Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI - TB752
TB752 was manufactured by Vickers-Armstrong at the Castle Bromwich factory and was handed over to the RAF at 33 MU, Lyneham on the 21st February 1945. The aircraft was one of 1054 Mk XVI's built, of which some 27 survive today. TB752 entered service with the RAF during March 1945 with No.66(F) Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse and was allotted the squadron code LZ-F. Later she moved to Fairwood Common (No.11 Armament Practice Camp) with No.66 Squadron for an Air Firing and Bombing course. After returning to 66 Squadron, the aircraft carried out several missions. On one of them, flown by PO D Hugo, it was found that only one wheel would work on return to base. The aircraft was classified as Cat AC (badly damaged) and was removed to No.409 Repair and Salvage Unit. After repair, it was issued to 403 (Wolf) Squadron of the RCAF.
In the space of only two weeks, TB752 was responsible for destroying no less than four German aircraft, including two of the formidable FW 190s. On the 3rd May 1945, F/O Fred Town destroyed an He 111 in occupied Denmark. This was to be ‘The Final Victory’ of a German warplane in WW2 by an allied aircraft. Hence the ‘Final Victory’ painting by GAVA Michael Turner which is now displayed in the Spitfire Hall.
The end of the war saw the Spitfire returned to 29 MU at High Ercall in Shropshire where it remained in storage until 1949 when it flew to Scampton for participation in the annual Battle of Britain RAF At Home Day. Returned to High Ercall in 1951, it was issued to No.102 Flying Refresher School before being flown to No.103 FRS at Full Sutton, Yorkshire. It eventually returned to High Ercall where it was prepared for service with No.5 Civilian Anti-aircraft Co-Operation Unit at Llanbedr arriving there on the 23rd November 1953. One year later it was returned to 33 MU at Lyneham and declared 'off-stock'.
By August 1955, a number of Spitfires were being prepared for the film 'Reach for the Sky', the story of Douglas Bader. TB752 was one of them, when it was flown to the Battle of Britain airfield at Kenley in Surrey. Once filming was finished, it appears as though the aircraft was due to be scrapped and, but for the intervention of the CO of RAF Manston, she would have been. Gp Cpt Oldbury had heard about the disposal of many Spitfires and wanted one to act as a gate guardian for Manston. He was successful in his bid and TB752 moved to the airfield to assume that duty.
During this time, the aircraft was robbed of many parts in order to keep other Spitfires flying with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight airworthy. In due time, TB752 would have been scrapped but, yet again, a new lease of life reared its head when Thanet District Council pleaded with the authorities to let the aircraft remain at Manston. Council power won and the aircraft remained in situ though in a progressive deteriorating state due to its exposure to the elements of nature. Fate was once again to take a hand when the Medway Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society were searching for an aircraft to restore as a replacement for the non-arrival of a Short's flying boat at Rochester.
In 1978, the aircraft was transported from Manston to Rochester and work began on a complete refurbishment by members of the Aircraft Preservation Group of the Medway Branch RAeS. Work was to take until 1979, when the aircraft was returned to Manston. Again it was realised that all the hard work done could be just as easily be undone if TB752 was to sit outside once again exposed to the elements. An appeal was launched for donations to be used to house her inside a secure building, the result being the fine building that we see today named the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum. Later, another section was added to house a Hurricane which was also refurbished by the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society and today the entire building houses, in addition to the two battle veterans, much memorabilia from the wartime period. For a complete and detailed history of the aircraft, it is recommended that the book titled 'The Manston Spitfire-TB752' is read. In addition, a new book titled ‘Sanctuary’ has been published by Peter Neale detailing the full and chequered history of the museum. Both books are available in the museum’s excellent sales room next to the Merlin Cafeteria.