In June 2004 RAC's first 'proper' warbird returned to the UK from its sojourn in Florida. It was no secret within the crewroom at Breighton that the owner was looking to sell the aircraft and that the inevitable would happen sooner rather than later. It had been decided to return the aircraft to its authentic 19 PR Squadron colours with the addition of D-Day stripes, it being the 60th anniversary year of the Allied invasion of Europe.

Having been forwarned, I popped over to the airfield to see the Spitfire one afternoon, still expecting to see the wings in one corner of the hangar and the fuselage in another - a good opporunity for some 'internal' photography. What greeted me was the Spit' stood on her undercarriage on the ramp, minus engine cowlings, but otherwise intact.

I was told that it was the intention to run the Merlin that afternoon which explained why the aicraft had been tied-down to the concrete and the fire extinguishers were out, plus, "...if you didn't get too bored (yea, right!) the Hurricane is due to return from a display at Brooklands later and will probably beat-up the field in the time-honoured fashion!"

Guys were climbing all over the Spitfire, tightening this and that with a brand new set of Snap-on tools. I detected a heightened sense of excitement and in no time at all an external battery had been hooked up to the aircraft and Taff was climbing aboard.

The engine turned but wouldn't fire-up and there was a major fuel leak where a line had come loose in transit. This was soon rectified and, with a bang and a pop the Merlin fired up.
The engine was run for a while at different power settings and, when it was eventually shut down (you don't tire of hearing such sweet music but the ears were beginning to bleed!) the team began fitting the cowlings - not an easy task as it happens because the PR XI engine has an extra oil tank in the 'chin' and the cowlings are very snug.

Once the cowlings were in place imagine our surprise when Taff emerged in his flightsuit!! The aircraft was fired-up once more and suddenly this, albeit aesthetically pleasing, lump of metal sprang into life. A few cockpit checks and a slow taxy along the runways edge convinced us that the Spitfire was about to fly - alas, Taff wanted to check something and brought the aircraft back to the hangar... just as well, dark clouds approached and with them, the first spots of rain. Time for a coffee!

Shower over, coffee drunk and Taff back in the cockpit. Game on.

The Spitfire skipped into the air and Taff took her away to the south for 20 minutes or so. We then heard Brian call up in the Hurricane, he was ten minutes out. "Keep your eyes peeled Brian, you might just get bounced!"

Sure enough, in the distance we could see two familiar silhouettes approaching.

We could hear Taff and Brian's radio transmissions over the tannoy, "What an amazing sight" said Brian as Taff pulled alongside. I remember thinking that life didn't get much better than this!

Brian recovered the Hurricane and Taff flew a couple more passes before bringing the Spitfire home.

Taff displayed the Spitfire a handful of times that season before she was found a new home with the Hangar 11 Collection at North Weald, Essex.