Last year, as is now fairly common knowledge, we purchased a third Supermarine Spitfire - a Mark XIV. Well, in truth, we only purchased the earthly remains of a Spit - the corroded bones, torn skin and saintly relics of a former Royal Thai Air Force Spitfire. But one thing of great value and holy importance lay amidst the pile of junk that was once the most beautiful of airplanes - a Canadian pedigree. With these two embedded at the heart of our rebuild, we will, layer upon layer, build a pearl - a combat veteran with a powerful Canadian story to tell future generations. Nearly 7 decades since she last felt the warm embrace of a young Canadian pilot, Spitfire XIV RM873 will be brought home to Canada to spend the rest of her days in that embrace.
Spitfire RM873 may have been found in a sorry and ignominious state, but she has a long and storied flying career. She came out of the Vickers plant as a Spitfire XIVe with constructor's number 6S.432296 (for the firewall bulkhead frame), powered by the mighty Rolls Royce Griffon 65. From here she was flown to Number 39 Maintenance Unit (RAF Colerne, Wales) on October 8th, 1944 for the fitting of her radio and machine guns.
Shortly there after, on October 25th, 1944, she was assigned to her first operational squadron - number 402 "City of Winnipeg" Squadron. Formed at Winnipeg on October 5, 1932 as No.12 (Army Cooperation) Squadron, 402 operated bi-planes such as the de Havilland Gypsy Moth and Avro Tutor. At the time of RM873's assignment to 402, the squadron was advancing with the Allies across France. The squadron was very active during this period, conducting fighter-bomber and reconnaissance missions over France, Belgium and the Netherlands. 402 Squadron is one of the oldest Canadian Air Force flying squadrons in existence and still very active in, of all places, Winnipeg where it flies the Dash-8 "Gonzo" navigation trainer.
RM873 crashed after only 2 weeks with 402, after which it was repaired and returned to service with 401 Squadron and saw combat. It will be eventually restored in full 401 squadron markings.