Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb - BL614
The success of MAPSL in restoring two ex RAF Spitfires and two Hurricanes encouraged the RAF Museum at Hendon, then the owners of BL614, to entrust MAPSL to restore the Spitfire for display in the Battle of Britain Hall. After 25,000 hours of work, the aircraft was returned to its former glory and the handover of the aircraft on 11th September 1997 was the culmination of another success story for the group. Several former members of No.222 Squadron were present at the ceremony, both pilots and groundcrew. The aircraft is one of the few Mk Vb's still surviving out of over 5,000 built during the war.
A survivor of battle and neglect, BL614 was restored to a high public display standard over a two year period by MAPSL. Arriving at Rochester in March 1995, the aircraft was found to be only 40 percent original and in very poor condition. BL614 was one of 1,000 ordered in 1940 to be used for Britain's home defence force in the South of England and Scotland. It was damaged in a dog fight in March 1942 and was subsequently repaired and issued to No.222 (Natal) Squadron. This squadron took part in the ill-fated Dieppe operation in August 1942 before being transferred to No.64 Squadron in 1943. Again damaged in combat, after repair at a maintenance unit BL614 served for a time at West Malling airfield in Kent. Returned to an MU at the end of the war, it was brought to full readiness for the film 'Battle of Britain'. After this, it served a period as a gate guardian before it was struck off charge and transferred to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, where it was repainted once again in the colours of No.222 (Natal) Squadron.