06/30/2011. One of the Spitfire's most important duties, mostly non-combatant, was obtaining air intelligence of enemy positions by photographic reconnaissance. This activity had been initiated by Sidney Cotton in his Lockheed 12 in 1938 as an undercover civilian enterprise. The first Spitfire photographic reconnaissance sortie was made from a French base in November 1939 by a converted Mk.I and from then on specific variants were developed under PR mark numbers.
The superior high-level performance of the Spitfire Mk.IX with its two-speed two-stage supercharged Merlin 61 series engine led to the operation of the PR.Mk.XI version at high altitudes (over 30,000 ft, 9144 m) and at high speeds of over 400 mph (644 kmh) and as such was the fastest of all the Merlin powered Spitfires. To suit varying requirements a 'universal' camera-mounting system was devised.
G-MKXI was produced under the serial PL965 at Aldermaston, Berkshire, and on October 1, 1944, it was delivered to the No.9 MU at Cosford for installation of service equipment. It was allotted to No.1 PRU at RAF Benson, and subsequently transferred to No.16 Squadron at Melsbroek, Belgium, the squadron later relocated to Eindhoven, the Netherlands. By the end of the hostilities PL965 had flown 75 hr 25 min in 33 sorties.
On July 10, 1947, PL965 was sold to the RNethAF and on August 8, it was flown to the Luchtmacht Technische School (Air Force Technical School) at AFB Deelen, the Netherlands, and for five years it was used as a ground technical instruction aircraft, thereafter it was put on diplay. It was sold to the Nationaal Oorlogs- en Verzet Museum (National War and Resistance Museum) at Overloon on November 22, 1960, where it was displayed outdoors for 27 years.
On March 13, 1987, the aircraft was acquired by the late Nick Grace and transferred to the UK for restoration by MAPS Ltd. at Rochester, Kent. Registered G-MKXI on November 13, 1989, it was flown again on December 23, 1992 by the late Ray Hanna, and subsequently was flown in many air shows in Europe and the USA. Nearly ten years later, August 27, 2002, the aircraft was registered in the USA as N965RF for a relative short period, as on October 8, 2004, it again took up its UK registration G-MKXI and is presently based at North Weald in Essex, UK.
Additional photo taken by Detlef Billig at Werneuchen, Germany.