Spitfire to grace car show

The Grace Spitfire ML407 will take to the skies at the Yorkshire Post Motor Show and Classic Car Rally.
The Grace Spitfire ML407 will take to the skies at the Yorkshire Post Motor Show and Classic Car Rally.
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A World War Two Spitfire which shot down the first enemy aircraft during the D-Day Landings is to take to the skies at one of the region’s biggest car rallies.

The Grace Spitfire ML407 will be flown in an aerobatic display at Castle Howard at The Yorkshire Post Motor Show and Classic Car Rally on Father’s Day.

And piloting the aircraft will be the son of the man responsible for its meticulous rebuild and return to the air after quarter of a century on the ground. Nick Grace spent five years restoring the aircraft after finding it in a museum in Scotland in 1979.

The Spitfire took to the air again in April 1985 with him at the controls and his wife, Carolyn, in the rear cockpit.

Tragically Mr Grace was killed in a car accident in 1988. He had been displaying the Spitfire for three years.

His widow, Carolyn, decided to learn to fly their Spitfire to keep it operational with a Grace in the cockpit in memory of her husband, in recognition of his outstanding achievement and for their two children Olivia and Richard, who were then aged five and four years old.

Richard, now 31 and running the maintenance organisation which maintains the aircraft and who displays the family Spitfire, will be flying his dynamic aerobatic display at Castle Howard.

The aircraft, which became known as the Grace Spitfire, is one of what is now a rare breed.

Mrs Grace said: “There are approximately 25 Spitfires that are operational in the country at this time and there were 20,000 built during the war as was this one. It did 320 combat hours to fight for this country and the average was 45.”

Built as a single seat low level Mark IX fighter at Castle Bromwich, the Grace Spitfire ML407 served in the front line of battle throughout the last 12 months of World War II.

ML407 was delivered into active service on April 29, 1944, by the famous pilot Jackie Moggridge to 485 New Zealand Squadron at ALG Selsey to Flying Officer Johnnie Houlton with the squadron code OU and personal insignia letter of V for Johnnie’s wife Vicki.

Mr Houlton was credited with shooting down the first enemy aircraft - a Junkers 88 - over the Normandy beachhead just south of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, while flying his Spitfire ML407 coded OU-V.

ML407 did a total of 176 operational sorties, predominantly ground attack, amassing more than 320 combat hours.

The restored aircraft will cut a stunning sight when it takes to the skies at Castle Howard.

Hundreds of classic cars and vintage vehicles will be on display in the grounds of the estate when the Grace Spitfire heads up a packed programme of entertainment on June 19.

Lisa Bradbury, Yorkshire Post Newspapers events manager, said: “This is a real coup for the show and is really in keeping with its ‘best of British’ theme marking the Queen’s 90th birthday year. Visitors will be mesmerised. It is a spectacle not to be missed and a fantastic way to celebrate Father’s Day with your dads and grandads.”

Tickets for The Yorkshire Post Motor Show and Classic Car Rally can be bought online by visiting www.castlehoward.co.uk/motorshow. Those booking online will receive a 10 per cent discount. To enter a vehicle please contact Karen Goodridge Cross on 0113 238 8201 or karen.cross@jpress.co.uk.

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