Royal Air Force: 1943-1946
MK297 a Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc was built in late 1943 and delivered in February 1944 to 411 (RCAF) Squadron RAF. Later that month, it went to 66 Squadron. MK297 was then issued to 132 Squadron in the October; the unit being at Hawkinge in Kent; it stayed with this unit until a major inspection was due, and it was dispatched to AST Ltd at Hamble.
April 1945 saw MK297 with 33 Maintenance Unit (MU) at Lyneham, where it was stored until put up for sale.
Dutch & Belgium Service: 1947-1963
DIH Notes: In Dutch and Belgium Service, MK297's career was very similar to that of MH434
Sold to the Dutch government in July 1946 for service with the Royal Netherlands Air Force , and it joined other Spitfires (including MH434) in anti-terrorist operations in the East Indies against Indonesian Nationalists forces . During this period MK297 served with No.322 Squadron LSK, initially with serial as H-116 and later as H-55.
In 1950 MK297 was shipped to Holland and stored at Rotterdam Docks for some time, and by 1951 it had been sold to the Belgian Air Force Entering service in 1952 with the serial SM-43. But SM-43 remained in Belgian Military Service for just three years before being sold in May 1956 and registered OO-ARB.
The new owners were the COGEA organisation and her 'job' was Contract Target Towing primarily based at Ostend.
In 1961 the aircraft was used in the film The Longest Day , which was filmed on location in France, and for this the Aircraft was coded 'GW-O' in 340 (Ile de France) squadron colours.
But using Spitfires for Target Towing was by the early 1960's no longer a viable activity, which after all was the primary activity of COGEA, so as with their other Spitifres, OO-ARB was put up for sale in 1963.
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Time out in the UK: 1964 to 1968
in March 1964 OO-ARB was sold to Film Aviation Services. Delivered in May 1964 to Biggin Hill, being registered G-ASSD. But the Aircraft was almost immediately put up for resale, being advertised in Flight Magazine for £4,000.
In April 1965 MK297 was registered to R A Wale, but the following month had been bought by the then Confederate Air Force (since a name change in 2001, now the Commemorative Air Force) (CAF) in Texas USA. The Aircraft not only remained in the United Kingdom, initially for restoration work, but was restored on the Register to Film Aviation Services for use in the Films: Von Ryan's Express , The Night of the Generals and was used in the film, Triple Cross
As planning for the film Battle of Britain began, MK297/G-ASSD which had briefly been placed in storage, when CAF concluded a contract with Spitfire Productions Ltd a company set up by Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie to provide the Aircraft for the film. This contract did not only cover the Aircraft, but also a number of qualified CAF Members (all members have the 'rank' Colonel) to fly various Aircraft.
As a clipped wing Aircraft MK297/G-ASSD, it was decided to fit the 'classic' Spitfire Wing tips from RAF Gate Guardian, TE476 fitted during November 1967.
On 17th May 1968 while landing at North Weald, MK297/G-ASSD hit a fence causing damage to the propeller, flaps, elevator, fuselage and rudder. Repairs were carried out at North Weald with a propeller from Spitfire Tr.9 G-AWGB (TE308) and starboard flap from Mk.XVI TE356 being fitted.
During Filming the Aircraft was to carry a number of Marks including: N3310/AI-A, N3313/EI-A, N3311/AI-B, N3310/CD-A, N3314/CD-E and DO-N.
After filming of the Battle of Britain was completed it was time for MK297 to relinquish her British Registration and take the journey to a new life in the USA.
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The CAF Years end in Fire 1968-1993
After being dismantled at Bovington the Aircraft started its journey to Houston by Ship in November 1968
By December 1968 MK297 was at Harlingen and it was soon registered N1882, which was changed to NX9BL (N11RS was reserved, but never used). MK297 was flown for a number of years with the Douglas Bader code D-B.
MK297 like all Confederate Air Force/Commemorative Air Force display Aircraft was maintained to the highest standard and immaculately presented. Even so accidents do happen and MK297 was seriously damaged in crash at Palacois Texas 15 May, 1981. But after extensive repairs MK297 continued to be flown at displays across the USA and Canada, until the end of the first day of the Hamilton International Air Show in Canada in 1990.
Whilst taxying in (after its display?) the Aircraft's propeller was hit. This obviously did not just cause damage to the propeller because the Aircraft remained at Hamilton and did not fly again. Whilst decisions, or at least plans for a restoration were being considered, the Aircraft was fitted with the propeller from a Seafire MK XV, which although fine for Static Display, could not be used on an Airworthy Aircraft.
The Aircraft remained a static exhibit for over two years, but an Agreement was reached between the Confederate Air Force and Canadian Warplane Heritage (CWH) that the Spitfire would be refurbished and painted in its actual wartime RAF livery, and operate from CWH on behalf of the CAF, flying jointly with the CWH Lancaster and Hurricane as the Canadian Memorial Flight.
The Engine was removed and sent away for overhaul and the Airframe stripped down to bare metal and the future of MK927 as a joint CAF/CWH project looked assured, but on the early morning of the 15th February 1993 fire broke out in Canadian Warplane Heritage's Hangar 3 and spread quickly through the north side of the building, reaching temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees, requiring atttendance from four fire departments and fifty-five fire-fighters.
Despite the best efforts off all involved, MK297, along with a Hawker Hurricane, Grumman TBM Avenger, an Auster and a Stinson were destroyed. Also destroyed were the administrative offices, engineering records and all ground and maintenance equipment. At great risk and with considerable ingenuity the CWH Lancaster was saved from destruction.
Born in War and Destroyed by fire, this must be the end of the MK297 Story? Well there are rumours that the remains have been purchased and so maybe like a Phoenix MK297 will arise from the ashes of it destruction (If any one knows more please use the email below).
Notes compiled by Douglas Holland and any errors are mine not Caz Caswell's
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These notes have been compiled by referencing, or more often cross referencing information from the following primary sources:
The original Notes from Caz, which form much the text.
Sons of Damien Website and in particular MK297 Page . and the series of pages on: The Battle of Britain Film
Canadian Warplane Heritage
No. 411 RCAF Squadron RAF - Wikipedia Entry
No. 66 Squadron RAF - Wikipedia Entry and No. 66 Squadron RAF History - MoD Website
No. 132 Squadron RAF History - MoD Website
322 Squadron RNAF, which started out as:
322 (Dutch) Squadron RAF History - MoD Website
322 (Dutch) Squadron RAF and brief paragraph on Royal Netherlands Air Force 322 Since 1945
322 (Dutch) Squadron RAF - Wikipedia Entry
This has useful links to Pages on the Royal Netherlands Air Force 322 Squadron in Dutch.
Confederate Air Force/Commemorative Air Force - Wikipedia Entry
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