1943 Spitfire T.9 – MJ627
MJ627 was built at Castle Bromwich in 1943 as an LF MK IXc and entered service with 441 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) serving with the RAF. MJ627’s first operational sortie was flown on 25th September 1944 from advanced landing ground B70 in Belgium. In service, MJ627 carried the Squadron code letters of ‘9G’ and was painted with invasion stripes as it is flown today. On 27th September 1944, only two days after entering service, MJ627 destroyed a Messerschmitt Me 109 over Arnhem whilst flown by P/O Sidney Bregman.
Sid Bregman’s personal account of the ‘kill’ is produced below:
“On September 27, 1944, we were patrolling the area around Arnhem, at about two in the afternoon, as a squadron. We all had special long-range tanks on the underside of our aircraft, which gave us some additional range, because we were stationed at Antwerp at the time. Normal range was 80 to 90 minutes at the most. Those tanks gave us an extra hour.
In any case, while we were patrolling over Arnhem, my engine stopped. Obviously the tank had fallen off, so I switched immediately. That particular manoeuvre put me in a position somewhat astern of the rest of the squadron, although my wingman was still with me.
As I looked over my shoulder, lo and behold, there was an Me 109 alone, with me now very manoeuvrable because I didn’t have that tank. It took about two or three seconds for me to get in line, and another second or two after that I hit the 109.
That was the end of it – it only took 11 shells altogether. Just a quick burst and it went down immediately. Because I’d lost the tank, I got permission from the squadron leader to head back to Antwerp. My kill was confirmed later by Don Kimball. Apparently, the 109 crashed into the Rhine at Arnhem. We had done a lot of air-to-ground, but that was my first German aircraft. ”
Beyond its kill, MJ627 has a well-documented wartime history with numerous ground attack, bomber escort and patrol missions being recorded as well as gun camera footage of aerial combat.
In December 1944, 441 Squadron was posted to the Orkneys and on 9th March 1945, MJ627 was involved in an off airfield forced landing following engine problems. The accident was classified as ‘beyond repair on site’ being subsequently transported to Hamble, where work was completed in 1946. Following repair, MJ627 was placed in storage with a total of 245.05 airframe hours.
After the war
In July 1950, MJ627 was sold to Vickers Armstrong Ltd and converted to two seat MK IX(T) configuration against an order from the Irish Air Corps (IAC). Now designated ‘158’, the aircraft was delivered to the IAC on 5th June 1951, serving with ‘A’ Flight Fighter Squadron. In April 1960, ‘158’ was withdrawn from service with a total of 1002 flying hours and offered for tender in an ‘as is’ condition. MJ627 then passed through various ownerships until being purchased by Mr Maurice Bayliss in 1976. MJ627 then underwent an extended restoration, with the first post restoration flight taking place at Coventry Airport in November 1993, exactly 50 years after its first flight from Castle Bromwich less than 20 miles away.
MJ627 remained in the Bayliss Family ownership until 2014, when it was sold to Richard Verrall. Ownership was subsequently transferred to Warbird Experiences Limited at Biggin Hill, where it operates today.
Over 70 years and 1500 flying hours after being built, Spitfire MJ627 continues to grace the skies of southern England in memory of the ‘Few’.
- Built at Castle Bromwich, autumn of 1943
- First flown on November 27 1943
- Stored at 9 MU, Cosford until the spring of 1944. On March 13, MJ627 arrived at General Aircraft for further checks which were almost certainly conducted at Hanworth, Middlesex
- Entered service with number 441(Silver Fox) Sqn, Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on September 25, 1944 and served with the RAF from Advanced Landing Ground B70 located in Belgium. She was given the codes ‘9G-Q’
- On September 27, 1944 Pilot Officer Bregman took off in MJ627 to patrol the Arnhem area and was credited with the downing of a Bf109. The combat film of his victory still survives.
- Remaining with 441 Sqn, MJ627 was kept busy during the latter part of 1944 and the following sorties were recorded:
- November 6 – Flying Officer F.E.Manette was tasked to cover 216 Lancaster Bomber aircraft that were targeting Gelsenkirchen.
- November 10 – Flight Lieutenant Smith flew an ‘op’ to Minoru, escorting Dakotas to Paris.
- November 27 – Flying Officer B.M. Mackenzie gave top cover for Lancasters to Cologne.
- November 29 – Flying Officer Bregman flew as a withdrawal escort for 270 Lancasters
- December 8 – Flying Officer Bregman escorted 220 Lancasters to the Heinbach Dam with the Squadron then landing at Brussels as the weather had closed in at home base.
- December 27, 1944 441 Sqn. moved to Skeabrae, Orkney Islands, Scotland for defence of the Naval Fleet. March 9, 1945, following a routine patrol, MJ627 experienced engine problems that resulted in a forced-landing
- On September 11, 1945, MJ627 was repaired at Air Service Training, Hamble
- MJ was sold to Vickers Armstrong Ltd on July 19, 1950 for conversion to a T9 Trainer
- MJ627 was sold to the Irish Air Corps, given the markings IAC 158 and delivered to Baldonnel, near Dublin on June 5, 1951, staying until withdrawal on April 20, 1960
- In 1989 MJ627 was moved to Coventry, Warks, for assembly at Dollar Air Services and had its first engine runs in 1992
- First post-restoration flight: November 8 1993 – timed to coincide with its original first flight 50 years previously at Castle Bromwich. In view of MJ627’s operational history it was finished in number 441 Sqn colours, and coded 9G-Q with invasion stripes