THE NATIONAL Spitfire Project has launched its public fund-raising appeal, coinciding with the 77th anniversary of VE-Day.
It would see a national monument created to honour a great British icon – the Supermarine Spitfire.
The monument would commemorate all the men and women from more than 30 allied countries who designed, built, flew and maintained this aircraft during the Second World War – honouring the past and inspiring future generations.
The Spitfire has a special significance to the West Midlands region, given the importance of Castle Bromwich, the largest, purpose-built aircraft factory of the Second World War, as the Shadow Factory for producing Spitfires.
Butt Lane, near Stoke-on-Trent, was the home of Supermarine Chief Designer RJ Mitchell.
Construction works for the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory took place in both challenging conditions and record time and the factory proved vital to the war effort when both the Hampshire factories at Woolston and Itchen factories had been devastated by air raids.
The National Spitfire Monument will appear to soar into the skies over Southampton – the Hampshire location for this national icon has been determined by both the aircraft’s production birthplace (the Vickers-Armstrongs Aviation Supermarine
Works at Woolston, previously known as the Supermarine Aviation Works) and its maiden flight (from Southampton Municipal Airport in Eastleigh, now Southampton Airport, on March 5, 1936).
Standing 40m tall, on a par with the scale of the Statue of Liberty, the monument will be a gleaming stainless-steel structure – one-and-a-half times the size of the original aircraft.
Roundels and emblems in the base will be interactive and educational, and the monument is expected to be seen by more than 7million people every year.
The monument has official backing at national and local levels – with £3million match-funding promised by UK Government and the support of Southampton City Council.
Commenting on the fundraising launch, John M Hannides, Chairman of the National Spitfire Project – the charity behind the monument – and Southampton City Councillor, said:
“The Spitfire is a great British icon. It embodies courage and hope against adversity, it is the epitome of engineering excellence and innovation, and it represents the spirit of collaboration too – diversity and unity, coming together for a common cause.
“During the Second World War, men and women from all over the world helped raised funds to ‘build a Spitfire’ for the war effort.
“Some people paid a few pennies ‘for a spark plug’, some towns and companies ‘paid for a wing’ or ‘an engine’ – or even funded a whole aircraft.
“Fund-raising for the new National Spitfire Monument continues to draw on that same public goodwill, alongside the UK Government’s match funding.”
Royston Smith GM MP, one of the Trustees of the National Spitfire Project, said the iconic plane was instrumental in defending the country during the Second World War and the Battle of Britain.
“This country and our lives would have been very different but for the heroism of the young pilots who bravely took to the skies in RJ Mitchell’s magnificent feat of engineering.”
Coun Hannides added: “The Spitfire is never forgotten, but we have never had a national monument to this aircraft as a fitting tribute to all those who helped build it, fly and maintain it – and protected our skies with it.
“Every penny counts – it’s a monument in peacetime that sends a message: we will remember them.”
To donate via Text – text ‘SPITFIRE’ to 70085 to donate £10 or ‘SPITFIRE’ to 70450 to donate £20.