Designed by RJ Mitchell as a formidable attacking weapon, the Spitfire defined Britain’s role in World War II and the Battle of Britain. While the last working Spitfire retired in 1961, the aircraft captured our patriotic hearts and has never been forgotten.
Thanks to the determination (and deep pockets!) of wartime aviation enthusiasts, it is still possible to see a Spitfire in the sky today. Better still, you can take to the air in one yourself, thanks to ‘experience day’ providers such as Into The Blue.
If you’re keen to go Spitfire spotting in Northern England, here are 4 places you simply must visit.
- RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire
The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) was founded 60 years ago and is seen as a national institution known for operating aerial displays at air shows and military events all over the country. Their mission is to ‘maintain the priceless artefacts of our national heritage in airworthy condition in order to commemorate those who have fallen in the service of this country.’
A visit to the BBMF Visitor Centre is a must for any Spitfire enthusiast. In partnership with Lincolnshire County Council, the Visitor Centre offers a unique opportunity to see the historic aircraft at close range. Their fleet includes
- Spitfire F Mk. IIa P7350 – the only surviving, still airworthy Spitfire from the Battle of Britain, serving with 266 and 603 Squadrons
- Spitfire LF Mk. Vb AB910 – built in 1941 at Castle Bromwich and recently refurbished at the Imperial War Museum Duxford
- Spitfire LF Mk. IXe MK356 – built in 1944 at Castle Bromwich and wearing D-Day stripes to commemorate 126 Squadron leader Johnny Plagis
- Spitfire LF Mk. XVIe TE311 – recently refurbished and wearing 74 (Tiger) Squadron markings to commemorate Squadron Leader Tony Reeves
- Spitfire PR Mk. XIX PB631 – a high altitude reconnaissance aircraft built in 1945 bearing the markings of 541 Squadron
To view the vintage Spitfires and other historic aircraft, you will have to join a guided tour of the RAF BBMF hangar where you will be shown around by volunteers with in-depth knowledge of the aircraft. Watch the technicians at work while they maintain these iconic warbirds in airworthy condition.
- Spitfire Gallery, Birmingham Museums
The Castle Bromwich factory at Birmingham produced more than 10,000 Spitfires including the one displayed here. No wonder the 19944 built Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk.IXc ML427 occupies a special place in the city’s heart.
Visit the Spitfire Gallery on Level 1 of the Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum to admire the fully refurbished and repainted vintage fighter aircraft suspended in mid-air. For the little ones, there’s a Spitfire Family Pack including a specially commissioned Spitfire story book to bring the warbird to life for the next generation, and help explore the museum.
- Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent
The Spitfire Mk. XVIe RW388 was donated to the City of Stoke-on-Trent in 1972 as a mark of respect for its famous, Staffordshire born designer, RJ Mitchell. Fitted with a Merlin 266 (Packard) engine and built by Vickers Armstrong in Castle Bromwich, it was delivered to RAF 667 Squadron in August 1945.
The aircraft is on static display in its own gallery at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, while restoration is in progress with the help of Operation Spitfire who have also commissioned a replica Spitfire cockpit.
- RAF Cosford, Shropshire
Built by Supermarine at Woolston, Hampshire in 1936, this Spitfire Mk. Ia K9942 originally had a Rolls Royce Merlin II engine and bears 72 (Basutoland) Squadron markings. After 36 operational sorties and a total operational flying time of just over 4 hours, a landing accident at Gravesend, Kent bought its operational career to an end in June 1940. The aircraft spent the next 2 years at various Maintenance Units and Operational Training Units before being declared ‘ for museum purposes’ in August 1944.
It is now on static display at RAF Cosford as part of the RAF Museum’s War In The Air collection. The museum is open every day from 10am.