MH367 was manufactured at the Castle Bromwich factory in July 1943. It was a Mark IX with a Merlin 61 engine.
The aircraft was issued to No. 65 Squadron. No. 65 was converting from the MK V Spitfire to the new MK IXs. The first four MK IX’s, including MH367, arrived at the squadron on 5/08/43. MH367 was given the squadron code YT-C. The first operation which included MH367 was on 15/08/43. It was flown by F/L J.R Heap taking off at 18.55 and landing at 20.15. The squadron operational report is as follows: -
"12 aircraft led by S /Ldr J.E. Storrar, DFC, took part in Ramrod 202 with No’s 19, 132, 602 and 122 Squadrons, acting as high cover and close escort to 36 MARAUDERS bombing ABBEVILLE Marshalling yards. Aircraft took off at 1900 hours and landed at 20.30 hours. The bombers rendezvoused 3 minutes late. Heavy and accurate flak was experienced. Visibility was unlimited. No enemy aircraft and no shipping were seen.”
So MH367’s war had started.
It suffered two significant mishaps while with No. 65. On 9 October when returning from a combat mission it collided with BR141 (a 65 squadron mark V) on the runway, and on 12 December the following was recorded in the squadron log.
"The weather was cold and there was a biting wind. The squadron commenced low level practice bombing on the LEYSDOWN RANGE and F /Lt Heap had his 45 gallon jettison tank and bomb rack fall off at landing – this damaged the aircraft MH367 which was category B.”
It was sent to No.410 Repair / Salvage Unit on 18/12/43. During its time with No. 65, MH367 had completed 31 combat missions over occupied Europe.
The maintenance records of MH367 show several maintenance actions over the ensuing months including being ROS (repaired on site) on 27/07/44. Unfortunately we have no record of any assigned squadron.
The next recorded assignment was to 229 Squadron on 3/09/44.
With 229 Squadron MH367 was given squadron code 9R-Z. The first recorded flight is on 10 September for ‘practice air firing’ and on 11 September, the first combat mission piloted by W/O Hinton – ‘Escort Lancasters to Kaman’. The Squadron record includes the following:
19.55 "All agreed that the Flak encountered was the worst ever and was experienced over the whole operation. It was especially intense and heavy over the Ruhr, the target, Vessel, Eindhoven, Tiel, and Nijmegen. On the way in just West of Essen one bomber was seen to receive a direct hit and blew up in midair”.
On 17th September the following is recorded:
"12 aircraft of 229 took part in a combined major airborne landing operation in Southern Holland about Tilburg, Eindhoven and Nijmegen. Troops were carried in 623 aircraft and 405 gliders towed by tugs and a considerable stream of aircraft escorted by fighters swept over the North Sea for 3 to 4 hours.”
This was the opening of Operation Market Garden – "A Bridge Too Far”
In early December 229 Squadron was converted to Mark XVI Spitfires.
MH367 completed 28 combat missions with 229.
It was then transferred to 312 (Czech) Squadron and given squadron code DU-Z.
The first flight with 312 was on 15th December 1944, piloted by F/L J.Sodek, - 'Escort to 17 Lancasters bombing ‘E’ and ‘B’ boat pens at Ijmuiden.’ On 23rd March, 312 escorted 100 Lancaster bombing Wesel and on 24th March escorted airborne troops into the area for Operation Varsity, the airborne assault that led Montgomery’s crossing of the Rhine. The allies lost 56 aircraft that day.
The last combat flight for MH367 was on 18th April escorting 822 Lancasters to Heligoland. The following day 8 aircraft from the squadron took part in a similar escort, but did not include MH367. Apart from a 2 ship recon flight on the 22nd April, for 312 Squadron, and MH367, the war was over.
VE day was 8th May.
During its time with 312, MH367 completed 30 combat missions.
After the war MH367 was transferred to Air Services Training at Hamble where it was re-engined with a Merlin 63. It was transferred again in April 1947 to the Empire Central Flying School at Hullavington. Here it suffered substantial damage in a landing accident in July 1948 and was scrapped, ending in Flowers Scrapyard near Chippenham where it rested for the next 40 odd years. Discovered again by Tim Moore of Skysport Engineers who was scouring the yard for parts for a Beaufighter restoration, it was claimed and taken to Tims workshop in Bedfordshire.
At this point Peter Godfrey, an Englishman living in Florida, approached local Spitfire rebuilder, Harry Stenger, about getting a Spitfire project underway. Harry took on this project and combined components from several Spitfires including the ‘two seat’ conversion parts from ML417 and wings from BR601 along with the mortal remains of MH367 and a fuselage manufactured by Dick Melton to produce a completely restored Mark IX, MH367, in a two-seat version. The new aircraft was painted in the markings of Major Robert Levine of the USAAF as flown by him in Tunisia. It first flew after the rebuild in November 2006.
MH367 was purchased in December 2007 and arrived in New Zealand in early May 2008. It was repainted in the colour scheme / markings of the Mark IX Spitfire flown in the North Africa campaign by Sq/Ldr Colin Gray, NZ’s highest scoring Ace. It’s first flight in New Zealand was on 21st May 2008.