Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
Operator: Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 1942
Powered by: Rolls Royce Merlin 45 1,440hp
Colour Scheme: P8331 RF-M 303 Squadron Royal Air Force.
Combat veteran, Spitfire Mk.Vb, (G-MKVB), BM597. One of 1000 aircraft built at Castle Bromwich against contract B981687/39, BM597 was delivered to No.37 M.U. at Burtonwood on 26 February 1942, being assigned to 315 Sqn on 7 May 1942 and on to 317 Sqn on 5 September 1942, both at Woodvale. On 13 February 1943, it suffered Cat B damage and was removed for repair on 28 February. It was ready for collection again on 2 June and No. 33 M.U. took delivery and on 9 June it was allocated to Vickers Armstrong for an undisclosed purpose. It returned to No.39 M.U. Colerne on 23 November before moving to No. 222 M.U.High Ercall (Packing Depot) on 4 January 1944 and then back to No. 39 M.U. on 14 April. It was stored there for almost a year until it was issued to No. 58 OTU, its last operational unit from which it was retired on 16 October 1945. It was then transferred to instructional airframe status at No. 4 S of TT, St Athan as 5713M.
Following St Athan, BM597 was assigned to Hednesford (1950-1955, Bridgenorth (1955-1960) and Church Fenton (1960-1989) as gate guardian. On 23 January 1967 it was dispatched from Henlow to Pinewood where it was used as the master for the moulds that were made to cast the fibre glass replicas used in the film ‘Battle of Britain’. It remained at Pinewood until August 1968 when it was returned to Henlow and finally to Church Fenton in 1969. Tim Routsis, the founder of Historic Flying, recovered the aircraft in 1989 as part of a deal with the RAF and sold it to HAC in 1993 with Historic Flying undertaking the complete restoration to original specification and flies now in the colours of 317 Squadron, though in an earlier camouflage paint scheme.
In October 2020 BM597 was painted in a temporary scheme to represent a Mk.IIb, P8331 RF-M, of 303 Sqn. This aircraft was lost on operations on June 27th 1941 whilst being flown by Acting Wing Commander Piotr Laguna who was killed in action.
Images: Darren Harbar