WHAT WE STAND FOR
BE PROUD OF YOUR SPITFIRE HERITAGE
To many of us, the Spitfire is much more than just another vintage warplane, because it means different things to different ages and generations…even today.
First and foremost, it is a lasting Great British icon that symbolises the coming together of all the free nations, not only from the Commonwealth such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but also our friends from countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, South Africa and many others, as we all stood together in defence of our common human values and freedoms during WW11 in the various theatres of war around the world.
Just consider this, the young men of 19 & 20 yrs old who first flew the Spitfire during WW11 are now in their 90’s, though there are very few veterans surviving now. The reported average age of these brave Battle of Britain pilots was 21-22 years old with a life expectancy of surviving only 4 weeks.
Yes, this is a chilling statistic.
What were you doing when you were 22? Can you imagine being caught up in such an air war situation?
The Germans fought the RAF over the skies of southeast England during the hot summer of 1940 – literally it was “The Battle of Britain” from 10th July, through to October 31st 1940, the most crucial date being 15th September (“Battle of Britain” Day) when ALL of the RAF’s fighter planes were up in the air as the enemy tried to crush the RAF once and for all as a prelude to the final invasion of Britain. But they failed. Just imagine if they had succeeded, how different things would be today? On 17th September, Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain …… indefinitely.
It's difficult to establish an exact figure of how many aircraft were shot down in the Battle of Britain, partly because both sides apparently tended to exaggerate their successes and downplay their losses. However, it's estimated that between the 10th July and the end of October 1940, the RAF lost around 1,023 aircraft, whilst the Luftwaffe lost 1,887.
Winston Churchill summed up the effect of the battle and the contribution of Fighter Command with the words, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". Pilots who fought in this battle have become known as “The Few” ever since; usually being specially commemorated and remembered on "Battle of Britain Day", the 15th of September every year.
We especially remember those young men who stood alone against the enemy and gave their lives to save our island during these dark days….LEST WE FORGET.
Some Statistics During The Battle of Britain
Number of British airmen: 2,353
Number of non-British RAF pilots: 574
Number of RAF airmen killed: 544
Average age of British pilots: 22 years old
Number of Battle of Britain pilots killed later in the war: 791
Average life expectancy of a Spitfire pilot: 4 weeks
Number of British fighters built in 1940: 4,283
Length of the Battle in days: 114 days
So now, because of the past 75 year old heritage of the Spitfire, we believe that the Spitfire Heritage Trust has three primary roles, namely :-
To always participate with other organisations in remembering the “Battle of Britain” Day, thereby ensuring that our brave young pilot’s who fought and also died in WW11, now so long ago, are never ever forgotten.
Celebrating and sharing in the freedoms we all enjoy today, by robustly engaging in the strengthening of links and the development of programs that create opportunities, educate, celebrate and give thanks to our Commonwealth family of nations, and to our shared values that transcend culture, religion, age and gender at home and abroad.
But also, for those of us who simply see the Spitfire as a truly graceful technical achievement, we celebrate and remember the genius of engineering that the technical development of the Spitfire represents, from the very first prototype which flew on 5th March 1936, until the last unit was manufactured in 1948. However, by then, the jet age had truly arrived with the introduction of the Meteor and the Vampire in 1944, and so the Spitfire was finally permanently retired from active service with the Irish Air Corps in 1968. There were 24 different Mk’s or types of Spitfire produced, starting with engines of 1,030 hp and finishing up with 2,340hp. In all, 20,351 Spitfires of all types were built.
A TRULY BEAUTIFUL AEROPLANE.
By Paul Hillier