BBMF Spitfire AB910

Photography of a BBMF Spitfire flying through the skies

The Mk Vb Spitfire, AB910 is a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire with a real pedigree; she flew 143 operational missions in a remarkable wartime history spanning almost three years.

On the 19th August 1942, as part of 133 Eagle Squadron, AB910 fought in the Dieppe Raid, one of the largest air battles of any war in history. Through the fierce fighting, she flew four sorties over the English Channel in support of Operation Jubilee, an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe.

This monumental struggle saw the RAF lose 62 spitfires, more than in any other single day throughout World War II. AB910, however, survived unscathed and emerged victoriously.

Capping her long career as an operational fighter with the Royal Air Force, she flew cover patrols over the Normandy beaches on D-Day and subsequent weeks.

AB910 was also used to escort convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic, which was called the “longest, largest, and most complex” naval battle in history. The campaign started immediately after the European War and lasted over five years until the German surrender in May 1945. It involved thousands of ships in more than 100 convoy battles and perhaps 1,000 single-ship encounters in a theatre covering millions of square miles of ocean. As well as this, She went on to fly escort patrols during the bombing raids on the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

On a cold and overcast February morning on the 14th in 1945, the Duty Controller at RAF Hibaldstow instructed that ‘rough weather’ procedures should be observed by all on account of strong winds. As such, a Women’s Auxiliary Air force member, Margaret Ida Horton, assisted the pilot of AB910, Flt Lt Neil Cox DFC, by sitting on the plane’s tail while he taxied to the take-off position. This was common practice to prevent the aircraft ground looping in gusty conditions.

The pilot dutifully carried out all necessary checks and forgot that Margaret was sitting on the tail. He then started down the runway and promptly took off! It was immediately clear to Flt Lt Cox that AB910 was not handling in its usual manner and quickly started investigating the cause. The combination of her weight on the tail and her grip on the elevator very nearly ended in disastrous results… Flt Lt Cox was able to maintain control.

He landed safely after one circuit around the airfield, much to the relief of onlookers and a considerably shaken young woman holding on for dear life still wrapped around AB910’s tail fin.

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