On Thursday, May 27th, Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc MJ755 arrived home in Greece following a three year restoration stint within the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar at former RAF Biggin Hill near London, England. MJ755 is the only ex-Hellenic Air Force Spitfire extant, and had not flown over Greece since her retirement from military service on December 8th, 1953, so her homecoming garnered significant attention, both domestically and overseas!
MJ755 set out from Biggin for Greece on May 25th, making stops in France and Italy on the way. Upon entering Greek airspace last Thursday, two Hellenic Air Force F-16s from 335 Squadron, a unit within which MJ755 once served, gave her an honorary escort. The Spitfire first landed upon Greek soil at the nation’s most westerly terrain, the Island of Corfu. She then made her way to Ioannina and from there to Tatoi, just north of Athens.
On Tuesday, June 1, 2021, a formal arrival ceremony for MJ755 took place at Dhekelia Air Base, in Tatoi, home to the Hellenic Air Force Museum Museum. It was a significant enough occasion for numerous high-level governmental and military officials to attend. This included the Greek Minister of National Defense, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, the Deputy Minister of National Defense, Alkiviadis Stefanis, the Chief of the General Staff of National Defense, General Konstantinos Floros, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Greece, The Honorable Kate Smith, the Chief of General Staff, Brigadier General Aeroporos, the Chief of General Staff of the Army, Lieutenant General Charalambos Lalousis, the Chief of General Staff of the Navy, Rear Admiral Stylianos Petrakis PN, Honorary Chiefs, Mr. Peter Libos (President of the Ikaros Foundation which enabled the restoration), Brigadier General Konstantinos Hatzilakos, representatives of the Panhellenic Association of Aviation Veterans, as well as the Presidents and Members of the Associations of Apostates and the Alumni Associations of Productive Schools of the Air Force.
After the ceremony, attendees were able to inspect the Spitfire close up and then witness the fighter perform in the skies. It was a magnificent occasion.
MJ755 has an interesting history. She rolled off the production line at Supermarine’s shadow factory in Castle Bromwich during late 1943, arriving with 33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire that December. In early 1944 the Spitfire received its first combat assignment, joining the RAF’s Middle East Air Force, arriving in Casablanca aboard the SS Fort Liard on March 13th. MJ755 joined No. 43 Squadron, the Fighting Cocks, and took part in Operation Dragoon, flying cover for the Allied forces landing in the south of France in mid-August, 1944. 43 Squadron hopped from airfield to airfield as the invasion progressed across France, extending into Peretola, Italy during October, 1944. She finished up in Klagenfurt, Austria at war’s end in May, 1945.
Following the war, the RAF transferred 77 Supermarine Spitfires, a mixture of Mk.IX and Mk.XIVs to Greece to help the nation rebuild the Hellenic Air Force. MJ755 was one of these airframes, arriving in Greece on February 27th, 1947, and joining 335 Squadron at Sides that April. By 1949, MJ755 had been relegated to the Air Force Pilot’s School at Tatoi Air Base in Dekeleia to become a part of the Reserve Pilots Training Center. The Spitfire journeyed to Athens in 1950 for a full overhaul at the State Aircraft Factory, being fitted with two cameras for aerial reconnaissance missions. As already noted, her last flight took place on December 8th, 1953. She then entered storage with the Aircraft Storage Squadron at Hellenikon Air Base, but later returned to Tatoi for gate guard duties. The Spitfire later became a part of the Hellenic War Museum in Athens, sitting on external display for several decades before formal transfer to the newly-formed Hellenic Air Force Museum at Dekeleia in 1995. In 2008 the museum removed MJ755 from display, and disassembled her for a planned airworthy restoration effort. Other than disassembly and paint stripping, however, little substantive restoration work appears to have taken place until a decade later when financing became available to fund her restoration in England. Once that was in place, progress towards first flight occurred rapidly. She arrived at Biggin Hill for restoration in early 2018, which we covered HERE, and made her first flight less than two years later. Had it not been for the pandemic, it seems certain that her return home would have taken place last Spring.
Regardless, it was magnificent to see this precious aircraft in the skies over Greece again, and here’s to many years of safe operation to come for MJ755!
— e-Αmyna (@e_amyna) June 1, 2021