Seven decades after it crash-landed on a French beach during the Battle of Britain, and 35 years after it reemerged from the sand, the last Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk.1—GR-J/P9374 in private hands will go to auction at Christie’s London on July 9, carrying a presale estimate of roughly $2.3 million to $3.9 million. The single-seater aircraft, delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF) in March 1940, was shot down less than three months later. The pilot Peter Cazenove belly flopped the stricken Spitfire on the sands of Calais beach and became a POW; he later took part in the Great Escape, as would another of the plane’s eight World War II–era pilots.
The Spitfire wreck stayed put and was gradually swallowed by the tides until those same tides revealed it again in 1980. Ultimately, its remaining parts were delivered to an aircraft restoration company at Duxford, England, where 12 engineers spent three years bringing the plane back to life. It took to the air for the first time since WWII in September 2011, then next appeared in May of this year at the Victory in Europe Day anniversary festivities at the Imperial War Museums Duxford. Proceeds from the sale of the Spitfire will benefit Panthera, a wild cat conservation charity, and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. (christies.com)