Checketts’ R-R Merlin arrives in NZ

On 22 February the Rolls- Royce Merlin engine from Spitfire IX b EN572, in which New Zealand ace Wg Cdr Johnny Checketts was shot down on 6 September 1943, arrived at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand at Wigram, Christchurch. The power plant was recovered from a depth of 11ft in a field near Sergueux, northern France, during March 2015 by the French aviation group Somme Aviation 39-45. The Merlin will go on display in the main AFMNZ aircraft hall during March.

Checketts was shot down by a group of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s while escorting Martin B-26 Marauders. He suffered serious burns before bailing out and being hidden by a French family while his wounds were treated. With help from the French Resistance, Checketts evaded capture for nearly two months and safely made it back to England by fishing boat on 21 October 1943. He went on to command No 1 Squadron on Hawker Typhoons, finishing the war with 14.5 kills, three probables and 11 damaged. Checketts died in Christchurch on 21 April 2006 at the age of 94, having served as a volunteer guide at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand for several years.

This Merlin is in good shape considering it drilled itself 11ft down in to a field in France in September 1943.