HUNDREDS flocked to Salisbury Rugby Club last night to witness the official unveiling of the new Secret Spitfire Memorial.

The monument recognises the residents who engineered and constructed the fast fighter/interceptor MK-9 Spitfire aircraft in secret - in their homes, sheds, a bus depot and a hotel - to help defend Britain during the Second World War.

After three years of planning, £100,000 raised for the task and 18 weeks of building, the Secret Spitfire Charity was able to celebrate the Spitfire build yesterday, July 9, with this special public ceremony.

It was decided to put the Spitfire there as the club’s car park was the site of Spitfire Factory Number 1, and parts made in the garages and bus stations of Salisbury would go there to be assembled during the war.

To mark the occasion a band and fly-past were part of last night's festivities, and there was a ribbon cutting ceremony completed by Norman Parker - an aircraft engineer during the Second World War who was heavily involved with bringing the memorial to life.

Speaking to the Journal, Norman, who was also historical advisor for The Secret Spitfires film, said it was "brilliant" to create the "full-circle" moment, as Spitfires had been based at the rugby club all those years ago.

He said: "I have been telling this story for 75 years and now people are showing an interest.

"This is a combination of more than 80 years of aircraft history that we can now share with everyone, as well as the Secret Spitfires film and book, it has been a collective process."

Describing the memorial as "a perfect reproduction", Norman added: "The work is just superb, they have really outdone themselves, superb isn't even the best word to use.

"It is visually as near to a plane as the ones that would have come out of the factory."

Norman has been involved with the entire creation process, from the dissecting of old models and moulds to assembling and transporting the finished product to Salisbury, and will be publishing a book with more than 90 photos documenting how the Spitfire Memorial came to fruition.

Secret Spitfire Charity chairman, Chris Whalley, who spearheaded the memorial project, said he felt "proud and emotional" that the Spitfire is finally up in Salisbury.

Chris was inspired to lead the creation when, during a film showing of The Secret Spitfires at the rugby club, a resident asked Norman during the 'Q&A' session why there wasn't a memorial in the city yet.

Chris said: "It is just such a magnificent and iconic thing to have here and keeps that history alive.

"It has taken time and fundraising of course, luckily it has felt like pushing on open doors, the support has always been there.

"We were doing all we could to get the money for this, although we couldn't do much during the pandemic, we've had so many generous donations.

"The team behind the memorial has just been fantastic, everything has gelled together so well."

Unsure of the charity's next project just yet, Chris and the team have considered more of an educational focus, for example the introduction of aviation-based apprenticeships.

Blue plaques are still also to be installed across the city and its surrounding areas, in honor of the secret Spitfire workers.

Last night's event was attended by the Royal Air Force, the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Sarah Troughton, Mayor of Salisbury Caroline Corbin, Salisbury MP John Glen, and several Wiltshire and Salisbury City councillors.

A bespoke bench is next to the memorial, paying tribute to the life of Ethem Cetintas, co-director and producer of Secret Spitfires, who died earlier this year.

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