BRITAIN'S most senior female military officer has been in Salisbury to launch a special Spitfire fundraising campaign - to raise £100,000.

Air Marshal Sue Gray was at Salisbury Cathedral to officially launch the Secret Spitfires Memorial fundraising campaign.

The appeal is aiming to fund the building and maintenance of a life size fibreglass Spitfire, which will serve as a lasting tribute to the hundreds of young girls, women, boys, elderly men and handful of engineers from Salisbury, following Wiltshire Council’s approval of plans.

Salisbury Journal: A mock up of the planned Spitfire on Castle Road A mock up of the planned Spitfire on Castle Road

As an engineer officer and the RAF’s Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) champion, Air Marshal Gray’s presence honoured the achievements of the secret workforce, the majority of which were young women.

She said: "I am delighted to have been invited to help mark the launch of this campaign, that will highlight the achievements of these outstanding people and their amazing contribution to the country."

Chris Whalley, former President of Salisbury Rugby Club – whose car park was formerly Spitfire Factory Number One and where the memorial will be located – came up with the idea for the memorial and is spearheading the project.

Speaking on behalf of the Secret Spitfire Charity, Chris said: "After months of planning, we are delighted to have received approval for the memorial, which will commemorate the vital contribution Salisbury made to winning WWII.

"It will be an impactful addition to the City’s landscape and celebrate our Spitfire heritage for many, many, years to come. Now – to raise the money!"

Following the bombing of Southampton’s Spitfire production factories, over 2,000 of the aircraft (around 10 per cent of the total ever made) were built by Salisbury residents in a scheme which operated out of locations across the city centre and up to Old Sarum, High Post and Chattis Hill.

The story of Salisbury’s Spitfires was brought to life by the film The Secret Spitfires, released in 2016, and directed and produced by Ethem Cetintas and Karl Howman.

Salisbury Journal: Norman ParkerNorman Parker

Salisbury’s Norman Parker, the film’s historian and Spitfire engineer during the war, who starred in Secret Spitfires, said: "It gives me so much pleasure to see how the story of the secret Spitfires has spread and garnered such support since the release of the film.

"The memorial will be the latest chapter in an incredible tale. The people of Salisbury should be very proud of the contribution their city made to winning WWII."

It is hoped that enough money will be raised in time to enable the memorial to be built and installed in time for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in Summer 2020.

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