastrous results but fortunately Neil was able to maintain control and one circuit later he landed with a considerably shaken WAAF still wrapped around the fin!

Post-war, AB910 was ‘demobbed’ and flew as an air racer for 6 years before being returned to Vickers-Armstrong for refurbishment in 1953. After this it was displayed regularly by the renowned Spitfire test pilot Jeffrey Quill until being donated by the company to the BBMF in 1965.

64 Sqn Spit D-Day markings After undergoing a ‘major plus’ maintenance programme (effectively a complete refurbishment) with the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford, AB910 returned to the BBMF at Coningsby in time for the 2015 display season. It is now painted in the colour scheme of a 64 Sqn Spitfire at the time of ‘D-Day,’ with full invasion stripes.

That Spitfire, Mk Vb BM327, ‘SH-F’, named “PeterJohn1”, was the personal aircraft of Flight Lieutenant Tony Cooper, one of the flight commanders on 64 Squadron in 1944. For the full background to the colour scheme for AB910 click on this link.

Images:

Header Image: Spitfire AB910 in 64 Sqn D-Day stripes colour scheme.

Image 1: "Out of the Darkness ..." by Spencer Trickett - Tony Cooper D-Day evening take-off.

Image 2: 64 Sqn Spitfire Vb 'SH-B' (BL734) in D-Day markings.

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