Spitfire XIV in front of the "Cinquantenaire".

 

Same in front of the Air and Space Hall.

 

Eric Dessouroux in full pilot gear.

 

A while ago and a lot of work ahead.

The Spitfire FXIVc in 1970, displayed in the "Hall Bordiaux".

 

A few years later in Air&Space Museum.

 

In 1977, paint is being removed.

 

 

The first bad surprise ....damaged lower fuselage beam.

 

 

 

Two types of undercarriage legs belonging to two series of Mk XIV Spitfire

 

 

The fuselage on a trolley, ready for a travel to Saffraanberg.

 

At the Technical School of Saffraanberg.

 

 

The lower fuselage booms are repaired.

 

The fuselage in the trip back from Saffraanberg.

 

The wings before .....

 

 

.......and after reparation.

 

 

Completely refurbished tail unit.

 

 

The cell before....

 

 

....and after a proper treatment.

 

 

The aircraft was back on its landing gear in 1985.

 

 

1996:the Belgian Air Force is 50 years old and the Spitfire XIV restoration is finished.

 

In September 1997, to celebrate the restoration of the Spitfire XIV, we displayed it against the background of the "Cinquantenaire".

Work on this aircraft started in 1977.

In fact we must say work on the aircrafts as this Spitfire is composed of parts from three aircraft: SG 55, 46 and 37.

It is mainly thanks to Stefaan Vancauteren and Eric Dessouroux, helped by Christian Daulies, Serge Colin and Marc Lecocq that this task as been done.

Aircraft history

Ordered the 27th July 1942 at Vickers-Armstong under contract n°1877/C23. It rolled out of the Aldermaston manufactory in 1944, receiving the RAF serial MV246.

The 25 November 1944, it went through its first "Production Test". Piloted by Philip Wigley the test duration was a brief 20 mn flight as the pilot didn't detected any flaws. This "Production Test" consisted in a climb at full power till 25000 feet followed by a flight at the maximum speed to verify that the airplane was able to reach it. Those two tests were followed by a dive during which the maximum authorized speed was reached (around 500 m.p.h.) to assure a proper handling, in particular the ailerons.

This Spitfire never served in an operational RAF Squadron and was stocked at the n° 9 Maintenance Unit, RAF Cosford, the 29 November 1944.

Sold to the Belgian Air Force the 26 August 1948, it arrived in Belgium the 1st of September and received the serial SG-55. It went to the 349e Squadron 1er Wing of Beauvechain and received the identification code GE-R.

The operational live of the SG-55 was quite short: the 11th October 1948, Harry A. Saeys does a belly landing at Opveld following a reduction gear failure.

Last flight of SG-55

(Originally published in the AELR bulletin)

At that time Beauvechain was flourishing, under the command of Major Colignon, with the 349 and 350th day fighter squadron.

The 10th night fighter squadron was based there as well, under the authority of Major Fiske Van de Velde.

The Spit XIV was replacing the Spit IX et XVI. The powerful Griffon succeeded the enchanting Merlin. It was a time of basic installation: at the intersection of the two landing strip was a hut with a VHF/Gonio aerial serving as control tower. At the entry of the runway in service, two pilots were acting as ACP, responsible for the security of the landings. It was in those crude but enthusiastic conditions that the "old" adopted the young pilots fresh from the RAF (107/108e Promotions).

I have been very lucky to be affected to the 349th Squadron, theoretically led by the Major P. Deschamps. I integrated myself in the A flight: Captain L. Divoy, pilots Godefroid, J. Huberi and H. Kreps. B Flight was commanded by Captain Mathys and composed of the following pilots: L. Lecomte, F. Goosse, 0. Leciercq, A. Rouck and J. Notte. The administration was controlled by the Lts. Gust Francken and Remacle first, by Lt. Techy after.

To add to the picture: the dispersal was a wood hut surrounded by steel planking and flanked by a small observation tower used to watch the landings of the colleagues

It's in September 1948 that a new aircraft was delivered: the Spitfire F XIVC MV246, having received the Belgian serial SG-55, was affected to the 349th Squadron. It received the code GE-R and was equipped with a teardrop canopy.

The 11 October 1948, it was affected to me for a flight mission as Red 2 of the Lt Techy and joined by Lt. H. Kreps and Sgt. J. Hubert. We were flying since 35 min in formation or "Finger 4" and "vice versa" when suddenly, without any warning, I saw myself being bypassed by the others.

