The Shuttleworth Collection’s Supermarine Spitfire LFVc, AR501/G-AWII, flew for the first time since 2005 at Old Warden on 20 March in the hands of Stu Goldspink, following a rebuild that lasted more than 10 years. A second, longer, test flight was carried out the following morning. The fighter’s debut show appearance is scheduled for the collection’s Season Premiere and RAF 100 airshow on 6 May.
The complete rebuild of both airframe and Rolls-Royce Merlin engine was carried out by Shuttleworth’s full-time engineering team and skilled volunteers. Chief engineer Jean-Michel Munn said, “This is a very original aircraft, and one that served in combat during the Second World War. It’s a privilege for the collection to be able to return it to airworthy status and have it back flying for visitors to experience.”
The fighter has been painted in the markings it wore while serving with No 312 (Czech) Squadron, based at Ibsley near Ringwood, Hampshire, from December 1943-February 1944. It had previously been operated by another Czech unit, No 310 Squadron, being delivered to Exeter on 19 July 1942 and allocated to Sqn Ldr František Doležal. who had become the unit’s CO the previous April. Having joined the Czech Air Force in 1937, Doležal made his way to France after Czechoslovakia was Shuttleworth Spitfire flies Spitfire Vc AR501 airborne for the first time in 12 years at Old Warden on 20 March, in the hands of Stu Goldspink.
It has again been put into clipped-wing configuration, as per this aeroplane’s late-war service. DARREN HARBAR invaded by the Germans on 15 March 1939 and signed up with the Armée de l’Air. Flying a Morane-Saulnier MS406, during June he shot down a Heinkel He 111, and shared the kills of a Dornier Do 17 and Henschel Hs 126. Following the French capitulation on 22 June, Doležal escaped to the UK via Casablanca and Gibraltar. Commissioned into the RAF at the start of August 1940, he flew Spitfire Is with No 19 Squadron from Duxford’s satellite airfield at Fowlmere; during September he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and two Heinkel He 111s, and bagged two ‘probable’ Bf 109s.
During January 1941 Doležal went to No 310 Squadron at Duxford, flying Hurricanes, the unit re-equipping with Spitfire Vs in November 1941.
”At least once during its bomber escort career with No 310 Squadron, AR501 accompanied B-17F Memphis Belle”
While based at Exeter, 310 operated on fighter sweeps and bomber escort missions, with Doležal — in, it is thought, another Spitfire — claiming a ‘probable’ Dornier Do 217 and damaging a Focke- Wulf Fw 190 over Dieppe on 19 August 1942 during the ill-fated raid on the port.
At least once during its bomber escort career with 310, AR501 accompanied B-17F Flying Fortress Memphis Belle (see page 14).
On 15 March 1943, AR501, while parked at a dispersal 200 yards from the Exeter runway, was damaged when a Mosquito NFII making an emergency landing swung off the strip and collided with it. Following repairs by Westland at Yeovil — where the machine had originally been built — AR501 went to No 312 Squadron. On 10 November, while escorting four Westland Whirlwinds on an anti-shipping strike to St Peter Port, Guernsey, Fg Off Vojtech Smolik strafed a German flak ship from a range of 500 yards down to 100 yards in AR501. The final combat mission for this now long-inthe- tooth MkV came on 29 January 1944, when AR501 formed part of the escort for 36 Martin B-26 Marauders to a target south-east of Dieppe.
Post-war, AR501 was allocated to Loughborough College as an instructional airframe and delivered there by air on 21 March 1946. During 1961 it went to the Shuttleworth Collection, and in November 1967 to Henlow for restoration to fly for the film Battle of Britain. A second rebuild to airworthiness began at Duxford in 1973, the machine taking to the air again on 28 June 1975 with Neil Williams at the controls. At that time it was painted in No 310 Squadron markings and the codes NN-D. These were later changed to NN-A.
Stu Goldspink will be giving a pilot chat next to AR501 at 11.00hrs during the Season Premiere show at Old Warden on Sunday 6 May.