Image © John Dibbs

MH434 History


The most famous of all Spitfires still flying today, MH434 was built in 1943 at Vickers, Castle Bromwich. This Spitfire is completely original, and has never been fully rebuilt. A delight to fly, the aircraft is beautifully responsive and extremely manoeuvrable.

At the beginning of August 1943, MH434 was air tested by Alex Henshaw – a record breaking pilot from pre-war days (we highly recommend Alex Henshaw’s book “Sigh for a Merlin.”

Within the month MH434 was scoring with 222 Squadron. It was flown in combat by South African pilot Flt Lt Henry Lardner-Burke, DFC (1916-1970), seven and a half kills, three damaged, retiring as a Wing Commander. On the 27 August in the St Omar area over France, Lardner-Burke shot down a Focke-Wulf FW-190 and damaged a second during a mission to escort USAAF B-17 bombers. On the 5 September 1943 Lardner-Burke and MH434 shot down another FW-190 in the Nieuport area, and on the 8 September 1943 claimed a half share in the downing of a Messerschmitt Bf-109G in Northern France.

In 1944 MH434 was transferred to 350 Sqn. Hornchurch, before being returned to 222 Sqn. After 79 operational sorties, MH434 was retired in March 1945.

MH434’s guns were loaded again when bought by the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1947. The Spitfire served with 322 Sqn. As H-105 – mainly ground strafing and light bombing missions – before crash-landing in Semarang, Java. After spending some time in storage, MH434 was repaired and flew again in Holland on the 10 March 1953.

The Belgian Air Force became the next owner of this Spitfire, and as SM-41 she served at the Advanced Pilot School at Koksijde and with 13 Wing at Brustem.

On the 26 March 1956 MH434 was put up for sale and bought and brought back to Britain by airline pilot Tim Davies. As G-ASJV the Spitfire was moved to Stansted then Elstree for a full overhaul. The aircraft was flown purely for pleasure and took part in it’s first movie role, Operation Crossbow.

November 1967 saw MH434 join the motion picture airforce of Spitfire Productions Ltd. Set up by Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie for the film “Battle of Britain”. At the end of the movie in 1968 MH434 was sold again. The new owner, Sir Adrian Swire, Chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways, had the Spitfire painted in 1944 camouflage colour scheme with his initials AC-S, as squadron codes. There were several film and television appearances during this period, including “A Bridge Too Far”.

Flown for the first time by Ray Hanna in February 1970, a famous partnership was quickly established. MH434 was sold to him at auction in 1983 and became one of OFMC’s founding aircraft. The first major rebuild took place in the winter of 1994-95. MH434 has become a regular film and airshow performer and is flown in the authentic 222 Sqn. Codes ZD-B.