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. ”
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’.
Please consult the Safety Standards Acknowledgement and Consent (SSAC) document available on flying in ex-military aircraft, download here.