It was a strange sensation, with the instruments showing no visible anomaly and with a Griffon engine still running. Instinctively, I opened up the throttle to try to rejoin the others. I throttled back directly: the airscrew was turning only thanks to the airflow and my speed was dropping fast. It is in such conditions that the instruction that we followed shows its value: the emergency exercises repeated hundreds of times, the stories of the others heard so many times... all that contributed to create the necessary emotionless reflex whose speed and precision saved so many pilots.

At 1500ft, I cut the engine, trying to keep an airspeed of ± 130 Knts while looking for a suitable field, send a "mayday", cut all electrical contact, the fuel pump, the "booster" pump, the heating, the radio, opened the canopy, opened slightly the side door (to prevent the canopy to close at impact), straightened the harness..... the wind is the only noise I'm hearing now.

Everything went very fast: there, at left, the field I selected for my emergency landing. The altimeter is going down fast and I straightened my straps a last time to be one with the Spitfire.

I was confident because there was plenty of clear space and the Spitfire had the reputation to do everything OK, even an emergency landing. Altitude 600ft, flap down. I reduced the speed to 110 Knts and the position "nose down" gave me the possibility to see in front of me. I pull slightly to kill the speed. Seeing the wood airscrew disintegrating, I pushed down to bring the aircraft on the ground. I knew that the long and streamlined nose of the Spitfire XIV is a marvellous "ski" in case of problems. In an horrendous noise the Spitfire skidded on the ground then, suddenly, went on the left spraying a large amount of earth and sand in the cockpit. My "bobsleigh" stopped after 35 meter and it was again silence.

While getting out of the aircraft, I felt suddenly pain on top of my head: I just received a piece of wood of the airscrew.

Despite this slight wound, this event left me with a good souvenir and a renewed confidence in the solidity and maniability of this marvellous machine: the Spitfire.

The total flight time of the airplane was 23 hours and 35 minutes, and it never flew again. It was declared as a write-off by the Arsenal U.R.(Evere) the 10 August 1951.

A "Spitfire" for the Museum

Since 1950, the Royal Museum of the Army, willing to have a Spitfire to display, took contact with the Arsenal of Evere. This Arsenal retrieved wings, a tail, an engine and an airscrew amongst the write off components. The main problem was to find a fuselage because at the time all the cells in good shape were retrieved and repaired. The fuselage of the SG-55 was finally selected and a Spitfire FXIVc went on display at the "Musée de l'Armée" the 25 February 1951.

Exposed for a long time at the "Musée de l'Armée", it was moved in the Air&Space section in1976 for the 30 years anniversary of the Belgian Air Force.

The first restoration work started in 1977.

MV246 reborn

Since 1975 the restoration of the Spitfire FXIV was considered, or at least it's repainting in the 350th Squadron colours.

It's in 1977 that work started. The paint removing of the structure revealed heavy damage on the fuselage. Other things like two different types of undercarriage legs were put on evidence as well.

The damaged lower fuselage booms were repaired by the Technical School of Saffraanberg in 1978.

Back to the museum, benevolent workers continued the restoration.

Many gave up, discouraged by the huge amount of work ahead or, not motivated enough.

It is only towards the 80's that a small team lead by Stefaan Vancauteren and Eric Dessouroux started a serious and continuous work of restoration.

Resumed in a few lines, some steps of a long and patient work:

  • 1981: fuselage and wings have been stripped, cleaned, repaired and painted.
  • 1982, Oil tank has been removed, cockpit has been stripped.
  • 1983, the tail unit is completely refurbished
  • 1984, cockpit is now ready, in zinc-chromate, rudder has been fabric covered.

1985, cockpit is being put back together.

The 20 April 1985, The aircraft was back on its landing gear. There was still a lot of work to do.

  • 1987, installation of the Griffon 65 and the airscrew
  • 1990, replacement of the Griffon by another one in better condition and more complete.
  • 1990, start of the final paint work
  • 1996: finished, at least.

 

 

 

 


Spitfire XIV restoration picture gallery
 
A few picture representing the pilot station as it was before and during the restoration.
When the various hardware components were placed back and as it is now, after a long and patient search for the many missing bits and pieces.
The fireproof bulkhead, wings and engine bearing during reassembly.
A few pictures of the painting process: National insignia and code marking come first. Properly masked, the grey coat can be applied.
Green is applied. Once dry, masking is removed.... et voilà !
Eric Dessouroux, Harry Saeys (last pilot ofSG55), Félix and Bernard from "Binks"