February 22, 2024
Click to Enlarge There is no evidence more clearer than this to confirm that the Spitfire was the same one that we speculated last week. MV-459 is clearly shown on the Oil Cooler covers that came up in the dig.

When the first reports of the Spitfire recovery came up, we speculated that the aircraft’s identity was MV-459 based on the information published in the book ‘Spitfire International’ from Air Britain. We never thought that the educated guess would turn out to be right on the dot!

‘MV-459’ was exactly what was found stencilled on one of the covers, assumed to be from the Oil Cooler/Air Scoops. WarbirdsofIndia was able to procure several photographs of the aircraft in its recovered state at Ambala. The photographs revealed some good news and some bad news.

First , the bad news. From the photographs it looks like that there is no fully intact Spitfire (or even pieces that can be made into an intact aircraft). The good news is that there is a substantial portion of the original remains that could form the basis of a ground up restoration of the types carried out in the UK. Airworthy Spitfires have been built up from remains that were in worse conditions than this and of lesser percentage of completeness. So there was hope in the world of an intact MV-459 surfacing one of these days.

During the escavation, the aircraft was broken up into three major sections. The Engine was recovered sans the cowling covers and bearers. The main fuselage with the mainspar wing formed the second section. and the last major section recovered was the tail section with the rudder, fin and elevator mainplanes.


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BEFORE: It appears that the engine was partly opened up by the crash investigation team in 47 and a few parts taken for study. The partial remains of the Merlin can be seen charred and stained by oil and the engine fire that bought down the aircraft. TODAY: The Restoration Team could not find a use for the engine – it was too broken up and heavy to mount on the wrecked airframe . The Team cleaned up the engine and painted the engine in a mix of silver dope and black paint.

The Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 that was recovered was pretty broken up – Perhaps as a result of the internal fire, impact with the ground and finally recovery of engine components by the Crash investigation team of 1947. While one row of cylinders with the cylinder heads is intact, the other row had the main cylinder block and head removed – revealing Pistons and crank rods sticking out of the main crank case.

Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge Click to Enlarge More close ups of the Merlin. First picture shows the ‘missing’ Cylinder block where the crank rods are sticking out. Second picture reveals the Exhaust stacks that come out from the complete set of the cylinder blocks.
The only identification number on the merlin is from the intact Cylinder block towards the rear end of the engine. Its significance is not known. Click to Enlarge

I assume that the engine fire started in one of the cylinder blocks and the investigation team probably opened up that block and went off with the parts for study. Three of the pistons are missing while the remaining three are still fixed to the crank rods.

The Cockpit and main wingspar

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The recovery in the mud and sand made it difficult to remove the aircraft in one piece. However incredibly almost the entire wingspan and cockpit structure was removed intact as can be seen in these photographs.

The largest intact section was the center fuselage with Cockpit section and the complete Wingspan. The port side wing seemed to have been damaged, nothing beyond the first machine gun port was recovered, but the starboard wing is almost complete.

From the wing section, the cannon and gun access panels must have been removed by the Crash recovery team back in 1947. Only the skin on the leading edge of the wings was intact. Photographs also show that the trailing edge flaps were in place when recovered.

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The inside of the cockpit shows the bare shell without instruments. The Rudder pedals and the Compass mount stand out conspicuously.

The Cockpit photographs reveal that the instruments have been stripped by the salvage party. The only identifiable components are the rudder pedals and the Compass mount. It is clear from the photographs that while the section from the engine firewall to the center of the cockpit was recovered, the entire section from the middle of the cockpit (around the wing root trailing edge) right to the tail section was not recovered. It is assumed that this part of the section was lost during recovery. Of the main fuselage longeron, only half of it seems to have been bought up.

- This photograph shows the section where the airframe was ‘cut off’. The ‘flap’ mechanism can just be made out.
From the Front: There would have been no ‘fuselage’ from the section seen here. Normally the engine bearers would have come and the cowling panels would have been affixed on the engine itself. -

The Tail section

The last piece of the identifiable wreckage is the tail section which has the elevators intact as well as large parts of the fin. The tail section does have some of the original paint scheme from 1947 still showing up.

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The tail fuselage of the Spitfire had to be seperated and removed from the fuselage. These ictures show that remnants of the paint can be viewed on the tail surfaces even after 55 years!

The tail was largely intact, but the Rudder and elevator surfaces were ‘eaten’ away by the elements. The portion of the rear fuselage where the tail wheel would have been fixed seemed to have been ripped off with the landing impact. No tail wheel was found.

Other Bits and Pieces

Another photograph showing the piece of wreckage from which the serial number MV-459 was found out. Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge Initially reported as the Supercharger, This component has been reported as the Thermostat by one source and as the Oil Cooler by another.

Various other bits and pieces were recovered from the wreckage site – most of it being the mangled fuselage skins. Another piece of equipment , which is either the thermostat or the oil cooler can be seen above.

What is the current Status?

MV-459 relics were brought to Air Force Station Ambala. At that time a complete restoration looks beyond the means of any local restoration body or the Indian Air Force, But it was solace to know that the remains of the aircraft would be preserved for some time .

Currently only organisations in the West and in Australia have the capability of restoring such pieces of wreckage into immaculate airworthy aircraft. In the past restoration companies have turned out complete aircraft from relics that were barely recognisable as a Spitfire and these remains should pose no problem for organisations.!

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