For much of my young childhood I lived in Northolt, about a mile from RAF Northolt which is still a very active RAF aerodrome and, indeed, the only Battle of Britain airfield still operated by the RAF.
As a kid, I occasionally saw the later marks of Spitfire flying over our prefab and, even then, I was thrilled to bits when they did.
My Dad served in the RAF in WW2 but never flew - however he was stationed all over the UK and was able to tell me lots of thrilling stories - and the gory one when he saw a comrades head chopped off by a propellor!
When off duty, Dad made scale models of allied aircraft for identification training and they were awesome. I particularly remember the Short Sunderland and Consolidated B24 Liberator - both made from a billiard table smashed to bits when Eastchurch airfield on the Isle of Sheppey was bombed for the umpteenth time.
I suppose this was why I began to make model aircraft from an early age, mostly those rubber band powered Keil Kraft planes that never flew properly!
These were my only experience of making model aircraft until my late 20s when I decided to build, from plans, a 5' 6" wingspan, radio controlled Mk 1 Spitfire from Brian Taylor plans - quite a jump, eh?
It only took me thirteen years to finish! In that time 4 stroke engines and retracts had become available so when, finally, my Spitfire took to the sky, it both looked and sounded right.
So where does ML 407 come into this story?
In August 1979, Nick Grace bought the stripped airframe of ML407 and all remaining Spitfire spares from the Strathallan Collection and these were transported to St Merryn airfield in Cornwall where Nick started the six year rebuild of ML407 including a conversion to a two seater.
I know - it took me 13 years to build just a model!
One year after the first flight of the restored ML407, I went to see this Spitfire and many others at Biggin Hill Airshow - the aim was to have a post war record number of Spits in the air at one time but it was a truly awful day of wind and heavy rain so this was not possible.
I remember clearly walking along the front of this long line of Spitfires which were "protected" from the public by a line of small posts to which was attached a rope - plus a few patrolling "guards".
I then came to ML407 bearing squadron code OUV and there was Nick Grace talking to someone. He looked friendly and approachable!
So, when one "guard" passed to the left and another to the right, and both disappeared from sight, I stepped over the rope and walked towards Nick, stopping at a respectful distance away from him. After a few seconds he stopped talking, turned to me and said "Hello, can I help you?"