Text: As mentionned - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Marc Arys & Other as mentionned - Translation: David Niemegeerts  © sbap 2016


Fortissimi Since 1941

On Wednesday, May 25th 2016, the press presentation of the F-16AM - registered FA 129 - took place. It received a new special decoration to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 350th Sqn. Of the Belgian Air Component. This ceremony was honored by the presence of Major General Fred VANSINA - Air Component Commander.
The reception on the premises of the squadron was organized by the staff of the 2nd Wing TAC - Aviator Colonel Thierry DUPONT (Base Co) and Aviator Major Arnaud HENUZET (Co 350th Sqn.)
The actual birthday of the creation of the squadron is normally in November 2016, but given the organization of the Belgian Air Force Days in June at Florennes Air Base, the presentation has been advanced to group the numerous commemorations of 2016, such as 60 years of Belgian Air Force, 75 years of the brave Gauls, and 20 years of foreign F-16 operations.
The 350th Sqn. Was created in November 1941, during the Second World War, in the Royal Air Force, more precisely on the base of Valley (GB). Since the very beginning, it was mainly composed of Belgian pilots.
It contributed to the allied victories at the Battles of Dieppe, Normandy, the Ardennes, and in the countryside of Holland, and finally in Germany between 1941 and 1945.
After a few courtesies to all project participants, the CO explained the choices made for the decoration of the aircraft.
Both modern and traditional influences are gathered in this decoration, paying tribute to the thirty four members of the squadron that have given their lives to defend our freedom.
The plane remains fully operational while presenting an evocative tail decoration, and more specifically the origin of the squadron.

Camouflage colors of the RAF, registration and roundels of its origin (British on the left, Belgian on the right).
A Spitfire profile is present in the emblem of the 75th anniversary.
A new, beautiful design of the head of Ambiorix, and the mention " Fortissimi since 1941 ", reminder of the initial devise at the time of creation of the crest within the Royal Air Force, " Belgae gallorum fortissimi " (of all the Gauls, the Belgians are the bravest… and we aren't going to contradict this devise that makes us so proud)
The particular registration choice (displayed in its exact original colors, and again British on the left, and Belgian on the right) being "MN-B" corresponds with the code worn by several "Spits" in the 350th.
However, there is one plane that should be choosing a very particular code. It's about MH434, that was appointed to the Gauls from January until March 1944. Why this particular code? Simply because this Spitfire Mk IX still flies today. This Spitfire currently belongs to the "Old Flying Machine Company", based on the mythical airbase of Duxford in Cambridgeshire. Icing on the caske, the MH434 should be present in Florennes during the Belgian Air Force Days, and it's not unlikely that it will once again carry its original code from 1944, being MN-B that we can find on the FA 129.
After this introduction, the FA 129 decorated by the "Plotting" team of Beauvechain by following the design created by our collaborator Bruno Ghils was officially presented to the press. This was of course a real treat for the photographers.
Some sunrays shone on the right moment, and allowed for some very beautiful pictures, from almost every angle. Then the moment came for flight preparation, followed by the departure to the start of the runway for an in-flight presentation by one of the current Aces of the 350th. By doing several perfect low-speed, low-altitude passes, the pilot skillfully presented its two profiles to the numerous photographers.
Some more pictures during taxiing before the end of the presentation gave a last opportunity to immortalize the FA 129, which proudly wears his commemorative logo.

By the present page, SBAP team would like to thanks Air Force Chief of Staff and ComoOpsAir IPR team for the fine organization of the event and also the Florennes Airbase authorities for their warm welcome and facilities during this event. 
(Text: Alain Debras)

Spitfire MkVb (MN-B / BL778) waiting next combat (1943-1944)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
Ttechnicians preparing the Mk XIV MN-M (RM764) for a next mission in 1945
(Coll Bruno Ghils)
  The preliminary project (© Bruno Ghils)
  The final profile (© Bruno Ghils)
    The coming out at Beauvechain paintshop (© Marc Arys)
    Both side of the tail in company of our collaborator and designer Bruno Ghils (© Marc Arys & Serge Van Heertum))
The official presentation at Florennes airbase  (© Alain Debras)
  The staff seems happy of this anniversary and the aircraft  (© Serge Van Heertum)
  The preparation for the press presentation flight  (© Serge Van Heertum)
Mike November Bravo  (© Serge Van Heertum)
  Start up...  (© Serge Van Heertum) Taxi...  (© Serge Van Heertum)
  ...and action !  (© Serge Van Heertum) (© Serge Van Heertum)
  The British and Belgian roundels together  (© Serge Van Heertum) A last pass  (© Serge Van Heertum)
  Final landing, the anniversary is launched  (© Serge Van Heertum)
The 350 squadron MN-B aircraft:
Spitfire Mk IIa
P7826 28/11/41 - 24/04/42

Spitfire MK Vb
AA729 No date
AA933 10/02/42 - 26/09/42
BL621 19/02/42 - 23/05/42
EP387 28/08/42 - 18/09/42
BM196 00/09/42 - No date
EP288 29/11/42 - 27/03/43
EN860 07/06/43 - 11/07/43
(Collided with BM399 on approach to Ouston, F/O Van de Poel killed)
BM240 20/07/43 - 27/08/43
BL778 20/07/43 - 21/02/44
BL631 10/06/44 - 23/07/44

