#1551 Spitfire XVI TE311

Spitfire XVI TE311
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£10.00 €11.71 $12.48
43.8 cm x 29.2 cm
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Spitfire XVI
TE311 'SZ-G'
BBMF; 131 Wg
RAF Coningsby
UK - Air Force
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Squadron Prints Lithpgraph No. 1551 - TE311 'SZ-G', SPitfire Mk XVI, 131 (Polish) Wing, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Spitfire TE311 was built at Castle Bromwich in 1945 as a low-back, clipped-wing Mk L.F. XVIe, fitted with a Packard Merlin 266 engine. It was delivered to the RAF on 8th June 1945, exactly one month after VE Day. TE311 spent much of its life in storage and actually flew a total of only around 30 hours before it was permanently grounded in December 1954. From 1955 to 1967 it was a ‘gate guardian’ at RAF Tangmere; then in 1968 it was used in ground sequences for the film ‘Battle of Britain’. Subsequently, it was allocated to the RAF Exhibition Flight and from 1968 to 1999 TE311 was displayed as a static exhibit at numerous air shows. In January 2000 the Spitfire was delivered to RAF Coningsby and allocated to the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) to be broken up, used for spare parts and struck off charge. The BBMF decided that the aircraft merited a re-build to flying condition. This began in October 2001, with a small team of BBMF engineers initially working on the aircraft in their own time, until formal approval from the Ministry of Defence placed TE311 officially on the strength of the Flight. After a painstaking re-build lasting 11 years, TE311 took to the air again, for the first time in 58 years, on 19th October 2012.

TE311 is now painted to represent Spitfire Mk XVI TD240 ‘SZ-G’, the personal aircraft of the Commanding Officer of No 131 (Polish) Wing, Group Captain Aleksander Gabszewicz VM KW DSO DFC, from April 1945 to mid-June 1945. Gabszewicz had his personal emblem of a boxing dog painted on the port engine cowling, along with the Polish red and white chequer board flag, and his Group Captain’s pennant under the port windscreen. He could have used his own initials for his aircraft code letters, as many Wing Leaders did, but it seems he had retained an affection for 316 Squadron, which he had previously commanded, and he chose to use the Squadron’s code letters ‘SZ’ with the individual letter ‘G’. In these colours, TE311 commemorates the dangerous ground attack operations carried out by Spitfire pilots during the closing stages of the war, and recognises the part played by the Polish Air Force whose courageous pilots fought valiantly to free Europe and their own country from tyranny. Aleksander Gabszewicz died in October 1983, aged 71.