The Grace Spitfire ML 407 at The
Imperial War Museum Duxford UK, May 2006
File Ref: 7216_duxford_spitfire_ml407_2006
The Grace Spitfire History...
The Grace Spitfire was originally
built at Castle Bromwich in early 1944 as a single seat fighter, and served in
the front line of battle throughout the last twelve months of WWII, with six
different Squadrons of the RAF's 2nd Tactical Air Force, all in all flying 176
operational combat sorties. It was delivered to 485 New Zealand Squadron on the
29th of April 1944 by Jackie Moggridge, one of the top lady pilots of the ATA,
where it became the 'mount' of Flying Officer Johhnie Houlton DFC who was
accredited, whilst flying ML407, with the first enemy aircraft shot down over
the Normandy Beach head on D-Day. In December of 1944, ML407 was transferred to
341 Free French Squadron, becoming the aircraft of Sergeant Jean Dabos. It then
moved on through 308 (Polish ) Squadron, 349 (Belgian) Squadron, 345 (Free
French) Squadron, 332 (Norwegian) Squadron, and back to 485 (New Zealand)
Squadron, before being remodelled as a 2-seat trainer for the Irish Air Corps
where she flew until 1960. She was used for the film 'Battle of Britain' and
was then sold to the Strathallan Museum from where she was acquired by engineer
Nick Grace in 1979.
Nick spent five years meticulously restoring the Grace Spitfire to flying condition as a 2-seat Spitfire, and completed this incredible project in 1985, when, on the 16th of April, the Grace Spitfire flew again, with Nick's capable hands at the controls.
Nick went on to fly it at many air displays and for filming, including 'Perfect Lady'and 'Piece of Cake'. A cruel twist of fate occurred when Nick Grace was tragically killed in a car accident in 1988, and his widow Carolyn Grace took on the task of learning to fly the Spitfire, which you can find documented in the film 'Going Solo'. Carolyn, as can be seen in the film, successfully completed her training by 'going solo' in the Spitfire in 1990, and hasn't looked back since, getting her Display Authorisation in 1991, and adding Aerobatic and Formation qualifications to that since.
The Spitfire is kept in Hangar Two at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK, and is maintained by Chief Engineer Dave Payne and his team. Carolyn flies the Grace Spitfire at many airshows, both public and private, up and down the country, and even in Europe, having also flown, much to her credit in no less than five record-breaking Spitfire formation flypasts between 1996 and 2000.
Text Copyright Olivia Grace The Grace Spitfire Duxford UK