Spitfire TE311

Spitfire TE311 (Mk LF XVIE)

Spitfire Mk XVI TE311, the latest addition to the Memorial Flight fleet, is a low-back/bubble-canopy Spitfire with ‘clipped’ wingtips.

TE311 was built at Castle Bromwich just after the war had ended, being taken on charge by the Air Ministry on 8th June 1945, and delivered to No 39 Maintenance Unit (MU) at Colerne, where it was placed in storage. From October 1945 to February 1946, TE311 was flown by the Handling Squadron of the Empire Central Flying School (ECFS) at Hullavington. It was then stored at No 33 MU at Lyneham until May 1951 when it was allocated to No 1689 Ferry Pilot Training (FPT) Flight at Aston Down. On 21st June 1951, TE311 suffered damage in an accident. Repairs were completed by Vickers Armstrong and the aircraft was returned to 1689 FPT Flight on 31st December 1951. It was subsequently allocated to the Ferry Training Unit at RAF Benson until September 1953 before being returned to 33 MU at Lyneham. In January and February 1954, TE311 served briefly with No 2 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit at Langham, Norfolk, before being returned to the MU at Lyneham again on 23rd February 1954.

Spitfire TE311 On 13th December 1954, TE311 was officially 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 Spitfire Productions Ltd, who temporarily modified it with a false rear fuselage to resemble a Mk 1 Spitfire and restored it to taxying condition so that it could be used during filming of ground sequences for the epic film ‘Battle of Britain’. When filming was completed, a RAF working party restored the Spitfire to its original configuration and it was then allocated to the RAF Exhibition Flight. For over 30 years, from 1968 to 1999, TE311 was displayed as a static exhibit at many air shows, regularly being dismantled and re-assembled for transportation by road.

In January 2000 TE311 was delivered to RAF Coningsby for ‘spares recovery’ (along with Spitfire Mk XVI TB382, which was broken up for spares and struck off charge). Chief Technician Paul Blackah MBE decided that the aircraft merited a re-build to flying condition. This was started in October 2001, with a small team of engineers initially working on the aircraft in their own time, until official approval was received from the Ministry of Defence in 2007 to return TE311 to flying condition as part of the Flight.

After a painstaking re-build lasting 11 years the aircraft was returned to an immaculate and extremely authentic standard, and it took to the air again, for the first time in 58 years, on 19th October 2012. Great credit is due to the Memorial Flight engineers, especially Paul Blackah – the team leader and the driving force behind the project – whose skills and perseverance have resulted in another airworthy Spitfire being added to the limited numbers of these iconic aircraft.

Spitfire TE311 TE311 is painted to represent Spitfire Mk XVIe TB675 ‘4D-V’ of No 74 Squadron, the personal aircraft of Squadron Leader AJ ‘Tony’ Reeves DFC, the Squadron’s Commanding Officer from the end of December 1944. No 74 Squadron was part of 145 Wing, 2 TAF.

In March 1945, whilst based at Drope, just inside Germany, the Squadron received Spitfire XVIs, which it flew alongside its LFIXs, using them as fighter-bombers on armed-reconnaissance and close air support operations during the advance into Germany. The ground targets attacked by the Spitfires during the last months of the war were numerous and varied. These operations exposed the Spitfires and their pilots to extremely dangerous return fire from the ground – everything from deadly 88mm anti-aircraft guns to small arms fire.

Images:

Header Image: Spitfire XVI TE311, Dec 2012 (© Richard Paver).

Image 1: 74 Squadron Spitfire XVI 4D-V, March 1945.

Image 2: Spitfire XVI TE311, Dec 2012 (© Richard Paver).

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