The original Spitfire MK805
The true history
The original aicraft on which our reproduction is based was produced by Vickers Armstrong at their Castle Bromwich works in March 1944. It was equipped with a Merlin 66 engine and entered service on 5th July 1944 with 64 Fighter Squadron, bearing the Squadron letters 'SH' and identification letter 'B'. Having been thoroughly tested it became the personal aeroplane of F/Lt. Anthony (Tony) Cooper who was at the time 'A' Flight Commander and Deputy Squadron Commander.
The Original MK805
In those days it was normal procedure for the personal aircraft to bear an insignia or name chosen by their pilots and following this tradition MK805 was duly inscribed 'Peter John III', this being the third Spitfire to carry the name of F/Lt. Cooper's son who was born two months earlier on 5th May 1944.
Mr Tony Cooper Tony's Son Peter John
During this period of it's service, F/Lt. Cooper flew MK805 a total of seventy one times, of which thirty eight were operational sorties.
These varied considerably, being dictated by the progress made by the Allied Forces, and included 'Rhubarbs', Fighter Sweeps, Shipping Reconnaissance, 'Jim Crows', Bomber Escorts, Low Level Bombing and Glider and Tug Escorts for Operation 'Market Garden' at Arnham.
Apart from one or two problems and the usual exciting moments MK805 behaved perfectly, until 27th September when, after carrying out a mission escorting Halifaxes bombing the oil plant at Bottrop in Germany, it's engine seized up over the North Sea, having apparently collected some flak whilst over the target
Just like old times.
F/Lt. Cooper was able to glide back into Belgium and land wheels up in a ploughed field, four miles inside the Allied lines at Moerbeke. Unhurt, he was able to return to the U.K. next day and, in the tradition of the squadron, was operating in a new Spitfire within forty eight hours of the crash landing.
Eventually, MK805 was collected and returned to England, where it was made airworthy again and, after a period of time, put back into service; this time in the Italian theatre of war. However, according to the records, MK805 never flew again on an operational sortie and retired after the conflict to a plinth on which it guarded the entrance of an Italian firing range at Nettuno.
Terry & Tony with MK805 Replica Tony showing Terry his log book
During it's operational life with G/Lt. Tony Cooper, 'Peter John III' was based at Harrowbeer, 64 Squadron being part of the famous 'Harrowbeer Wing' which consisted of 64, 611 and 124 Spitfire Squadrons commanded by Wing commander 'Birdy' Bird - Wilson D.S.O., D.F.C.
However, from time to time, in order to carry out the long range operations the wing would move to forward bases including Coltishall, Manston, Tangmere and Bradwell Bay.
BBC Interview Tony & Terry's wife Janet A True Gentleman
The story of 'Peter John III' fortunately has a very happy ending, a few years ago a group of enthusiasts including a young Italian aircraft historian, Gregory Ailgi, found MK805 on the firing range and now, after thousands of hours of patient and dedicated engineering it has been completely restored and stands in the livery of the Italian Air Force in the Italian Air Museum at Vigna Di Vallee.
Terry Arlow wishes to express his thanks to Mr tony Cooper for his contribution to the operational history of the original Spitfire MK805.