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Belfast Telegraph's appeal to buy Spitfire saw 17 named in tribute

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone, Larne, Ballymena, Bangor, Aldergrove, Mountains O'Mourne, Enniskillen, Mid-Ulster, Belfast, Portadown, City of Derry and Harlandic.

The names of 17 Spitfires that played a crucial role in World War II thanks to Belfast Telegraph readers.

The Telegraph’s Spitfire Fund captured the public’s imagination like no other campaign and raised £88,633 16s 5d — the equivalent to £2,886,803.54 in today's money — for fighter planes to take on the Nazis during World War II.

Inspired by successes over the skies in the south of England during the Battle of Britain, this newspaper launched the 100,000 Shillings Fund aimed at getting all sections of the community to donate funds for one Spitfire.

And spurred on by headlines like “A Spitfire A Day Keeps The Nazis Away” and “Speed That Spitfire” the public kept the money pouring in.

The amounts raised ranged from £4,559 from Belfast shipyard workers to the 336 half pennies saved by two Fermanagh schoolgirls. Regardless of how little or how much they gave, the name of every single donor was published in the paper.

In recognition of the contribution from Belfast Telegraph readers, the aircraft were all given Ulster names. And their efforts were even acknowledged by Winston Churchill.

Twelve airmen gave their lives flying Spitfires donated through the Telegraph appeal.

Although none of the planes survived the war, the oldest surviving Spitfire was given honorary Ulster citizenship in 1994 — being renamed the Enniskillen.

This aircraft, which actually flew during the Battle of Britain, was restored and repainted to its original colours at the Belfast-based plane-makers Shorts and regularly takes part in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flights.

This Enniskillen enjoyed a remarkable front-line operational career from 1941 to 1944. It was used in daylight bombing raids against battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in December 1941, and in June 1942 she flew 29 operational missions including during the fierce aerial battles in support of the Dieppe Raid.

The aircraft continued to fly operationally until July 1944 and took part in patrols over the beaches of Normandy, including on D-Day — June 6, 1944.

After mid-July 1944, it was relegated to support duties until it was bought by Group Captain Alan Wheeler in 1947 and placed on the civil register for air racing.

It crashed during the Kings Cup Air Race.

In 1953 it was refurbished and flown regularly by Jeffrey Quill until it was donated to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 1965.

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