# 1179 Spitfire LF.IXe, 601 Sqn, BBMF
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Squadron Prints Lithograph No.1179, Spitfire LF.IXe, 601 Squadron, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, RAF Coningsby.
Originally formed at Biggin Hill in July 1957, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is now based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire with a fleet of two Hurricanes, six Spitfires, a Lancaster and a Dakota. The Flights mission is to fly, display and maintain a priceless collection of Historic Royal Air Force aircraft in order to serve as a living memorial to all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and to represent the RAF both in the United Kingdom and Overseas.
MK356 was built in Castle Bromwich in early 1944 and allocated to the newly formed No 443 Hornet Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at RAF Digby. The Squadron moved to Holmsley, near Bournemouth, and with two other RCAF squadrons, became part of 144 Wing, led by Wing Commander (Later AVM) 'Johnny' Johnson who became the RAFs highest scoring fighter ace. 'MK' flew a total of 60 operational sorties in the lead-up to D-Day and supported the landings and fierce fighting in Normandy which followed. In two short months of fighting, MK356 was damaged by enemy fire on three occasions, and after its third wheels-up landing, its short but intensive war was brought to an end. From 1945 it was used as an instructional airframe at Halton until 1951, after which it stood as a gate guard for 17 years at various locations. Restoration to airworthy status began in 1992; the lengthy refurbishment was completed in November 1997 and the aircraft flew again for the first time in 53 years, subsequently joining the BBMF at Coningsby.
MK356 is painted to represent Spitfire Mk IX MJ250 'UF-Q' of 601 (County of London) Squadron Auxiliary Air Force during the Italian campaign of 1944/45. Unusually, this aircraft was finished in an all-silver, natural-metal finish; the other aircraft of the Squadron wore the normal European theatre grey/green camouflage. MJ250 was built by Vickers Armstrong in 1943, fitted with a Rolls Royce Merlin 66 engine. It was shipped out to Italy in the SS Fort George. MJ250 was flown by 601 Squadron from July 1944, whilst the unit was operating from Perugia, Loreto and Fano. The aircraft flew numerous operational sorties, most of them air-to-ground bombing missions. 601 Squadron operated in Italy as part of 244 Wing, flying missions in support of the Allied armies as they advanced the length of Italy, frequently moving airfields and living under canvas. One of the pilots who flew MJ250 was Flt Lt Desmond 'Ibby' Ibbotson DFC and Bar. By this stage of the war 'Ibby' had accrued 1,000 flying hours and had destroyed at least 11 enemy aircraft (plus 4 'probables' and 5 damaged). He had been awarded the DFC twice and was now a Flight Commander on 601 Squadron. Sadly, 'Ibby' Ibbotson was killed in November 1944, one month after his 23rd birthday, when he crashed whilst conducting an air test in clipped wing Spitfire IX MH614, during a break from operational flying. MJ250 survived the war and was scrapped.