A MEMORIAL to commemorate the hundreds of young girls, women, boys, elderly men and engineers who built Spitfires in secrecy during the Second World War is on its way to becoming a reality in Salisbury.

The central element of the memorial, a life-sized fibreglass rendition of a Spitfire Aircraft, was delivered to Boscombe Down Aviation Collection in Old Sarum this afternoon. 

The project, which is being spearheaded by the Secret Spitfire Charity, has been made possible thanks to extraordinary support from the public, historical and aviation societies and industry, alongside a programme of fundraising by the charity and memorial committee.

More than £75,000 has been raised in ten months. The committee and all involved in the organisational and fundraising elements of the project have thanked all their supporters who have helped make the memorial a reality.

Speaking on behalf of the Secret Spitfire Charity, chairman Chris Whalley said: “We have been truly humbled by the outpouring of support for the project, which has captured the imagination of the public more than we could have hoped for – but rightly so. We cannot thank our supporters enough and we hope to do them proud not just now, but in the future. We aren’t resting on our laurels, there is lots more we want to achieve, so we are asking for support. This isn’t the beginning of the end – we are simply one step closer to the end of the beginning.”

The life-size Spitfire, created by Stefan Bailey, of GB Replicas in Norfolk, made a 230-mile trip to Boscombe Down Aviation Collection (BDAC) in Old Sarum, where it will be stored until July 2021, when the charity hopes to unveil the memorial during a celebratory public event at Salisbury Rugby Club.

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The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection’s Project Director Squadron Leader John Sharpe added: “The creation of the Salisbury Spitfire will commemorate the efforts of the people of Salisbury to build the aircraft so crucial to the outcome of the Second World War. The Boscombe Down Aviation Collection is pleased to be able to provide a temporary home for the aircraft and it will also enable visitors to the Collection to view the aircraft prior to its removal to its final location.”

The build of the Spitfire itself took just over 18 weeks in total and involved moulding of a gel base coat, followed by fibreglass, and finally an intricate painting programme. While the build went smoothly, the process was not without its challenges.

In the spring, Stefan noticed that a robin had been coming in and out of the GB Replicas workshop for a while. One morning, leaves were discovered underneath a Spitfire wing – at that time 10ft off the floor. Lo and behold, a nest with three eggs was discovered and left in peace to hatch and successfully fledge. The Spitfire also narrowly escaped the implications of a national shortage of Perspex due to Covid-19, and her screen was fitted with the last of GB Replica’s supply.

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Having been on track to unveil the memorial on July 10 at a public celebration to coincide with the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Coronavirus pandemic meant that these plans were put on hold. However, of the initial £100,000 target, more than £75,000 has been raised in just ten months, a sum which means that as well as the build, the landscaping and fencing can be assured.

Now, the Secret Spitfire Charity is gearing up for another big fundraising push to ensure that the memorial will be maintained and protected in the future, alongside legacy activity to celebrate and commemorate the remarkable achievement of all those involved.

Plans for a series of blue plaques to be installed at the Salisbury locations requisitioned for Spitfire building have been set in motion, and the charity’s trustees are in the early stages of discussing the provision of an aviation bursary with engineering organisations.

The Secret Spitfire Charity has also revealed further plans for the memorial’s landscaping, which is due to take place over the autumn and winter.

Designed by local firm Hewlett’s, the proposal is to use the gradient of the site to create an impression of the White Cliffs of Dover, with planting representing the sea, shore, cliff and countryside.

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Before landscaping takes place, the concrete base and steel pole will go up. Planting is due to take place in spring 2021 – leaving just the Spitfire to put in place ahead of the grand unveiling, which will be on July 9.

To donate go to the JustGiving page or for more information about the memorial go to secretspitfiresmemorial.org.uk or the Facebook page