In a coup for the Australian Warbird movement and historic aviation globally, the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia flown by Australia’s top scoring Battle of Britain ace, 39461 Flight Lieut. Paterson Clarence Hughes DFC is to be rebuilt to airworthy condition and operated in Australia as a flying memorial to ‘Pat’ Hughes. The aircraft is Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a, RAF Serial X4009 construction number 6S-74889 / 945, built at the Supermarine Eastleigh factory in the UK in 1940.
Recently the opportunity presented itself to purchase the remains of the aircraft, together with its identity, with a view to restoring her to airworthy condition. The aircraft was duly placed on the UK civil register as G-EMET and then it was acquired as a project by Ross and Ann-Maree Pay of Scone NSW and has been donated to Hunter Fighter Collection a Not-for-Profit charity based at Scone NSW. The aircraft was officially placed on the UK civil aircraft register in May 2020 and ownership has been transferred to Hunter Fighter Collection.
Vintage Fighter Restorations (VFR) at Scone NSW will undertake the work to make Spitfire X4009 airworthy. Given the poor state of the (substantial) remains of the aircraft it will be a very comprehensive restoration and rebuild.
Ross Pay, of Pays Air Service and VFR is particularly proud and excited at the prospect of restoring and operating the aircraft at Scone on behalf of The Hunter Fighter Collection. A public fundraising appeal will be launched by Hunter Fighter Collection to support the work to be completed on Spitfire X4009.
Vintage Fighter Restorations have an enviable record `in the field of Spitfire rebuilds and operation’ having rebuilt Mk VIII A58-758 VH-HET and Mk IXs MH 415 and they have rebuilt IX MH603, a third Mk IX being rebuilt as a two-seater.
Paterson ‘Pat’ Clarence Hughes DFC
The Spitfire was the aircraft Paterson (Pat) Clarence Hughes was flying on the day he was killed in action on the 7th of September 1940. This is one of the highest scoring Spitfires from the Battle of Britain with 10 victories; it is also unique in that Pat Hughes was the sole pilot to fly the Spitfire during its brief but successful service life of just 3 weeks completing 21 sorties. Pat claimed a total of 9 victories in 5 separate engagements including 5 Messerschmitt Bf 109’s, 3 Messerschmitt Bf 110’s and a Dornier Do 17 with an additional probable Messerschmitt Bf 109 for a total of 10 victories from his wartime total of 17. The others being in several other Spitfires he flew before the arrival of X4009.
The number of victories scored, included the probable shooting down of Oberleutnant Franz von Werra, the famous “One That Got Away” and combined with the fact that the aircraft was only flown operationally by Hughes makes it one of, if not the most famous and significant of Spitfire restorations ever undertaken, certainly this is the most significant Australian flown Spitfire.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk Ia X4009
Spitfire X4009’s first flight took place on 24th July 1940 and the Spitfire was then flown to RAF No37 Maintenance Unit on July 28 1940 and on August 18 1940 she was issued to No 234 Squadron RAF. On September 7 1940 the aircraft crashed after an engagement with a Luftwaffe Dornier Do 17 South East of London with F/Lt P C Hughes killed after bailing out of the aircraft. The Spitfire was officially struck off RAF charge on 30th September 1940.
Spitfire X4009 is generally thought to have collided with wreckage from the crippled German bomber, rendering the Spitfire uncontrollable. It is also possible that Hughes accidentally rammed his target. Further speculation suggested that he was the victim of friendly fire from another British fighter attacking the same Dornier, or was struck by German bullets from a Bf 109. Some observers on the ground, including collier Charles Hall, maintained that Hughes rammed the Dornier on purpose. Whatever the case, Hughes bailed out of his faithful X4009 however his parachute did not open and he died as a result. The aircraft fell in a field at Sundridge, Kent, UK.
He was the driving force in the achievements of 234 Squadron RAF and he lies at rest in St. James Church Yard, Sutton in Holderness, Hull, UK. A stone monument dedicated to 39461 Flight Lieut. Paterson Clarence Hughes D.F.C. is located in Kiama NSW.
Many years later the wreckage of the Spitfire was excavated and various components recovered and placed on display at various museums in the UK whilst other fragments were held in private collections.
There has been somewhat of resurgence in the restoration of airworthy Mk1 Spitfire aircraft has witnessed the 4 airworthy Mk1 Spitfires flying at Duxford UK at a number of Airshows. This activity has meant that the tooling and components are now available to allow for more restorations and this will assist the rebuild of Spitfire X4009 in Australia immensely.
The aircraft will be known as The Pat Hughes Flying Memorial. Hunter Fighter Collection Incorporated is located at Scone NSW and is a registered Charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and has ATO deductible gift recipient (DGR) status.
A Donation of $2 or more to Hunter Fighter Collection Incorporated is Tax Deductible in Australia.