A small society is now desperately trying to bring back home the spirit of these planes. The Ulster Aviation Society needs financial support to buy a Spitfire replica and take it on an aeronautical special tour around Northern Ireland. During the Second World War, almost all UK newspapers put up first page headlines such as “A Spitfire A Day Keeps The Nazis Away” and “Speed That Spitfire”, as part of the first ever campaign to raise money for the buying of 17 Spitfires. Thousands of pounds entered the accounts at the Royal Avenue office.
The campaign was launched in 1940, just a day before the German Luftwaffe began their attack as they tried to destroy all the chemical weapons manufacturing bases and defence installations. Readers of Belfast Telegraph generated £88,633,16s.5d for the Spitfire Fund, around £2,886,803.54 in today’s money.
The initial goal of the campaign was to raise £5,000 for the development of one Spitfire and people from all classes were asked to contribute. Money came from everywhere. No matter how much money they donated, every single person had his or her name published in the newspaper, as a reward for their kindness and generosity, including some shipyard workers from Belfast who donated £4,559 and two school girls from Fermanagh, who raised 336 half pennies for their country.
To reward as many contributors as possible, the planes were given Ulster names: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone, Larne, Ballymena, Bangor, Aldergrove, Mountains O’Mourne, Enniskillen, Mid-Ulster, Belfast, Portadown, City of Derry and Harlandic.
However, most of the planes were lost during the war. While the Tyrone and Harlandic were shot down in action off the French coast, the City of Derry and Londonderry were hit in 1941. 12 Spitfire airmen were killed in action and the only surviving aircraft were the Enniskillen and The Fermanagh, but they were eventually sold for scrap metal, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
Recently, a stunning replica of one of the 17 Spitfires funded through the Belfast Telegraph campaign in 1940, has come home. “This aircraft came on the market in December at a fraction of that £85,000 price,” said UAS chairman, Mr Ray Burrows.
An official fund-raising campaign to pay for the aircraft will begin later this year. The structure of the replica is mainly fiberglass and was built by an English company. The plane was recently brought home by ferry.
The amazing replica is being dedicated to all the people who helped raise money for the development of these planes, who produced them, flew them and to those who ‘helped to ensure our freedom’.