Following the success of the civil Miles Hawk trainer in the mid-1930s, the Air Ministry issued a specification for the development of a variant to serve as an elementary trainer for the RAF. Design changes included the provision of larger cockpits and blind-flying equipment. Designated the Miles M14 Magister, the aircraft first flew in May 1937 with production starting shortly thereafter and entry to service beginning in October of that year.
The Magister retained the Hawk’s de Havilland Gipsy Major 130 hp engine and was the first low-wing monoplane trainer in the RAF’s history. Initial problems experienced with spin recovery were resolved through the fitting of a larger rudder and anti-spin strakes on the rear fuselage, whereupon the M14 gave way to the M14A. Now approved for the full range of aerobatic manoeuvres and protracted spinning, it handled well and proved an excellent introduction to the Hurricane and Spitfire for new pilots.
When war was declared in September 1939, over 700 Magisters had entered service. Ultimately, no fewer that 16 RAF Elementary Flying Schools were equipped with the aircraft and considerable numbers were dispersed to squadrons and stations as communications “hacks”. The Magister (or “Maggie” as it was popularly known) also served with the Army and Fleet Air Arm and the armed forces of several other countries. By the time production ceased in 1941, a total of 1,229 had been built in the UK with a further 100 constructed under licence in Turkey.
After the war, many aircraft were converted for civilian use as the Hawk Trainer III and it was one such machine that won the King’s Cup Air Race in 1950. Several of these variants remain in flying condition but it is believed that only three original Magisters remain airworthy – two of which are based with the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden.
RAF Tangmere had Magisters on strength throughout the war years and others were frequent visitors.