MH434 History

The most famous military aircraft of all time and perhaps the most famous of all Spitfires still flying today, MH434 was built in 1943 at Vickers, Castle Bromwich. This Spitfire is remarkably original, having never been subject to a re-build. An absolute delight to fly, the aircraft is beautifully responsive and extremely manoeuvrable.

For its inaugural flight at the beginning of August 1943, MH434 was air tested by the legendary Alex Henshaw - a record breaking pilot from pre-war days (we highly recommend Alex Henshaw's book "Sigh for a Merlin") and Chief Test Pilot for Supermarine at Castle Bromwich.

Within the same month MH434 was scoring with 222 Squadron. It was first allocated to South African pilot Flt Lt Henry Lardner-Burke, DFC (1916-1970, seven and a half kills, three damaged, retiring as a Wing Commander). On the 27 August in the St Omar area over France, Lardner-Burke, in ‘434, shot down a Focke-Wulf FW-190 and damaged a second during a mission to escort USAAF B-17 bombers. On the 5 September 1943 they again shot down another FW-190 in the Nieuport area, and on the 8 September 1943 claimed a half share in the downing of a Messerschmitt Bf-109G in Northern France.

In 1944 MH434 was transferred to 350 Sqn. Hornchurch, before being returned to 222 Sqn. Lardner Burke had by now been posted on, and the aircraft was next assigned to Flt Sgt Alfred ‘Bill’ Burge. He flew another 12 operational sorties in the aircraft before the Squadron’s existing Mk IXs were exchanged for a modified variant that could carry rockets. After over 80 operational sorties, MH434 was stood down in March 1945.

Post war however, MH434's guns were loaded again when bought by the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1947. The Spitfire served with 322 Sqn. As H-105 - mainly ground strafing and light bombing missions - before crash-landing in Semarang, Java. After spending some time in storage, MH434 was repaired and flew again in Holland on the 10 March 1953.

The Belgian Air Force became the next owner of this Spitfire, and as SM-41 she served at the Advanced Pilot School at Koksijde and with 13 Wing at Brustem.

On the 26 March 1956 MH434 was put up for sale and bought and brought back to Britain by airline pilot Tim Davies. As G-ASJV the Spitfire was moved to Stansted then Elstree for a full overhaul. The aircraft was flown purely for pleasure and took part in it's first movie role, Operation Crossbow.

November 1967 saw MH434 join the motion picture airforce of Spitfire Productions Ltd. Set up by Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie for the film 'Battle of Britain'. At the end of the movie in 1968 MH434 was sold again. The new owner, Sir Adrian Swire, Chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways, had the Spitfire painted in 1944 camouflage colour scheme with his initials AC-S, as squadron codes. There were several film and television appearances during this period, including 'A Bridge Too Far.'

In April 1983 MH434 was sold at auction to it's most illustrious owner, Ray Hanna (Nalfire Aviation Ltd) and became one of OFMC's founding aircraft. The first major rebuild took place in the winter of 1994-95. MH434 has become a regular movie co-star and airshow performer and when not in make up for a role is flown in the authentic 222 Sqn. Codes ZD-B. One of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, the Spitfire is perhaps chiefly remembered as the symbol of the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire was developed by Supermarine's brilliant chief designer, R.J. Mitchell, and was the only British type in continuous construction throughout World War II. The RAF's first Spitfires were delivered to No 19 Squadron at Duxford in 1938 and by July 1940, on the eve of the Battle of Britain, nineteen RAF squadrons were equipped with the new fighter. During WWII, thanks to constant improvements and modifications, the Spitfire was never outclassed as a short-ranged piston-engined interceptor apart from a brief period in 1941-1942, when it first encountered the Focke-Wulf FW-190. When production finally ceased in 1949, more than 22,000 Spitfires and Seafires (the naval version of the Spitfire) had been built in some forty different variants.

 Film Credits

MH434 has starred in several productions for film and television including:-