Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Waddington Airshow 2010.jpg
A typical formation: Hawker Hurricane, Avro Lancaster and Supermarine Spitfire
Active 1957 – Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Role Memorial
Part of No. 1 Group RAF
Garrison/HQ RAF Coningsby
Nickname BBMF
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight badge Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Crest.jpg
Aircraft flown
Bomber Avro Lancaster
Interceptor Spitfire, Hurricane
Transport Dakota

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) is a Royal Air Force flight which provides an aerial display group comprising an Avro Lancaster, a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane. The aircraft are regularly seen at events commemorating World War II, upon British State occasions, notably the Trooping the Colour celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday in 2006 as well as the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, and at air displays throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

The Flight is administratively part of No. 1 Group RAF, flying out of RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.



Although usually seen flying in a formation of three, the Lancaster flanked by a fighter on each wing, the Flight comprises 11 aircraft, including five Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Douglas Dakota, and two De Havilland Chipmunks.

Spitfire AB910, built in 1941, painted in colours of Polish 303 Squadron, the Donald Duck is the personal logo of the Squadron Leader Jan Zumbach


Individual aircraft have historic heritages; the oldest of the Spitfires, P7350, is a Mk.IIa, which originally flew in the Battle of Britain in 1940, with 266 and 603 Squadrons. She is both the oldest Spitfire still in flying condition, and the last surviving Spitfire from the Battle of Britain still able to fly. In 2007 she was repainted in the 603 Squadron letters XT-L, those of Gerald 'Stapme' Stapleton's personal aircraft.

The Mk Vb Spitfire, AB910, escorted convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic, flew escort patrols during bombing raids on Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, then (as part of No. 133 squadron) fought in the Dieppe Raid. Capping this long career, as part of No. 402 Squadron RCAF, she flew cover patrols over the Normandy beachheads on D-Day and in the subsequent weeks – as did another of the Flight's Spitfires, with No. 443 Squadron RCAF.

The Mk LFIXe Spitfire, MK356, was built in March 1944 with clipped wings optimised for low level flight, and fitted with a Merlin 66 engine. Allocated to the Canadian Air force, 144 Canadian wing, based in various locations around southern England. She took part in the Rodeo fighter sweep over occupied France in the weeks leading up to D-Day. After the war she served as a gate guardian at Hawkinge and Locking, and was later recovered and refurbished in 1992 for the BBMF. As of 2008, she is painted in a silver paint scheme used in late 1944 bomber missions over the Balkans from bases in Southern Italy.

There are also two MkXIX Spitfires both built in 1945 with Griffon 66 engines. PM631 was too late to see operational services in World War II and carried out civilian duties until 11 July 1957 when she became part of the Historic Aircraft Flight; she is the longest serving aircraft in the BBMF. PS915 performed various reconnaissance duties at Wunsdorf in Germany. She returned to the UK in 1954, and was retired to gate guarding duties. In 1987 she was modified with a Griffon 58 engine and refurbished to flying condition by British Aerospace. She currently carries the markings of PS888 of 81 Squadron based at Seletar, Singapore, during the Malayan Emergency. This aircraft conducted the last operational RAF sortie on 1 April 1954, photographing communist guerrilla hideouts over an area of jungle in Jahore. The ground crew painted the inscription 'The Last!' on the left engine cowling.

One Mark XIX Spitfire, PS853, was sold in 1994, to defray the costs of rebuilding Hurricane LF363 after her crash landing due to engine failure in 1991.

There is also a Spitfire Mark XVI, TE311, acquired in 2002 and initially allocated for spares but was officially added to the BBMF collection in 2007.


Hurricane MkIIC LF363, 2009

There are two Hurricanes. LF363 is a Mk IIC and the last Hurricane to have entered service with the RAF. She appeared in the films Angels One Five, Reach for the Sky, The Battle of Britain, and a TV series The War in the Air. PZ865 also a Mk IIC built six months later, is the last Hurricane ever to have been built and carries the inscription on her port and starboard sides, "The last of the Many".


