Spitfire that downed Nazi aircraft to fetch £4.5M at auction

Spitfire that downed Nazi aircraft and starred in 1969 Hollywood epic ‘The Longest Day’ is set to fetch £4.5M at auction

  • The Spitfire is set to go under the hammer during an auction in Goodwood 
  • It has been hailed as one of the best preserved planes of its kind in the world  

An historic Spitfire that downed a German aircraft during the Second World War before starring in a string of hit Hollywood films in the 1960s is set to go under the hammer this weekend for a record £4.5million.

The 81-year-old warplane spent 40 years in a Texan barn before being shipped to Australia and then back to its homeland in Britain where it was lovingly restored – with the iconic fighter now set to be auctioned on Saturday.  

MH415, as the Spitfire’s tail number reads, has been brought back to its brilliant best with up to 95 cent of its original parts and will soon land in one lucky owner’s hanger when it goes under the hammer at Goodwood, near Chichester, West Sussex. 

Millionaires from across the globe are anticipated to try snap up the historic marvel – trumpeted as the rarest Spitfires of its kind with nearly all its original parts still intact – with auctioneers Bonhams expecting it to sell for between £3.5-£4.5million. 

Originally built in 1943 at Castle Bromwich, the aircraft was delivered to RAF Squadron 129, then stationed at Hornchurch in August that year. It would later participate in sweeps across the continent with RAF 222 (Natal) Squadron, before being retired in 1945 and ending up at De Havilland’s at Whitney, Oxfordshire. 

MH415 had a distinguished record during the Second World War when it was often involved in the thick of the action, shooting down a German Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane over France on September 24, 1943.

But the Spitfire would hit new heights when it played a starring role in the 1962 American epic ‘The Longest Day’ and The Battle of Britain in 1969. It would later wow crowds at airshows across the United States.

The historic Spitfire MH415 (pictured) that downed German aircraft during the Second World War before starring in a string of Hollywood hit films in the 1960s is set to sell for a record £4.5million

The warplane spent 40 years in a Texas barn before being shipped to Australia for restoration 

MH415 would play a starring role in the 1969 hit film ‘The Battle of Britain’, which featured Sir Michael Caine

The one-seater vintage aircraft is currently stored in a hangar at Sywell Aerodrome in Northamptonshire following a staggering 55,000 hours of meticulous restoration work, which began in 2020.

Experts say that MH415, a 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mark LF IXb, is among the most original Spitfires still capable of flying in the world.

This is because it has ‘continuous history’, meaning the vast majority of its structure can be traced back to its manufacture – with much of the plane as it was when it was in the skies over Europe fighting the Luftwaffe.

Spitfire guru Richard Grace, director of Ultimate Warbird Flights, has been part of the team looking after the fighter is one of the few pilots to have sat in cockpit and flown the plane.

Speaking to MailOnline ahead of the vintage plane’s sale, the 39-year-old father-of-two said there was a massive buzz around the auction of the Spitfire, which he touted as one of the rarest and most authentic versions left in existence. 

‘There are only about 50 Spitfires in the world that you can still fly – and only 40 of them are what I call “turn key” which you could actually get into this afternoon and fly in,’ the vintage plane engineer said. 

‘Then you get to aeroplanes that are actually originals like this one and you’re talking about 20 in the world. But to have one that is this original, which has combat experience and served in the European theatre and survived – then you’re then talking about maybe 10. It’s really very, very rare.’ 

MH415’s interior is still the original Second World War specification, including the pilot seat and vintage rearview mirror.

Pictured is the Spitfire which is based at Sywell Aerodrome in Northamptonshire which is due to go under the hammer on Saturday in Goodwood, West Sussex 

MH415, as the Spitfire’s tail number reads, has been brought back to its brilliant best with up to 95 cent of its original parts making it ready to dominate the skies once again

Planes of a similar age are often fitted with newer parts after being damaged in the war or suffering ageing. The only parts that have been replaced are four of the plane’s wing spars.

After surviving the war, it went on to star in 1961’s The Longest Day and in ‘The Battle of Britain’, starring Sir Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. MH145 was later given to stunt pilot ‘Connie’ Edwards in lieu of payment for his 125 hours in mock dogfights in the 1969 classic.

He shipped it back to his ranch in Texas, taking to the skies only a handful of times before it was stored in his ‘dry and dusty’ barn laying dormant for 37 years – which Mr Grace said helped to keep the Spitfire in a ‘miraculous’ condition, preventing it from degrading. Edwards sold the plane in 2015 and sent it to Australia.

News of the iconic fighter’s latest sale has sparked ‘worldwide interest’, added Mr Grace,  with its auction having created a furious ‘buzz’ among wealthy aviation geeks and elite collectors. 

Forget it’s an airworthy Spitfire,’ said Mr Grace. ‘With this Spitfire its almost not relevant. It’s such a time capsule piece of history. If someone wants a piece of history that incidentally you can fly around in, this is it.

‘It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if it sells for over £4.5million. It’s just that good.’

The Spitfire is due to fly the short 20-minute trip from Seywell to Goodwood – about 100 miles by air – on Thursday before it goes under the hammer on Saturday afternoon.

Auctioneers Bonhams hailed the plane a ‘truly exceptional example, understood to be composed of over 95 per cent original parts’. 

‘MH415 stayed fully assembled, other than for shipping and maintenance, from its date of manufacture right through to the commencement of its restoration in 2015  and completed to airworthiness in 2021. 

‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own an airworthy Spitfire with documented WW2 combat history, and an incredible level of originality.’

The seller added: ‘On the 24th September 1943, MH415 claimed a FW-190 “victory” north-west of Amiens in France whilst being flown by F/O Desmond F. Ruchwaldy.

‘During “Ramrod 242”, it was a mission to escort 12 Mitchell bombers detailed to attack the Amiens Marshalling Yards.

‘During 1968 the aircraft starred in one of the most famous movies of all time, “The Battle of Britain”, released September 1969.’

The Spitfire entered service in 1938 as the first all-metal monoplane and the fastest aircraft in the RAF. It was able to reach 350mph when first produced, but models could fly well over 400mph, thanks to their powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and the four-bladed propeller that helped generate extra thrust.

MH415’s auction begins at 1.30pm. For details, see Bonham’s website.  

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