Spitfire memorial commemorating forgotten factory heroes to be … – The Telegraph

National Spitfire Monument will commemorate pilots of the legendary aircraft as well as those who designed, built and maintained them
A new Spitfire memorial twice the height of the Angel of the North will commemorate people without whom “there would have been no aeroplanes”.
The National Spitfire Monument, which will stand 131 feet (40m) tall on Southampton’s waterfront, aims to commemorate not just the pilots of the legendary aircraft but also those who designed, built and maintained them.
Foreign pilots and air forces which used the British-designed fighter will also be remembered.
The monument, which takes the form of a Spitfire sweeping up into the sky, will sit only a few hundred yards from where the original Supermarine factories that churned out the aircraft during the Second World War once stood.
Those factories became targets of German bombing, with two raids in September 1940 killing dozens of employees. The damage was so severe that production was later dispersed to 28 sites around Southampton, Hampshire and Wiltshire.
Paul Beaver, author of Spitfire People and an ambassador for the project, said he hoped it would broaden perceptions of the aircraft beyond just its role in winning the Battle of Britain.
“This is a story of engineering, cleverness, this is a story of technology development, it’s a story of training people, getting the right workforce,” he said.
Mildred Boyer, 96, was a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce during the Second World War, testing the radios on aircraft between flights.
Her squadron, No. 288, contained pilots from across the Commonwealth as well as at least one Czech airman.
She told The Telegraph that she was delighted that often forgotten figures in the Spitfire’s story would be commemorated.
“There would’ve been no aeroplanes if you hadn’t had those people,” she said, adding “I do believe [the factory workers] worked very hard, especially after the bombing, they were working in all sorts of places.”
During the war, production went on at all hours to replace lost aircraft and staff had to take shelter on-site during bombing raids. Many of the deaths in September 1941 happened when a shelter took a direct hit.
At the airbases, there was no distinction in attitudes to flying and ground crew, Ms Boyer said. “You were like a family. There was no ‘he’s got wings, he hasn’t’, it felt like we were all together.
“Yes, we had separate crews, aircrew and ground crew, but the pilots didn’t mind if you came walking into the aircrew room for a natter.”
Ms Boyer lamented, however, that the project would come too late for most involved with the Spitfire during the war. “So many of the people who were there, they will never know it’s happened,” she said, comparing it to the opening of the Bomber Command memorial in 2012.
The project, due to be completed by June 2024, has already secured £3 million pounds of funding from the Treasury and £500,000 from Southampton Council.
Now the monument’s backers are hoping to raise a further £3 million from donations.
Mr Beaver said he hoped that the project could emulate the wartime “buy a Spitfire” effort, when individuals, local communities and businesses donated towards parts or even whole aircraft.
“1,500 Spitfires were bought by ordinary people, all by companies or by very rich people,” he said.
More than 20,000 Spitfires were built during its service lifetime and while the backbone of the RAF fleet during the Battle of Britain was composed of Hawker Hurricanes, the Spitfire’s superior flying performance saw it play a crucial role.


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