By Benjamin Paessler

NORMAN Parker, who was an aircraft engineer during the Second World War, originally worked on Wellington bombers.

In 1944 he was transferred to aircraft manufacturer Supermarine to work on Spitfires. From there, he was in a mobile team that repaired crashed planes, and later he worked in the experimental units, developing new modifications for the Spitfire. He built hundreds of Spitfires, but never got to fly in one.

After a special fundraising screening of the Secret Spitfires film at Salisbury Rugby Club, which Norman was heavily involved in, there was a Q&A session. During this, it came out that even though he built so many Spitfires, he had never experienced a flight in one.

“Well I’d thought about it”, Norman said, “but cost is quite a problem. It’s very expensive, to say the least.”

Hearing this, a group of supporters got together and raised funds to get Norman his flight.

A party was held under the guise of thanking him for his contribution and celebrating his birthday, but he was given an invitation from Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar to fly in the plane last Wednesday.

Immediately after landing, Mr Parker was asked how the flight was, to which he replied: “Not bad.”

He then added: “I can’t believe it happened. I sat in the cockpit, which was fairly tight, only just enough room, and then off we went. It was almost a blur.”

Secret Spitfires tells the story of hundreds of women, girls and a handful of men, including Norman, who built Spitfires in secret during the Second World War. Norman explained: “I had 12 years of working on the plane, and since then it’s been a research project ever since. The documentary is just my story. Until the film had been made, I’d been talking about it for 75 years, and no one was really responding to it like this.”

Mr Parker was a Barnardo’s boy from Dr Barnardo’s Homes before the Second World War, which ran its own tactical school. He joined having left school at 14, attending the Goldings Tech School. In September 1940, he started work at Vickers-Armstrong, a British engineering company based in Weybridge, where he started work on the Wellington bombers, before the transfer to Supermarine in 1944.

At the end of the war when servicing contracts were cut, he went to the experimental department, based at High Post, before ending up at Boscombe Down in 1951, where he remained until retirement.

When asked what he thought of the film, Mr Parker said: “I am absolutely delighted with it.

“It is a very powerful film indeed.” Hopefullly in the future it will be seen to a wider audience. I’d love it to get into America”.