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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Dame Vera attends Spitfire tribute
Dame Vera at the exhibition
Dame Vera meets with 50 association members at the launch
Dame Vera Lynn has helped revive wartime memories by meeting members of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association at an exhibition dedicated to the famous Spitfire plane.

The former "forces' sweetheart", whose songs rallied British troops during World War II, attended the opening of the Spitfire summer exhibition at London's Imperial War Museum on Thursday, to mark the battle's 60th anniversary.

Dame Vera and association member
Reminiscing: The "forces' sweetheart "views Spitfire exhibits
The Battle of Britain, between the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the German Luftwaffe, raged in the skies over southern England for four months in 1940.

The prize was air supremacy and the very real fear was that if the Luftwaffe had won Adolf Hitler would have felt confident enough to have launched a "blitzkrieg" assault on England.

In the event the RAF won and, although Luftwaffe bombing raids continued throughout the war, the threat of an invasion receded.

A Spitfire which flew in the aerial battle was one of the main exhibits at the gallery, and a second Spitfire was be on view outside the museum.

Spitfire: wartime legend
First flown in 1936
Powered by 900 horsepower Rolls Royce engine
Two-blade propeller
20,334 Spitfires built
21 different types of Spitfire made
Armed with eight .303-calibre Browning machine guns

Dame Vera, known for her songs such as We'll Meet Again, visited soldiers and pilots to boost their morale through the war years.

Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris and Air Commodore Peter Brothers, vice-president of the Spitfire Society, were among guests at the viewing.

Just a few hundred of the 2,927 RAF and Allied airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain are alive today. More than half were killed during the battle.

Seven years ago an official memorial to the pilots who died was opened by the Queen at Capel Le Ferne in Kent.

In recent years restoration of Spitfires has grown and there are more of the planes flying today, approximately 80, than there were in the 1950s.

The oldest surviving airworthy Spitfire, a Mk IIa, is operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

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