|Supermarine Spitfire - Photo Chris Lord|
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War and on into the 1950s as a front line fighter and in secondary roles. It was produced in greater numbers than any other Allied fighter design and was the only Allied fighter in production throughout the war.
Many developing countries purchased Spitfires as the industrial countries phased out propeller powered aircraft in favour of the new jet engines. As these nations too started to update their air squadrons Spitfires and other Second World War vintage aircraft were sold to the public or for scrap. In Hong Kong the Spitfires that remained there on active duty with the UK colonial wings were bulldozed into the sea when the runway was lengthened by reclaiming land from the water.
Soon the private collectors began to band together in a group of like minded individuals that became known as the Warbird Movement. Warbird companies began to spring up as hobbies and for profit companies that focused on preserving vintage aircraft. Warbird companies are often bankrolled by the film industries need for authentic craft in Second World War movies. One of these aircraft, Spitfire Mk IX, MH434, is probably the most famous Spitfire survivor with many film credits to its name. MH434 not only had a lengthy Second World War record with the RAF but saw service in the Royal Netherlands Air Force (1947) and Belgian Air Force. She was brought back to the UK in 1956 by private owners and has since starred in a number of films including The Longest Day (1962), The Battle of Britain (1969) and A Bridge Too Far (1977).
Some 22,500 Spitfires and Seafires were built between 1938 and 1946 and almost 300 of them survive in museums and private collections around the world today. Approximately 50 Spitfires and Seafires are airworthy with another 20 currently undergoing restoration to flying condition.