By Pierre Kosmidis
Photos and videos © www.ww2wrecks.com
Spitfire Mk.IX, EN199 Mary Rose, on display at the Malta Aviation Museum, was flown in the North Africa by Wing Commander R. Berry and Squadron Leader C. F. Gray, Commanding Officer No.81 Squadron.
EN199 took part in the Allied Operation Torch landings and the subsequent Tunisian campaign and fought until the Axis surrender in Africa.
Later EN199 was issued to No.154 Squadron which had moved from North Africa to Malta from where it took part in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily.
The aircraft moved to the Italian mainland taking part in further operations until the end of the war, being eventually moved back to Luqa in Malta with No.73 Squadron.
According to the Malta Aviation Museum website, in 1974 an Association was formed to establish a National War Museum. As much as possible of the Spitfire wreckage was collected with the intention of restoring it to display condition. This task proved to be beyond the capabilities of the Association members at the time.
In 1992 a small dedicated group of volunteers, led by Ray Polidano, restarted the same project. First, by collecting as many of the original parts as possible, although most of which had deteriorated significantly over the years. Much was still missing.
Eventually sufficient parts were to hand to make a start on the project. The initial work was carried in Ray Polidano’s home garage.
Missing parts had to be either manufactured by hand locally, sourced from overseas, or recovered from underwater wrecks found in the waters around our coast.
Within 2 years the reconstruction was completed and in time for display in Valletta on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of VE day in 1995.
This was to be the beginning of the Malta Aviation Museum.