Spitfire star of classic The Battle of Britain film on sale for £4.5m

·4-min read
The vintage spitfire starred in the classic movies, The Battle of Britain and The Longest Day - Triangle News/The Aircraft Sales Company/Claire Hartley
The vintage spitfire starred in the classic movies, The Battle of Britain and The Longest Day - Triangle News/The Aircraft Sales Company/Claire Hartley

A vintage Spitfire that fought in the Second World War and starred in the classic film The Battle of Britain is on sale for a record £4.5 million.

The plane has an extraordinarily high number of original components, a “continuous history” and remains airworthy, all of which contribute to its high value.

Some 82 years after they played a key role in its finest hour, up to 70 Spitfires are still airworthy and able to grace the skies above Britain. Few, however, can claim to be as complete and original as the 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mark LF IXb – MH415.

The Aircraft Sales Company, which is selling MH415 having restored the plane, claims that 90 per cent of its components were those originally fitted at the factory in Castle Bromwich, Solihull, in 1943.

That includes the interior of the cockpit, which is still in its Second World War specification, including the pilot seat, throttle, control column as well as the gunsight and trigger.

A clip from The Battle of Britain, which starred the Spitfire now on sale for £4.5m
A clip from The Battle of Britain, which starred the Spitfire now on sale for £4.5m

Most surviving Spitfires have undergone multiple restorations, often using cannibalised or new parts to replace those damaged during combat or lost from ageing.

Many “new” Spitfires are recovered wrecks with barely any remaining parts that are heavily restored and assume the identity of the crashed aircraft.

The parts of the MH415, however, can almost all be traced back to Castle Bromwich and August 1943.

Four wing spars, which were usually replaced during regular maintenance, are the only major part not to be original.

MH415’s combination of traceable original parts, confirmed combat history and post-war fame all combined to give it its unique value, said Andrew Durston of the Aircraft Sales Company.

“This is the real deal and has endured all the way through,” he told The Telegraph, “it is extremely rare.

“To actually sit in a piece of history that is that significant, it really is quite emotional, actually. With all your senses, you can just feel the aura that's come with it.”

Of the 70 or so flying Spitfires, perhaps only two others compare to MH415, he said. Its sister aircraft, MH434 and the Silver Spitfire, which recently circumnavigated the globe.

The value of vintage aircraft has surged in recent years, with investors drawn away from the oversaturated classic car market. According to those in the industry, prices have doubled since 2016.

The value of MH415 alone has increased by £700,000 since 2021.

Although it would be a record price, £4.5 million could still prove a snip for MH415. Mr Durston said that he was “99.9 per cent sure” that the engine currently in the Spitfire is the same one installed at the Castle Bromwich factory in 1943.

He does not, however, have the original factory documents, complete with serial numbers, to definitely prove it. Were they to emerge at some point, they might add another several hundred thousand pounds to the value of the aircraft.

Not only is the aircraft in excellent, flightworthy condition, but it also has a significant combat record.

In August and September, it was flown on 27 missions by Sqn Ldr Henri Gonay, a Belgian who had evacuated to England after the Fall of France and died nine months later, shortly after D-Day.

Squadran Leader Henri Gonay flew the Spitfire on 27 missions during the war
Squadran Leader Henri Gonay flew the Spitfire on 27 missions during the war

On 24 September 1943, while being piloted by F/O Desmond F. Ruchwaldy, MH415 claimed an Fw-190 destroyed north-west of Amiens while on a bomber escort mission, a role it continued in for much of 1944.

After the war, MH145 served in Java, then in the Dutch East Indies, before returning to Europe and starring in the hit 1960s films The Longest Day and The Battle of Britain.

Its pilot during the later film, an American called Connie Edwards, took the aircraft as part payment for the role, taking it to Texas, where it spent most of its time in storage.

Eventually, it was shipped to Australia in 2015 and restored to airworthiness. It then returned to the UK in 2020 to complete the restoration.

It is currently in an aircraft hangar in Northamptonshire.

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