#1556 Spitfire LF.IXe MK356

Spitfire LF.IXe MK356
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£10.00 €11.67 $12.66
43.8 cm x 29.2 cm
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Spitfire LF.IXe
MK356 'QJ-3'
BBMF; 92 Sqn
RAF Coningsby
UK - Air Force
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Squadron Prints Lithograph No. 1556 - MK356 'QJ-3', Spitfire LF.IXe, 92 Squadron, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Spitfire MK356 was built at Castle Bromwich in early 1944 as a Mk L.F. IXe, fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 engine. It was allocated to the newly formed No 443 Hornet Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) which, with two other RCAF Spitfire squadrons, became part of 144 Wing, led by Wing Commander (later AVM) ‘Johnny’ Johnson, the RAF’s highest scoring fighter ace. MK356 flew 60 operational sorties in the lead-up to D-Day, including ground attack and dive-bombing missions, in support of the invasion and during the 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 until 1951 it was used as an instructional airframe, after which it stood outside as a ‘gate guardian’ for 17 years at various locations. MK356 featured as a static airframe in the epic film ‘Battle of Britain’ and then joined the RAF Museum Reserve Collection. Restoration to airworthy status by a team at St Athan began in 1992; the lengthy refurbishment was completed in November 1997 when the aircraft flew again for the first time in 53 years, subsequently joining the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

MK356 is now painted to represent Spitfire Mk IXC EN152 ‘QJ-3’ of No 92 Squadron in Tunisia in 1943. In its desert camouflage scheme, MK356 commemorates the hard-fought and ultimately successful war in the North African desert, and honours the heroic pilots and stoic ground crews of the Desert Air Force. It also allows us to remember one particular much-respected RAF fighter ace who actually flew the original EN152 ‘QJ-3’. Squadron Leader Neville Duke DSO OBE DFC and two Bars was officially the highest scoring Allied fighter ace of the Mediterranean theatre of war with a final tally of 26 plus 3 shared enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed, 3 ‘probables’ and 6 damaged, all by the age of 22! Neville Duke died in April 2006, aged 85.

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