A Spitfire has been meticulously restored to its former glory in the United Kingdom and given the number ZP-W – a nod to Australia’s No 457 Squadron.
CAPTION: A restored Supermarine Spitfire bearing the number of Australia’s No 457 Squadron flying once again in British skies. Photo courtesy Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar Facebook page. Story by Wing Commander Mary Anne Whiting.
Quality Manager of The Spitfire Company, based at Biggin Hill airport in Kent, UK, Nigel Rockhill contacted the RAAF History and Heritage Branch and requested to use the number.
“Our company restores, maintains and operates former military aircraft, specialising in the Supermarine Spitfire,” Mr Rockhill said.
“We sought permission to paint and restore a Spitfire to reflect No 457 Squadron, operated by the RAAF, and to be given the number ZP-W as flown by RAAF Squadron Leader Bruce Watson.”
Director General History and Heritage Branch Air Commodore John Meier was quick to reply.
“The RAAF is very thankful The Spitfire Company chose No 457 Squadron as the subject for its restoration,” Air Commodore Meier said.
“After viewing the images supplied for the restoration I was happy to approve the paint work.”
No 457 Squadron was a WWII RAAF fighter squadron formed in England in June 1941 and equipped with Supermarine Spitfire fighters.
It was transferred to Australia in June 1942 and was involved in combat in the South West Pacific before being disbanded in November 1945.
Squadron Leader Bruce Watson was a pilot during WWII who received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
His citation states the award was given for his “determination and courage” in Labuan where he “shared in the destruction of one and the damage of five enemy aircraft on the ground, the destruction and damage of many enemy vehicles, houses and stores”.
President of the Spitfire Association and son of a RAAF Spitfire pilot Geoff Zuber paid tribute to Squadron Leader Watson and The Spitfire Company.
“Squadron Leader Watson was an inspiration to all of us,” Mr Zuber said.
“I thank The Spitfire Company for their magnificent restoration and Air Commodore Meier for approving the restoration paint work representing No 457 Squadron and Squadron Leader Watson.
“We will forever be bound together by a love of Australia and of this iconic aeroplane.
“No 457 Squadron is one of the hallmarks of the RAAF contribution in WWII and beyond.”