Belfast Telegraph

The Spitfire replica you won't see, thanks to Stormont

By Noel McAdam

A replica Spitfire part-funded by generous Belfast Telegraph readers was to take pride of place at this month's Ulster Aviation Society (UAS) show.

And the educational charity had hoped its profits from the two-day event would help pay off the remaining debt on the £28,000 piece of history.

Now the aircraft will remain in its hangar at the Maze, out of sight to the public.

Society chairman Ray Burrows said yesterday: "I would have to say Belfast Telegraph readers did help us with funding.

"And we had hoped with the £15,000 profit we would have made from this year's event we could have paid off the Spitfire."

This newspaper played a part in the arrival of the replica craft at the Maze earlier this year, which is modelled on one of the famous Spitfires funded by Belfast Telegraph readers during World War Two.

Built from fibreglass by an English firm, the Spitfire at the UAS base was transported by ferry to its new home in Northern Ireland in January – and is the only replica of its type in the province.

The UAS has been using it to tell schoolchildren about the role of Spitfires in fighting the Axis powers.

Mr Burrows said it was an exact copy of the type of aircraft purchased through the famous Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund of 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain.

The Telegraph's aim back then was to raise £5,000 through public donations – the price of one of the famous fighters at the time.

But our thousands of readers dug deep and raised the amazing total of £85,000, which enabled the purchase of 17 Spitfires for the RAF.

Mr Burrows described it as the best newspaper fundraiser during the Second World War. Each of the 17 Spitfires was named after a community, county or region of Northern Ireland, and the society hopes to name its replica Spitfire after one of those actual wartime machines.

The names they will be able to choose from are: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone, Larne, Ballymena, Bangor, Aldergrove, Mountains O'Mourne, Enniskillen, Mid-Ulster, Belfast, Portadown, City of Derry and Harlandic.

Unfortunately, most of the fighter planes were lost in action or through crashes.

The Tyrone and Harlandic planes were downed in the same air battle off the French coast, while the City of Derry and the Londonderry aircraft were lost in 1941.

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