Three years ago I (Mr Dominic Berry) started The Ratcliffe Spitfire project. There are a few reasons why: The college now own the land that was once Ratcliffe Aerodrome, and during the war, this was No.6 Ferry Pool for the ATA. The ATA flew over 50,000 flights from here in that time, so it was a major hub for them. The die was cast for a Spitfire build as it would be an excellent way to honour the ATA and the aviation history of the school. I then discovered that an old boy from here had flown Spitfires during the war, and was tragically killed towards the end of 1940 by none other than Helmut Wick. In fact, our pilot, Paul Baillon was Wick’s last kill, seconds before Fl. Lt John Dundas shot him down.
In October 1940 Baillon successfully bailed out of P9503 over Andover having received return fire from a Ju88. That aircraft crashed heavily near Upavon and was excavated last September (I was part of the team on the dig). It is P9503 that we are building a full-sized replica of, to exacting detail. We are also going to become the recipients of all the remains of P9503 when they will be presented to us by the team from Operation Nightingale in autumn 2014. We will use any parts we can in our build, but the vast majority are small pieces of twisted aluminium, so they will form a permanent display.
The project, known as The Ratcliffe Spitfire, has been very enthusiastically taken up by the students, but is a long process as the average age of those involved is about 13. They need to be taught how to hold tools properly before even using them, but that is all part of the project. A unique project where children are building a replica Spitfire!
The bulk of the aircraft is being constructed from wood, to a tolerance of +-0.5mm. Some parts will be aluminium, like the pilot door and some cockpit/canopy parts. Airframe Assemblies on the Isle of Wight have been very helpful with advice and have given us hundreds of rivets and some rivet tools. Dunlop Aircraft Tyres have donated the 3 tyres (we still need wheels and UC legs), Homebase have given us £750 of tools and materials, and a number of individuals/companies have donated items, time, and money.
This is a massively ambitious project, but it is working, and capturing the imagination of not only those young minds involved, but also parents and the media. We have featured in a number of newpapers, have been interviewed a number of times on local BBC radio, and been mentioned on national television. It is my sincere hope to have something substantial to roll out for the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain in just over a year’s time.
Visit by Jeff ‘Dicky’ Bird DFC, WWII Spitfire Pilot
Presentation to Ratcliffe College of Spitfire P9503 – 9th December 2014
Ratcliffe Spitfire presented with new tyres
Ratcliffe Spitfire project makes the news
94 year old friend of Battle of Britain pilot visits Spitfire project at school
Old Boy’s Crashed WWII Spitfire being dug up on Salisbury Plain
To read more information on the build, you can download the bulletins below.
Bulletin – 13 April 2017
Bulletin – 12 October 2016
Bulletin – 10 October 2016
Bulletin – February 2016
Bulletin – June 2015
Bulletin – February 2015
Bulletin – October 2014
Bulletin – May 2014
Bulletin – October 2013
Bulletin – May 2013
Bulletin – December 2012
Bulletin – July 2012
Bulletin – March 2012
For regular updates on how the build is progressing, please see The Ratcliffe Spitfire blog.
One of the reasons for undertaking the project is to honour the hundreds of aircrew who flew from Ratcliffe Aerodrome during WWII as part of the Air Transport Auxiliary. The project requires £5,000 in order to purchase authentic items including a canopy for the cockpit.
Please follow the link below to our Just Giving page for more information on how you can make a donation to the Ratcliffe Spitfire project.
Just Giving: https://www.justgiving.com/RatcliffeSpitfire/