The Spitfire
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The Supermarine Spitfire has a very special place in the hearts of the British. The World War II fighter is universally recognised and it has legendary status after it’s role in the defeat of the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain . The Spitfire has stolen much of this thunder from the workhorse Hawker Hurricane, the fighter that far outnumbered the Spitfire in both service and kills during the Battle of Britain. But there is no doubt that the Spitfire’s profile, if not actual combat record, did a lot to lift the British spirit during he darkest hours of the war.

The aeroplane has become synonymous with the British spirit of pluck and determination in the face of adversity, and to this day it remains a popular sight at air shows and public events. Companies all over the world have borrowed the Spitfire’s name and fame to add a sense of courage, resilience and power to their own brand. There’s even a Spitfire premium ale, brewed in Kent where so many of the planes were based during the war. The ale goes as far as describing itself as ‘the bottle of Britain’.

In its time the Spitfire was a cutting edge fighter aircraft and there’s no doubt that German pilots didn’t relish the thought of meeting an aeroplane that had gained a reputation to be feared as soon as it went into active service. Designed as a short range high performance interceptor, the Spitfire found itself cast into just that role when the Luftwaffe attempted to crush Britain’s airborne defences in the Battle of Britain. Equipped with a mighty liquid cooled 12 cylinder Rolls-Royce Merlin engine the Spitfire’s direct rival was the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, and the two fought many battles over the skies of England. After the Battle of Britain the Spitfire became the backbone of Fighter Command and continued to cement it’s reputation as a capable and much loved aeroplane.

Originally produced at a factory in Southampton , production was stepped up prior to the outbreak of war when a new factory opened in Castle Bromwich . However, this Birmingham factory didn’t exactly display the spirit of the Spitfire in its early years, being bugged by industrial action and production difficulties. By May 1940, more than six months into the war, the factory had still not produced a single operational Spitfire. The Minister of Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook grew so frustrated by the lack of progress that he removed the boss of the Castle Bromwich plant Lord Nuffield (of Austin-Morris motors) and replaced him with a team from the Southampton factory. 12,129 Spitfires eventually were produced there from a total Spitfire production of just over 20,000.

The Spitfire will always have a place in military history for suppressing the enemies of Britain, just like the longbow before it. The Spitfire’s place as a symbol of British valour and resistance in the face of doom or disaster will never fade.

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