Schoolboy ‘Pilot’ Reunited with Seletar Spitfire after 56 years!
Charles White (152)
This is an extract from Searchlight Issue 46 in April 2012 and tells the story of ‘my’ Spitfire. In 1955, a number of schoolboys and I ‘broke’ into spitfire PK683 which was parked on the apron somewhere at Seletar – see picture. After taking several photos using my Brownie 127, including one of me in the cockpit; the ‘snowdrops’ arrived and we boys scattered far and wide. Unfortunately, one of the boys stepped on a nail and as I stopped to help him, we were both ‘arrested’. I don’t recall what repercussions followed, but I believe that we were both let off with a warning.
Recently, I received a query from one of our members and revisited my old photo album. I also browsed the Southampton Hall of Aviation [now Solent Sky] website and to my total and utter amazement noticed that the registration marks of the Southampton Spitfire and ‘my’ Spitfire were the same! Well, PK683 has been in Southampton since 1976 and I have seen it many times over the past 36 years – never knowing that it was the aircraft in which I had sat for a few minutes all those years ago. Over Christmas last year I visited PK683 and it was a joyful reunion. The staff at Solent Sky were pleased to hear my story and I left them copies of the 1955 photographs.
PK683 is a Spitfire Mk 24 powered by a Griffon engine and 5-bladed propeller. She was assembled at the Vickers-Armstrong plant at South Marston and made her maiden flight on 19 Feb 1946 piloted by Test Pilot, Les Colquhon. She was delivered to the RAF at Lyneham in August 1946 where she was stored until 1950 – finally being sent to the Far East via Sealand and Birkenhead Docks where she was shipped on the SS Pyllhus. Arriving at Seletar in 1951, she was stored by 390 Maintenance Unit before being issued to the Singapore Auxiliary Air Force. An accident in 1952 saw her return to Seletar and in 1954 she was ‘struck off charge’ before being issued to the Malaysian ATC as instructional airframe 7150M. At some point she must have returned to Seletar for an encounter with a number of enthusiastic schoolboys…
PK683 was subsequently displayed at Kallang and Changi until 1970 when she returned to UK aboard a Belfast of 53 Squadron. After storage at various RAF Depots she was finally issued to No 424 [Southampton] ATC Squadron and displayed at the RJ Mitchell Memorial Museum – moving to her present home in the Southampton Hall of Aviation in 1984.