Lancaster PA474, 2009

The Lancaster Bomber PA474, acquired by the BBMF in 1973, is one of only two airworthy condition Lancaster remaining; the other is in Canada. She was built in mid-1945 and assigned to reconnaissance duties after appearing too late to take part in the bombing of Japan. After various duties she was adopted by the Air Historical Branch for future displays. She appeared in two films 'Operation Crossbow' and 'The Guns of Navarone'. Having been flown for much of her service with the BBMF as 'City of Lincoln', PA474 presently wears the markings of the 'Phantom of the Ruhr' depicting a Lancaster that flew 121 sorties, a so called 'ton-up' Lancaster. She displays the markings of bombs for operations over Germany, ice-cream cones for operations over Italy, and poppies for when she has released poppies during exhibition flights. During the 2008 RAF Waddington Air Day PA474 was flown in formation with the recently restored Avro Vulcan XH558 in an historic display of two classic examples of Avro 'heavy metal'.


Dakota ZA947 taking off, 2009

The Dakota, ZA947, built at Long Beach, California in March 1942, was issued to the US Army Air Forces and later transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force where she served until 1971. The aircraft was purchased by the Royal Aircraft Establishment before being issued to the BBMF in March 1993. She is equipped with authentic period 'para seats' and is used in commemorative parachute drops.

The Dakota serves as a support aircraft for the Flight and as a multi-engine tail-wheel trainer for the Lancaster; recently it has also acted as a display aircraft in its own right.[1]


The two Chipmunks are the last in RAF service, but are not intended for display use; rather, they serve to give pilots experience in flying aircraft with a tailwheel landing gear, a design that has now vanished from the modern RAF fleet. One of the two Chipmunks flew reconnaissance missions over East Germany, as part of the RAF Gatow Station Flight, in co-operation with The British Commander-in-Chief's Mission to the Soviet Forces of Occupation in Germany, commonly known as BRIXMIS.


The Flight also regularly takes part in combined flypasts with other recognisable British aircraft, such as The Red Arrows. It appeared on occasion with Concorde before that aircraft's withdrawal from service in October 2003.


Two Hawker Hurricanes and five Supermarine Spitfires at Duxford Airshow, 2007

Biggin Hill

In the years following World War II it became traditional for a Spitfire and Hurricane to lead the Victory Day flypast over London. From that event there grew the idea to form a historic collection of flyable aircraft, initially to commemorate the RAF's major battle honour, The Battle of Britain, and latterly with broadened scope, to commemorate the RAF's involvement in all the campaigns of World War II. Thus in 1957 the Historic Aircraft Flight was formed at RAF Biggin Hill with one Hurricane (LF363) and 3 x Mk XIX Spitfires (PM631, PS853 and PS915), in what, even then, had become a predominantly jet-powered Air Force.


Originally the RAF Historic Aircraft Flight, with a small group of Spitfires and Hurricanes operating from RAF Coltishall from 1963, the group became the "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight" in 1973, with the acquisition of a Lancaster. The first Chipmunk was acquired in 1983, and the Dakota in 1995. The Spitfires and Hurricanes in the Flight have varied over the years, as new aircraft are acquired and older ones given to museums or used for parts.

Service history of the aircraft

Aircraft currently in the Flight have served with the RAF, the United States Army Air Forces, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as having been privately owned; whilst in the RAF, they were flown by Czechoslovakian, Polish, South African, American and Canadian pilots. Some were sold for scrapping and later saved, whilst at least one has been in operational service with the RAF for almost fifty years.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre is located at RAF Coningsby in Coningsby, Lincolnshire. A partnership between the Royal Air Force and Lincolnshire County Council, the centre allows visitors an up close guided tour of the aircraft when not in use, as well as exhibits about the aircraft and other temporary exhibits.

See also


External links

News items

Video clips

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