A huge thanks to The Old Flying Machine Company and in particular Laura Bonhomme and engineer Joe Kennedy for a wonderful morning at Duxford’s Hangar 3. The family had a memorable morning getting up close and personal with one of the world’s most famous Spitfire’s – the stunning MK.IX MH434 [G-ASJV]. Laura helped to entertain the children whilst Joe was fantastic in talking through some of the mechanics, technical details and answering any questions.
MH434 is perhaps the most famous Spitfire flying today, having a rich service history before becoming a film star and who today continues to thrill audiences with her public displays.
Joined by Ady Shaw, founder of the Spitfire Britain’s National Treasure Facebook Group, it was an enormous privilege to be able to spend some time up close and to sit in the cockpit of such an iconic machine.
A memorable morning and grateful to Laura and the OFMC Team for their welcome, hospitality and professionalism as always.
Air tested by Alex Henshall in August 1943, MH434 was later that month serving with 222 squadron and became the personal aircraft of Flt Lt Henry Lardner-Burke (DFC) who shot down two Focke-Wulf FW-190’s and damaged another over France, along with sharing a BF-109. MH434 briefly moved to 350 Sqn before returning to 222, and ended her Operational RAF service with 349 Sqn. Retired from Operations in 1945 she had flown around 80 sorties and achieved 5 combat victories.
Post service MH434 was transferred 76 MU at Cosford for storage before her planned disposal in 1946. She was subsequently purchased by the Royal Netherland Airforce in 1947 and became H-105, then H-68 in 1948 – both with 322 Squadron. Put up for sale in 1953 MH434 was then sold to the Belgium Air Force and became SM-41 serving at Brustem before being put up for sale again a couple of years later.
In June 1963 MH434 returned to the UK under the ownership of Tim Davies and became G-ASJV before her role as film star began, starting with Operation Crossbow in 1965. In 1967 she was purchased by Spitfire Productions Ltd for her famous role in the epic Battle of Britain film (1969), and she made several other film and television appearances, including ‘A Bridge Too Far’ whilst under the ownership of Sir Adrian Swire.
During April 1983 MH434 was acquired by Ray Hanna and became one of the OFMC’s first operational aircraft, bearing authentic 222 Sqn codes ZD-B. This was the start of a special relationship between Ray Hanna & MH434, who thrilled audiences for years at her controls for TV, film and air displays until he sadly passed away in late 2005. His daughter Sarah has continued the legacy, now at the helm of the OFMC and MH434 continues to thrill the public with her aerial displays – long may it continue!