On Sunday 5th September 2021, a Spitfire Mk Vb AB910 flew over three events across Northern Ireland to commemorate the 81st Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
The first event commenced at 12:30pm, as the Spitfire flew over the RAF Battle of Britain Service in Carrickfergus. Squadron Leader Sugden then continued over Belfast Queen's Quay Maritime Festival, before ending over Ballykelly, at 12:53pm.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight also provided Ballykelly with a memorial stone, dedicated to the Beaufort AW271 crew that crashed on the 30th April 1942. Pupils from the Foyle College Aviation Team in Derry helped to locate the crash-site and raise funds for the stone.
The Spitfire Mk Vb AB910 has a remarkable wartime history, having flown a total of 143 operational missions over three years. In 1941, it was allocated to 222 (Natal) Squadron at North Weald, but never reached this destination after being damaged during a forced landing at Lympne. Once repaired, the Spitfire was re-allocated to 130 Squadron at Perranporth, Cornwall, flying convoy protection patrols and escorting daylight bombing raids. In June 1942, the aircraft was delivered to 133 (Eagle) Squadron at Biggin Hill, flying 29 Operations. Notably, the Spitfire supported Operation JUBILEE at the fierce Dieppe Raid aerial battle, on the 19th August 1942. During combat, Flight Sergeant ‘Dixie’ Alexander used the aircraft to destroy a Dornier 217 bomber.
Spitfire Mk Vb AB910 served with 242, 416 and 402 Squadrons on numerous cover patrols, and then supported 53 Operational Training Unit, at Hibaldstow. Here, it also famously flew with a girl on the tail! Flight Lieutenant Neil Cox DFC had not realised ground-crew fitter, Leading Aircraftwoman Margaret Horton (Woman Auxiliary Air Force) was sitting on the tail whilst he taxied out to the take-off point. He took off, but luckily managed to keep control and land after one circuit – despite the added weight of a surprised Margaret.
Postwar, the Spitfire flew as an air racer, before Vickers-Armstrong refurbished it in 1953. Renowned test pilot, Jeffrey Quill, displayed the aircraft until the company donated it to the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 1965.
Now, the Spitfire Mk Vb AB910 is flown commemoratively by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. It is painted with the same full invasion stripes as a D-Day Spitfire Mk Vb BM327 flown by Flight Lieutenant Tony Cooper, Commander of 64 Squadron in 1944.