Members of the Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Society went to the Pathfinder museum at RAF Wyton near St. Ives in Cambridgeshire, on Sunday 13th May to collect various pieces of Spitfire X4593, which have been kindly donated to our society by the museum.
The museum is not open directly to the public and you do have to submit a request to pre book your visit as it is on an active base.
603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron was a fighter squadron responsible for the first German aircraft to be shot down over Britain during the Second World War. On the 27th August 603 moved to Hornchurch, where it remained until 13th December. It thus took part in most of the third phase of the Battle of Britain (the assault on Fighter Command) August-December 1940: Hornchurch.
When the aircraft was transferred to 266 squadron August 1940: the squadron went to RAF Eastchurch and then onto RAF Hornchurch, 14th-21st August 1940, then leaving in August for RAF Wittering where they stayed until September 1941.
Spitfire Mk IA registration number: X4593, built at Eastleigh, Hants as a Mark 1A Spitfire with a Merlin III engine. The plane flew in the Battle of Britain and is credited with destroying at least one German plane, believed to be a Heinkel. It was a presentation Spitfire paid for/named by the Madras Mail (English language daily evening paper, published 1868-1981), the first in a trio of Mark 1’s named by their readers. The plane was called ‘Kerala’ (after the SW Indian state) and allocated to 266 Squadron, a Rhodesian squadron. The other two planes were X4594 ANDHRADESA and X4595 TOMILAND.
It was issued to 603 Squadron on the 8th October 1940 but passed to 266 Squadron nine days later as part of a swap (after 603 received the superior Mark 11As). X4593 crashed on a training flight on the 22nd November 1940, at Holme Lode, Cambridgeshire.
He served with 266 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Service No: 86399.
He was 20 and the son of James and Ann Penketh of Hove in Sussex.
Pilot Officer Penketh broke formation and entered a dive during a routine training flight with two other Spitfires on the 22nd November 1940.
He did not use his parachute and was killed when the aircraft struck the ground vertically.
Recovered and restored remains of the plane are now at RAF Wyton Pathfinder Museum.
A fragment of bone belonging to RAF Pilot Officer Harold Penketh was found when the aircraft was excavated in Cambridgeshire in October 2015.
The rest of his body was recovered shortly after the Spitfire crashed during a training exercise in 1940.
A plaque and information board were unveiled in September 2016 at a short service near to the crash site at Holme Lode.
A service was held at Woodvale Crematorium before the ashes were interred at St Peter’s Church.