On 21st April 1955 a special event took place in Hong Kong.  It was the annual parade to celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  As usual the parade included a flypast carried out by the Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force.  The flypast consisted of four Spitfires, four Harvards, and six Austers.

But this was to be an extra special occasion as it would be the last time a military operational flight would take place involving the legendary Spitfire. 

The salute was taken by the Governor, Sir Alexander Grantham.

It was planned that following this flight the engines would be removed from the remaining Spitfires in Hong Kong and returned to the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom.The air-frames would then be scrapped.  Fortunately, one airframe, VN485 was squirreled away by the HKAAF and saved from such an ignominious end.

To capture the event a 16mm film was made of the parade and flypast by Flying Officer Labrum, who served at that time in the Film Unit of the HKAAF. 

The film was named The Last of the Few.

The following year in Harrogate, England, Dick Labrum accepted on behalf of the HKAAF a Silver trophy as 1st Prize for this film.

Sadly Dick died in 1991 at the tender age of 67.  In 2011 his son, Martin, presented the film to the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, believing the conditions there were better for preserving it than the humid conditions of Hong Kong.

A short film has since been produced by the Imperial War Museum using clips from The Last of the Few.  This new film features only the Spitfires that participated in the flypast and has been named Last of the Breed.  The flypast formation was led by Squadron Leader Geoff Cairns QFI RAF, the unit adjutant, in PS852, his number 2 was Rufus Heard, a Cathay Pacific pilot in VN485, number 3 was Adrian Rowe-Evans, Registrar at Hong Kong University, and in the Box was Leo Strange, who ran his own Engineering Agency, flying PS854.

This was intended to be the final flight of all four Spitfires.  However, story has it that one of the QFIs wanted the distinction of being the last pilot ever to fly one of these beautiful aircraft and made one more flight.  This is supported by entries in the Log Book of VN854 which shows the flypast flight as having taken place between 14:55 and 16:00, to be followed by a further flight from 16:45 to 17:35.

Editor : It is interesting to note that not only was the HKAAF the last Unit to fly the Spitfire in a military operational flight but also was the last British Unit/Squadron to fly Harvards.

Now settle back and enjoy this brief film

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