Aircraft

'Secret Spitfires' Memorial Unveiled In Salisbury

The memorial is a life-sized replica of a MK-9 Spitfire built during the Second World War by the 'Secret Workforce'.

A memorial for the production of 'Secret Spitfires' and the thousands of workers who built them has been unveiled in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The life-sized replica of an MK-9 Spitfire serves as a lasting tribute to those who contributed to a part of Second World War history by building Spitfires in secret –  the 'Secret Workforce'.

The replica plane's pilot is a mannequin dressed in authentic flight gear and accessories and the lights used on the plane are authentic Spitfire lights.

It is located at Salisbury Rugby Club – the club's car park was the site of Spitfire Factory Number 1.

Parts made in secret in the garages and bus stations of Salisbury would go to the site to be assembled.

The memorial plane is inspired by a real Salisbury Spitfire – the EN398 MK-9 which was built in Salisbury and took its first flight out of Chattis Hill Airfield on 13 February 1943.

The plane has Johnnie Johnson's identity in place of squadron markings, as it was flown by him during the Second World War.

Johnnie Johnson, the Wing Leader, was one of the highest-scoring RAF fighter pilots to survive the war, shooting down 24 enemy aircraft in total, as well as having seven shared victories, three shared probables, 10 shared damaged and one destroyed on the ground.

WATCH: A Salisbury factory Spitfire worker talks about the 'Secret Workforce'.

With this EN398 MK-9 plane, he shot down 12 aircraft and shared five, plus six damaged, when commanding the Canadian Kenley Wing.

The Canadian maple leaf marking is to signify that the plane was originally issued to a Canadian squadron in the Kenley Wing.

The unveiling of the memorial coincides with the placing of 11 plaques marking the locations where Spitfires were secretly constructed in response to the German bombing of the main Supermarine Spitfire aircraft factory in Southampton in 1940. 

Unknown to the Germans, the British were building Spitfires in secret, working from sheds, workshops, garages, bus depots and even a hotel.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.9 flying at the Shuttleworth Trust 060518 CREDIT NIALL FERGUSON, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
File photo of a MK-9 Spitfire flying at the Shuttleworth Trust (Picture: Alamy).

Thousands of workers, largely unqualified young girls and women, built more than 2,500 Spitfires in Salisbury, Trowbridge and Reading. 

The local population was also unaware of the work being carried out. 

The Spitfire is the most famous British fighter aircraft in history. 

The aircraft was critical in defeating the German Luftwaffe air attacks during the Battle of Britain in 1940, and soon became a symbol of freedom. 

More Spitfires were built than any other British combat aircraft before or since the Second World War and, by July 1940, RAF Fighter Command had 19 Spitfire MkI squadrons available.

More than £100,000 was raised to create the memorial through screenings, fundraising events, and donations from the public, organisations, corporates and trusts.

The Secret Spitfires Memorial charity plans an annual fundraising event every summer to ensure the memorial is looked after.