On the 24th May 1940, Supermarine Spitfire Mk.1/P9374 took off from RAF Hornchurch for an early morning patrol over the French Coast. During air to air combat with Luftwaffe Bf.109s, P9374 suffered cannon damage to its radiator and the loss of coolant to the engine necessitated a speedy return to the ground before the engine seized up. Pilot Officer Peter Cazenove had no option but to make an emergency landing on a beach just outside Calais. Before it could be fully salvaged, the tides and sand soon covered the airframe of P9374 and it remained that way until 1980 when a severe storm shifted the sands to revealed the remains of P9374 exactly where it crash landed 40 years before. The fuselage and wings were extracted from the sands of the French coast and stored. In August 2006, the component parts were moved to Historic Flying Ltd at Duxford for an extensive restoration to flying condition, using as much original parts as was possible, and once all parts had been stockpiled they were all pieced together again over a three and a half year period.
2nd September 2011
There was a rumour that the P9374 would have its first flight in 71 years in the hands of John Romain when I was at Duxford on the 1st September. Unfortunately John Romain likes to complete first flights after the museum has closed to the public and true to form at 19.00hrs local on that Thursday evening; P9374 took to the air for a successful test flight. Luckily, he decided to give P9374 a second flight in the full glare of the photographers and enthusiasts that had gathered at Duxford for the arrivals and practice for the Duxford air show the next day.
9th September 2011
On Friday the 9th September, having had many successful test flights during the week, P9374 was unveiled to members of the press from the Sunday Telegraph newspaper for an article that is due to appear on Sunday 18th September. ARCo Harvard ‘Taz’, with a video camera man on board and flown by Rod Dean, and P9374 flown by John Romain took off and headed to the north to look for some clear sky and sunshine for the photo shoot. ‘Taz’ arrived back a short time later and the video camera man was swapped for a stills camera man and ‘Taz’ headed back north again. Once the stills camera man was back on the ground, John Romain returned in P9374 for some top and underside passes for the benefit of the cameras before landing. P9374 had been on its longest flight yet having been airborne for about 65 minutes.