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Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
 

The modern Battle of Britain Memorial Flight or BBMF was created from a loose collection of "obsolete types" tucked away in the corner of various hangars, to caring for priceless assets of British aviation heritage with its own headquarters.  Wing Commander Peter Thompson, Station Commander at RAF Biggin Hill was primarily responsible for its formation.

With the arrival of the jet age, aircraft were withdrawn from service. By the mid-1950s Hurricane IIc LF363 was the only airworthy representative of its type in the RAF and was based at Biggin Hill. When the Spitfire was phased out of RAF service in 1957, the only three airworthy examples were being flown by the Temperature and Humidity Monitoring (THUM) Flight at RAF Woodvale.

There was a strong belief among some in the RAF that the service’s greatest Battle Honour should continue to be commemorated in a fitting fashion and the best way to do that was to keep these legendary fighters in the air. Wing Commander Thompson was an enthusiastic advocate of this notion and with LF363 already at Biggin, he had the basis for a grander plan. Peter gained the authority to form the unit, but there would be no public funding and all manpower would have to be voluntary.

The three remaining Spitfire PR XIXs of the THUM Flight (PM631, PS853 and PS915) were allocated to the new memorial unit. They flew to Biggin Hill on 11th July 1957 and the Historic Aircraft Flight, BBMF's predesessor, was formed. However, the wartime pilots thought that it was not right to form a tribute to the Battle of Britain with a variant of the Spitfire that was not designed to fire guns. An alternative came in the form of three Spitfire LF Mk XVIs brought out of store for ground display at the 1957 Royal Tournament. Recommendation was made that priority be given to bringing these up to flying condition. On September 15 that year, HAF carried out its first commemorative flypast over Westminster Abbey for Battle of Britain Day with LF363 and TE330.

In February 1958 it was announced that Biggin Hill was to close and the Flight was to move to North Weald in Essex by March 1958. In May 1958 North Weald closed, so after only a brief stay there the Battle of Britain Flight (BoB) it moved to RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk. In September the BoB Flight undertook another move, this time to RAF Horsham St Faith in Norfolk. By this time it comprised just LF363 and PM631, and this is how it would remain until 1964.

It was here, during 1959, that the Flight lost its Spitfire XVIs altogether due to a series of accidents and reliability problems. On 28th May, SL574 suffered a flying incident at Martlesham. Then on September 10, TE476 had a wheels-up landing.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 
Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Vb - AB910 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom

As a result, it was decreed that September 1959 would be the last time that the fighters, including the Hurricane, would participate in the Battle of Britain flypast over London. On that very flight SL574 suffered a complete engine failure over the capital and crash-landed on a cricket ground at Bromley.

On April 1 1963, the Flight made its way to RAF Coltishall in Norfolk where things began to improve significantly. PS853 had been made serviceable again and in April 1964 it was returned to the Flight. In September 1965 Spitfire Mk Vb AB910 arrived from Vickers-Armstrong. The inventory was now back up to four. With the fleet and popularity growing, things were put more formal at Coltishall, resulting in the appointment of a team of full-time engineers.

After the filming for the 1969 classic Battle of Britain ended, the Flight presented Spitfire IIa P7350. This still is the world’s oldest airworthy example of its type and a genuine combat veteran of the Battle of Britain. Having popularly become known as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, it took this name officially on June 1, 1969.

In March 1972 Hurricane IIc PZ865 was presented to the BBMF after being refurbished by Hawker Siddeley. Then 20th November 1973 saw the arrival of a new and significant type. Lancaster I, PA474 was officially transferred from RAF Waddington, where it had been refurbished and looked after by station personnel. . On 1st March 1976, the Flight’s aircraft began ferrying across to their new home; RAF Coningsby.

In April 1985 the BBMF acquired DH Devon VP981 for airborne escort and logistics support. British Aerospace had rebuilt PS915 to airworthy condition and it was presented back to the Flight. On July 20 1993 the BBMF acquired Dakota ZA947 making it possible to withdraw the Devon. In November 1997 the newly-restored Spitfire LFIXe, MK356 arrived, it had flown during the D-Day period in June 1944 supporting the Allied invasion of occupied France. The latest aircraft to join the Flight’s ranks is Spitfire XVI TE311, which is currently undergoing rebuild to airworthy condition.

The Flight now makes over 700 individual aircraft appearances during each year’s display season and this is now considered the norm. The demand for appearances by the BBMF’s aircraft shows no sign of decline and indeed appears to be increasing. Yearly there are hundreds of opportunities to see the aircraft of the BBMF fly,in the UK and abroad. Demonstrating the continued importance that the RAF places upon maintaining these aircraft in perfect flying condition. And the desire to maintain a tangible link with their roots and heritage and, above all, to remember the national debt owed to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Avro Lancaster BII
PA474 - HW-R - Read more

Avro Lancaster BII - PA474 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Avro Lancaster BII - PA474 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Avro Lancaster BII - PA474 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Avro Lancaster BII - PA474 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

De Havilland Chipmunk T10
WK518 - Read more

De Havilland Chipmunk T10 - WK518 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom  
 

De Havilland Chipmunk T10
WG486 - Read more

De Havilland Chipmunk T10 - WG486 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom  
 

Douglas Dakota C3
ZA947 - AI - Read more

Douglas Dakota C3 - ZA947 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Douglas Dakota C3 - ZA947 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Douglas Dakota C3 - ZA947 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Douglas Dakota C3 - ZA947 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

Hawker Hurricane IIc
PZ865 - JX-Y - Read more

Hawker Hurricane IIc - PZ865 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIc - PZ865 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIc - PZ865 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIc - PZ865 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

Hawker Hurricane IIc
LF363 - YB-W - Read more

Hawker Hurricane IIc - LF363 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIc - LF363 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIc - LF363 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Hawker Hurricane IIc - LF363 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IIa
P7350 - XT-L - Read more

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IIa - P7350 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IIa - P7350 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IIa - P7350 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IIa - P7350 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc
MK356 - UF-Q - Read more

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc - MK356 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc - MK356 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc - MK356 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXc - MK356 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Vb
AB910 - RF-D - Read more

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Vb - AB910 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Vb - AB910 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Vb - AB910 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk Vb - AB910 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XIVe
TE331 - under restauration - Read more

Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk XIVe - TE331 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom  
 

Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX
PM631 - Read more

Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PM631 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PM631 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PM631 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PM631 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 

Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX
PS915 - Read more

Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PS915 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PS915 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PS915 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom   Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk XIX - PS915 - Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - United Kingdom
 
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