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Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Holy Spitfire (Our Lady of the Skies)


Where I live, in Leigh-on-Sea, there is a small flight runway called Southend Airport. There are many planes stationed there including a Vulcan bomber. Every last Sunday and following bank holiday Monday of May month, we have a two day air display. It is a fun time and the roads along the Southend-on-Sea seafront are closed off for the visitors and various stalls concerning the air display.

Usually, a few days before hand, some of the old planes are flying over head on test flights. I always delight in this because I often see, over the years, a Hawker Hurricane, a German ME 109 and our glorious Spitfire.

The Holy Spitfire: Our Lady of the Skies
Every Brit loves the Spitfire - she is our ultimate retro dream machine. We revere this gorgeous flying babe because of the iconic legacy she has left us. Everyone looks up and smiles knowing the airshow is coming to Southend when they see the Spitfire.

My Dad told me that when he was a kid he would look up into the sky and watch the dogfights. His house, where he now lives, was bought from my Grandfather and was built in 1952 by the old gates to Hornchurch airfield. When I was a kid I played on the abandoned and overgrown area of what had once been Hornchurch airfield - a major Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane base during the Battle of Britain.

The grand aeroplane is so wonderfully retro Brit and I can't think why it has taken so long into the blog collection to finally mention this dream baby. We Brits do, after all, owe so much to the dream machine

Hawker Hurricane (Workhorse)
The Hawker Hurricane was regarded as the work horse that could take a bit of punishment in air battles, but she lacked speed and maneuverability. The Spitfire was more nimble with a sharper over all performance. However, the Hawker Hurricane's durability should also be remembered and it is generally believed that both these aircraft complimented each other in the great air duels with Hitler's Luftwaffe during the 1940 Battle of Britain.

The Battle of Britain was a very desperate time for the United Kingdom. She had seen her land forces from the UK and Commonwealth almost driven into the sea by the advancing German army. The demoralized nation had seen its major neighbouring ally, France, fall before the Nazi Blizkrieg.

Britain needed time to recoup and Germany needed to push home her advantage by destroying British air power before launching an invasion. The Royal Navy was still formidable, but there were doubts about how the air force might perform. It was generally regarded as being under strengh and under maned to take on the German Luftwaffe.

Spitfire defending the shores of the UK
During the summer of 1940, Germany launched her air campaign over Britain and came up against stubborn and formidable resistance from the British RAF. One of the major contributing factors to this air battle was the Spitfire aeroplane. This little machine was pivotal in intercepting the German air force along with the Hawker Hurricane and the radar stations, which had a highly skilled operative staff of dedicated women and men. They could direct our Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons to key intercept positions.

Intercepting the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain
After months of bitter fighting, the Luftwaffe had to back away from the contest and Germany abandoned the idea of invasion. This coupled with mistakes of a later invasion in the Soviet Union caused the eventual demise of Hitler's Nazi Germany. The USA entered the war and Britain had two new allies. Because of the Spitfire's brave fight during the Battle of Britain, the new alliance had a spring board platform (the United Kingdom) to mount a liberating invasion in the years to come.

RJ Mitchell left us his legacy before passing away in 1937 aged 42.
Most people in the UK look upon the Spitfire in a glorious and romantic way today. The flying machine is viewed with a wonderful celebrity and style - a beautiful lady that one must treat with devotion and respect. She was designed by a man named RJ Mitchell and he worked on the plane from 1928 until his death from cancer in 1937. He never saw the great service his elegant mechanical lady would perform for his country, but he had a firm belief in the quality of his dream machine. After his death, Mitchell's friend and colleague Joseph Smith became the Chief designer. The Spitfire plane started off with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine and then progressed to a Rolls Royce Griffon engine during her life of service. In 1935 the armament was changed from two 303 in Vickers machine guns in each wing to four. This increased the machine ladies' temper very significantly for the dreadful future that was to come.


















  
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