The Grace Spitfire was originally built at Castle Bromwich in early 1944 as a single seat fighter, and served in the front line of battle throughout the last twelve months of WWII, with six different Squadrons of the RAF's 2nd Tactical Air Force, all in all flying 176 operational combat sorties. Delivered to 485 New Zealand Squadron on the 29th of April 1944 by Jackie Moggridge, one of the top lady pilots of the ATA, it became the 'mount' of Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton DFC who, whilst flying ML407, was accredited, with the first enemy aircraft shot down over the Normandy beach head on D-Day.
In December of 1944, ML407 was transferred to 341 Free French Squadron, becoming the aircraft of Sergeant Jean Dabos. It then moved on through 308 (Polish ) Squadron, 349 (Belgian) Squadron, 345 (Free French) Squadron, 332 (Norwegian) Squadron, and back to 485 (New Zealand) Squadron, before being converted in 1950 to the 2 seat configuration by Supermarine at Southampton as an advanced trainer for the Irish Air Corps where she flew until 1960. She was used for the film 'Battle of Britain' and was then sold to the Strathallan Museum from where she was acquired by engineer Nick Grace in 1979.
Nick spent five years meticulously restoring the Grace Spitfire to flying condition as a 2-seat Spitfire, and completed this incredible project in 1985, when, on the 16th of April, the Grace Spitfire flew again, with Nick's capable hands at the controls.
Nick went on to fly it at many air displays and for filming, including 'Perfect Lady' and 'Piece of Cake'. A cruel twist of fate occurred when Nick Grace was tragically killed in a car accident in 1988, and his widow Carolyn Grace took on the task of learning to fly the Spitfire, which was documented in the film 'Going Solo'. Carolyn, as can be seen in the film, successfully completed her training by 'going solo' in the Spitfire in 1990, and hasn't looked back since, getting her Display Authorisation in 1991, and adding Aerobatic and Formation qualifications to that since.
The Spitfire is based in Hangar Two at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK, and maintained by our own Team of engineers at a maintenance facility at Bentwaters in Suffolk. Carolyn flies the Grace Spitfire at many airshows, both public and private, up and down the United Kingdom. She has flown in numerous large celebratory Spitfire Formations including at Duxford the Diamond 16, the 'Big Wing' Formation with 23 Spitfires and more recently, the Diamond 9 to celebrate 90 years of flying at Duxford.