Months ago, at Flying Legends, I'd spotted a full size replica Spitfire on display on the hangar base outside Wing Co Joe's. There was a crowd around the aircraft and I didn't have the time to stop and chat with the 'crew', so headed out to do my duty on the flightline.
One thing led to another and I discovered that I had viewed the gun camera film of the pilot of MK805, F/Lt Tony Cooper of 64 Sqdn.
So, today I had the pleasure of spending a few hours in the company of a real gentleman and handing over a DVD 'compilation' of his gun camera footage from May through to August 1944.
I was able to look at his Log Books, and in what can only be described as an extraordinary coincidence, I looked at a photograph of F/Lt Cooper, sat in front of a Spitfire, with several other pilots at 53 OTU Kirton-in-Lindsay in February 1945. Sat next to Tony was a S/Ldr Niven (OC) - I peered at the photograph and recognised the face. A quick check of the Log Book of John Niven on my laptop, revealed it was indeed the one and the same.
To be able to sit down and actually talk with one of the pilots, whose footage was some of that which I have been watching over the last seven years, was a real privilege and honour.
I hope to be able to spend some more time with Tony and maybe even find yet more footage of his time in action...
I have now, kindly, been sent digital copies of the Flying Log Books of John, along with some photos, and hope to do some matching up of the film footage I have viewed with the actual entries in his Log Books.
As a slight aside, a thread over on Flypast Historic Aviation forum regarding "Falkland Islands Spitfires", mentioned one of the ten paid for by the Falkland Islanders, being allocated to 602 Squadron.
A quick check of the Log Book for 1941 revealed that John flew X4615 during April, May and June of 1941.
John also flew for a time with 485 (NZ) Squadron and there are a few photos from his time with them. I had hoped to add another element to the story in finding ML407 as one of the Spitfires he flew. Not found it yet, but other Spitfires in the "ML" series crop up. While a few photos feature Spitfires with the "OU" squadron code, ML407 OU-V is absent (or is maybe just hidden behind a group of very young men)...
Image Courtesy Roger Niven
ML407 - "The Grace Spitfire"
UPDATE: Found the following entry in his Log Book serving as OC 485 (NZ) Sqdn -
Aug 3 1944 Spitfire IXB ML407 Target Support Cover - 20000' Lille Ostend area covering 300 Halifaxes on Noball at Foret Le Nieppe. Very hazy. Bad for strafing. Little flak from St.Omer & Hesdin.
He also flew one of the BBMF Spitfires during his service -
Feb 19 1945 Spitfire VB AB910 Weather Test (15 mins) Operating from Hibaldstow