When Nuneaton based Air Cadets visited RAF Cosford for flying, they got more than they had been expecting when the airfield was buzzed by a Spitfire.
The cadets from 121 ( Nuneaton ) Squadron were at RAF Cosford for a flight with No. 8 Air Experience Flight (AEF), in one of the RAF's Tutor trainers when the iconic wartime fighter swooped low over the airfield.
Much to the delight of the cadets the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) Spitfire made repeated high speed runs and performed a display of aerobatics which included the famous victory role. The unforgettable sound of its Rolls-Royce Merlin engine filled the air as it roared past the young flyers.
The BBMF Spitfire MK356 which was originally built at Castle Bromwich flew its first operational mission with 443 ‘Hornet' Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force as part of a ‘Rodeo' fighter sweep over occupied France in 1944. She then went on to take part in operations in support of the D-Day landings. Mk356 flew 60 operational sorties, was damaged by enemy fire on three occasions and suffered three ‘wheels-up' landings. On D-Day+1 (7 June 1944) during a beachhead cover patrol, MK356's pilot, ‘Gord' Ockenden engaged four ME Bf 109Gs “on the deck”. He fired at one of the ‘109's and saw his rounds hitting the enemy aircraft. His wingman finished it off and each pilot was credited with a half share of the kill. On 14 June 1944 the aircraft's third ‘wheels-up' landing of the war ended its short but intense operational life.
After the war, MK356 was used as an instructional airframe at RAF Halton until 1951, and then for the next 17 years she was a ‘gate guardian' at Hawkinge, Bicester, Locking and Henlow. MK356 featured as a static airframe in the epic film “Battle of Britain” in 1968 and then joined the RAF Museum Reserve Collection. In January 1992 a complete restoration to airworthy status was begun by a team from St Athan. The refurbishment was completed in November 1997 when the aircraft flew again for the first time in 53 years, subsequently joining the BBMF.
Spitfire MK356 current livery is that of ‘UF-Q' of 601 ( County of London ) Squadron, AuxAF. Unusually, this aircraft was finished in a silver, natural metal finish.
Flt Lt Paul Hincks Officer Commanding 121 ( Nuneaton ) Squadron said, “Our young flyers definitely got more than they were expecting today when the spitfire dropped in on us. Having a flight in an RAF Tutor and seeing the magnificent display by the BBMF Spitfire in the same day. What more could you want.”