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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 07:29 GMT
Spitfires return for anniversary
By Paul Clifton
BBC South Transport Correspondent

It is 70 years since the first Spitfire took off from what is now Southampton Airport.

Five of the World War II fighters are returning to mark the anniversary - along with people who built and flew them.

Generic Spitfire
Many of the planes were built at the Supermarine plant in Southampton

"It's the most beautiful plane ever built."

Ray Penny stands on the site of the Supermarine factory in Southampton where Spitfires were built.

He worked on them as a 14-year-old apprentice.

"It's poetry in motion," he said.

There is no sign of the works that turned out more than 20,000 Spitfires.

A bomb fell nearby and cracked the concrete shelter right down the middle.
Ted Angel

Pillars of the Itchen toll bridge stamp through the site. Alongside, blocks of flats bear famous names - Spitfire Court, Seafire Court - and there is a tiny plaque.

Ted Angel was a sheet metal worker when it was bombed in 1940.

"I looked up in the sky and saw this square formation of planes. We ran into the shelter and lay down, our hands joined.

"A bomb fell nearby and cracked the concrete shelter right down the middle. Not a nice experience," he said.

Ted and Ray both lost friends that night.

More than 22,000 Spitfires were built during the war years

But on Sunday, they will be watching Spitfires fly again over Southampton.

At 1630 GMT, weather permitting, a two-seat Spitfire will re-enact the first flight of the plane that helped win the Battle of Britain.

In the co-pilot's seat will be Alex Henshaw, one of the original test pilots.

Now 92, he is going up for one last time. BBC South's cameras will be on board to capture the moment.

The best place to watch will be Mayflower Park, where people who built the planes will gather to mark the occasion.

There was a romance about the Spitfire
Diana Barnato Walker

Five Spitfires will fly in salute over the factory site in Woolston, up Southampton Water and back over Eastleigh to the airport.

Diana Barnato-Walker was one of a handful of female pilots who delivered newly-built and battle-ready Spitfires to airfields all over southern England. She flew more than 250 of them.

Later she became the fastest woman in the world, the first to break the sound barrier. Diana flew more than 80 types of aircraft, but has one clear favourite.

"There was a romance about the Spitfire. And it's a wonderful name. It was part of you.

"It was more than a machine strapped around you. When you wanted to turn, it seemed to know. And it had that wonderful wing. It looked good."

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