Built at the Supermarine works at Castle Bromwich in the West Midlands late in the war, TA805 started its career with the RAF at No 39 MU in December 1944. Wearing the code letters HF it joined 183 (Gold Coast) Squadron at Chilbolton on the 17th June 1945. Commanded by Sqd/Ldr J R Cullen DFC, the squadron converted from the Typhoon IB to the Spitfire IX. The squadron Operational Record Book records the conversion and movements.
The pilots and their kit were flown by Dakota to Chilbolton where we join Fighter Command No.11 Group and convert to Spitfire IX’s.
20.6.45 – Four new aircraft ferried in by ATA. A period of conversion then began for two months.
On the 1st August the squadron commenced formation flying, aerobatics and cannon testing. On the 27th July 1945 TA805 was transferred to No.234 (Madras Presidency) Squadron at Bentwaters in Suffolk. Now coded FX,the squadron had just converted from Mustang IV’s to Spitfire IX’s at Bentwaters and were due to go to a Practice Armament Camp. The squadron Operational Record Books records the following.
The squadron then returned to Bentwaters. 234 Squadron were part of a wing of 24 Squadrons led by legendary Battle of Britain ace and later famous test pilot W/Cdr Roland P Beamont DSO and Bar DFC. This wing flew the 1945 Battle of Britain commemoration flight over London in September and it is possible that TA805 was one of the aircraft taking part.
TA805 was then struck off charge and shipped to the South African Air Force in early 1949.
The Spitfire IX opposite – “5553” wears the colours of the South African Air Force.
Not much is known about this period of service but the aircraft was scrapped in 1954. It was not until 1981 that the remains of TA805 were discovered and eventually returned to the UK. In 1995 Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight started the re-build before it was passed to the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford who completed the re-build and TA805 took to the skies once again in December 2005.
The aircraft was purchased by Peter Monk and Mike Simpson, both Kentish Men, in 2006 and moved to Biggin Hill where it is still based. They wanted it to fly in memory of 131 (County of Kent) Fighter Squadron, a wartime squadron that was purchased by donations given by the good people of Kent in 1941. In addition the CO’s aircraft was emblazoned with the caption ‘Spirit of Kent’, the same as the present aircraft. Today the aircraft can be seen flying all over Kent at various functions and shows.
Its first public showing was at the Biggin Hill Air Fair where, piloted by John Romain, it won the Breitling Trophy for the best aerobatic and solo performance. Three days at the County Show bought it a host of new admirers where it was the main attraction. Various open days are held at Manston for the public of Kent to see their aircraft. Remember, if you hear a Merlin engine in the skies above Kent, it may well be your own Spitfire, the ‘Spirit of Kent’.