08 Nov ML119 to be restored at the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar
We’re delighted to announce that LF MkIX Spitfire ML119 (G-SDNI) is now located at the Biggin Hill Heritage hangar and awaiting restoration to flying condition. This aircraft has a fascinating history having been flown by British, Czech, Israeli and Burmese air forces which provides us some interesting livery options to consider for the project. We’re planning to start the project in 2022 once we have completed some of our existing Spitfire restorations.
Rolled out from Vickers Armstrong at Castle Bromwich, ML119 was from a batch of 2,190 Spitfires built under contract B98167/39. Delivered to No. 9 Maintenance Unit (MU) at RAF Cosford on 24th March 1944 it was taken on charge by No. 1 Squadron based at RAF Martlesham Heath on 4th April. A move to RAF North Weald before a move to RAF Ayr saw ML119 become the personal mount of Squadron Leader Lardner-Burke. Moves to RAF Predannack and then RAF Harrowbeer saw the squadron move south in order to join other squadrons in combating the VI menace. Still with No. 1 Squadron the Spitfire began a long association with Kent airfields being based first at RAF Detling near Maidstone where ‘Diver’ operations were carried out. A similar role saw a move to RAF Lympne near Hythe before it returned to RAF Detling and continued ‘Diver’ operations till December 1944.
With the VI campaign over the squadron moved to RAF Manston to carry out escort sorties in the aftermath of D Day. With a change of Squadron CO, Squadron Leader David Cox took over ML119 as his personal Spitfire till the end of the war when the aircraft was sold to the Czech Air Force. Later it was one of 60 Spitfires sold to the Israeli Air Force arriving at Hatzor in May 1949. In October 1954 ML119 was sold to the Burmese Air Force being finally struck off charge in 1955 and becoming a gate guard before it was removed to America and purchased by an American enthusiast.
ML119 returned to the UK in 2000 and was stored in a barn in West Sussex before arriving at the heritage hangar and into the hands of The Spitfire Company (Biggin Hill) Ltd for a restoration to flight. Having served at three of the major Kent airfields, ML119 can truly be said to be ‘The First Kent Spitfire’.