Spitfire MK IXc
MH434 01/01/44 - 13/03/44
(Sold to BAF SM-41)
MK298 06/07/44 - 09/08/44

Spitfire MK XIVe
RM700 09/08/44 - 05/10/44
(Sold to BAF SG-107)

It seemed interesting to include some details about the MH434, which proudly carried its Belgian colors, both military and civilian.
The most famous military aircraft of all time and perhaps the most famous of all Spitfires still flying today, MH434 was built in 1943 at Vickers, Castle Bromwich. This Spitfire is remarkably original, having never been subject to any re-build. For its inaugural flight at the beginning of August 1943, MH434 was air tested by the legendary Alex Henshaw Chief Test Pilot for Supermarine at Castle Bromwich.
Within the same month MH434 was scoring with 222 Squadron. It was first allocated to South African pilot Flt Lt Henry Lardner-Burke, DFC (1916-1970). On the August 27th in the St Omer area over France, Lardner-Burke, in MH434, shot down a Focke-Wulf FW-190 and damaged a second during a mission to escort USAAF B-17 bombers. On the September 5th, 1943 they again shot down another FW-190 in the Nieuport area, and on September 8th, 1943 claimed halves share in the downing of a Messerschmitt Bf-109G in Northern France.
In January 1944, MH434 was transferred to 350 Sqn based at Hornchurch, before being returned to 222 Sqn in March 1944. After over 80 operational sorties, MH434 was stood down in March 1945.
Post war the MH434's guns were loaded again when bought by the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1947. The Spitfire served with 322 Sqn as H-105 (later H-68) and used mainly for ground strafing and light bombing missions. Later on the aircraft suffered a crash landing in Semarang, Java Island. After spending some time in storage, MH434 was repaired and flew again in Holland as from March 10th, 1953.
The next owner was the Belgian Air Force of this Spitfire, and was coded SM-41. The plane served the Advanced Pilot School, Koksijde based and later with the 13 Wing at Brustem.
On the March 26th, 1956 the MH434 was put up for sale and bought and brought back to Britain by airline pilot Tim Davies. As G-ASJV the Spitfire was moved to Stansted then Elstree for a full overhaul. The aircraft was flown purely for pleasure and took part in its first movie role "Operation Crossbow".
Between 1956 and 1963, the MH434 was owned by the Belgian Company Cogea Nouvelle based at Ostend airfield. Coded OO-ARA, the plane was mainly used for target towing. During its Cogea Nouvelle days the aircraft was starring in the Normandy landing classic "The Longest Day".
November 1967 saw MH434 join the motion picture air force of Spitfire Productions Ltd. Set up by Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie for the film " The Battle of Britain" (code AI-A). At the end of the movie in 1968 MH434 was sold again. The new owner, Sir Adrian Swire, Chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways, had the Spitfire painted in 1944 camouflage colour scheme with his initials AC-S, 138 sqn codes. There were several film and television appearances during this period, including "A Bridge Too Far".
In April 1983 MH434 was sold at auction to its most illustrious owner, Ray Hanna (Nalfire Aviation Ltd) and became one of OFMC's founding aircraft. The first major rebuild took place in the winter of 1994-95. MH434 has become a regular movie co-star and airshow performer and when not in make up for a role is flown in the authentic 222 Sqn codes ZD-B.
The MH434 can be seen on regular way on the famous Duxford airshows organized by the Imperial War Museum.
(Text: Serge Van Heertum)

222 Sqn colours during the World War II (1943) 
(Courtesy RAF archives)
322 Sqn Dutch Air Force H105 (1948)
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
322 Sqn Dutch Air Force H68 Java Island (1949)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 Flying School Belgian Air Force (1954)
(Courtesy Coll Eric Dessouroux)
Cogea Nouvelle (1957)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
Cogea Nouvelle (1963)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
Private Tim Davies G-ASJV (1964)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
Battle of Brittain movie ficticious code (1969)
(Courtesy United Artist movie) 
Without any code after the movie (1974)
(Coll Denis Eusicom) 
Private Adrian Swire 138 Sqn colours (1975)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
201 Sqn code for the TV series "Piece of Cake" (1988)
(Coll Denis Eusicom) 
PRU config (1989)
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Norvegian Air Force PRU scheme (1989)
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
RCAF code for the series "Perfect Hero" (1990)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 Press presentation at Kleine Brogel in 1991, note the error on the fin flash
(© Serge Van Heertum)
With the fin flash corrected at Ooostmale Warbird show in 1992
(© Serge Van Heertum)
 121 Eagle Sqn colours (1990)
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 13 OTU Sqn for the TV series "Over Here"  (1995)
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Belgian 350 Sqn code (1995)
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Polish 136 Sqn code (1997- 1998)
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Polish 315 Sqn (1998)
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Belgian 349 Sqn (2002) Only one day
(Courtesy Belgian Air Force P.Stams)
222 Sqn code (2013)
(© Serge Van Heertum)
D-Day airshow with invasion stripes (2014)
(© Serge Van Heertum)

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