Rolled out from the Chattis Hill shadow factory in Hampshire on 22nd October, 1943 RM694 was built to contract No. 1877/c.23/(c) Req1/E11/43 from a build of 406 Spitfire XIV/XIX to batch No. RM670-713. Fitted with a Griffin 65 engine and a (C) type wing it flew to RAF Lyneham in July, 1944 for armament, radio etc to be fitted. Bearing the serial number 6S/432268 the aircraft was delivered to No. 91 (Nigeria) Squadron on the 18th July, 1944 which was then based at the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) of Deanland in Sussex.
Flying over 30 V1 interception missions, on Monday 7th August 1944 RM694 at 06.01hrs and flown by Flying Officer A R Elcock, shot down a VI Doodlebug. Watching it crash near Etchingham, Flg/Off Elcock reported:
“Owing to half light I was uncertain of my position when first sighted Diver. Attack was made from 150yds astern and Diver fell in open countryside ten miles north-north east of Etchingham with jet unit still functioning”. Shortly after this RM694 was transferred to No. 402 (Winnipeg Bear) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force based at RAF Hawkinge near Folkestone. From her it flew numerous bomber escort missions.
With the advance of the allies on the Continent the squadron was relocated to B.70/Deurne near Antwerp, Belgium on 30th September 1944. Flown by the CO of 402, Squadron Leader W G Dodd shortly after arrival, the Spitfire suffered an engine failure and was forced to land 1.5 miles north of Koksijde where it sustained Category.B damage (beyond repair on site but repairable at a maintenance unit or contractors works). RM694 was sent to an Air Service Training Ltd for repair, these being completed by 21st April1945.
It did not return to the squadron but was sent to No. 6 MU at RAF Brize Norton on 13th May 1945. Six months later the aircraft was allocated to the Central Fighter Establishment based at RAF West Raynham remaining with them till November 1948 when as the result of an accident, RM694 was grounded. It now began a new life as a ground instructional airframe at RAF Locking in Somerset in February 1949 where it bore the serial number 6640M. Used by No. 5 School of Technical Training, this was a brief sojourn before it arrived at RAF Hornchurch in May 1950 and was placed outside the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre as a guardian. It remained exposed to the elements for 15 years until the station closed in 1963 when it was ‘Struck off Charge’ and sent to RAF Dishforth for disposal.
The Spitfire now began a life of constant owners beginning with A H ‘Bunny’ Brooks, a garage owner who purchased the aircraft for £250! By agreement the wings were dismantled and were used to return a Belgian Spitfire, NH904, to display condition. In a further disposal the fuselage was sold to J D Kay of Manchester Tankers Ltd in 1966. At this time consideration was given to using 694 in the Battle of Britain film by Simpsons Aero Services at Elstree but upon inspection the airframe was rejected and returned to RAF Henlow until returned to Charnock Richards in March 1968.
Acquired by A W Francis in January 1969 the aircraft was moved to Southend Airport and placed in open storage before being passed through several owners, the first of which was Bill Francis. He sold 694 to John Lowe and Larry Mat of Chicago and the aircraft began a new life in the United States. In 1985 it was returned to the UK and into the hands of Doug Arnold and his Warbirds company. Sold four years later to an American, Don L Knapp in Florida it was later purchased by another American, Vern Schuppen also living in Florida. It was stored here for many years before once again returning to the UK and into storage at High Wycombe. In early 2021 the aircraft was transported to the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar and into the hands of the Spitfire Company (Biggin Hill) Ltd for a full restoration back to flight.
RM694 has a remarkably complete fuselage with all the original cockpit controls and systems still in place and untouched. This is, without doubt, one of the most original fuselages left to be restored. With this in mind it is intended for this historically significant Spitfire to remain at Biggin Hill.
See the aircraft first hand on one of our Spitfire Hangar Tours, due to recommence 2021
Robin J Brooks – PR Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar