Nearly 74 years after crash landing onto a beach in northern France and being swallowed up by the coastal sands a Second World War Spitfire has taken to the air again.
The plane, which was helping protect British troops as they were being evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, has been totally rebuilt after wreckage was discovered in the 1980s.
The restoration work has taken place at its original base of Duxford near Cambridge. Fittingly, it was from this airfield that the Spitfire took off again on Thursday, observed by mechanic-turned TV presenter Guy Martin, Channel 4 cameras and the two daughters of the pilot who had originally crash-landed the stricken plane in May 1940.
“It’s an amazing moment,” said Martin as the iconic symbol of British wartime resistance swooped low past excited onlookers. “The attention to detail that has gone into rebuilding this plane is unlike anything I have ever seen before.”
Martin has been there for much of the past two-and-a-half years helping the experts at Duxford bring the plane back to life. “I was the boys’ bitch,” he joked.
In truth they were working with very little – a bit of the engine and propeller – but crucially the plane’s identifying model plate was among the wreckage recovered.
Having been dug out of the sand, the decaying remnants of the plane were, for years, stored unwanted and largely forgotten in a French underground tunnel.
But once rediscovered and returned to the UK the estimated £3 million restoration project began.
Now finished, the Mk1 Supermarine Spitfire is one of only four still flying in the world. “The Mk1 is the original so it will always be very special,” said pilot John Romain after landing the plane following its short flight. “From the moment it got off the ground it felt just perfect. It flew beautifully.”
The C4 documentary chronicling the restoration project will be shown later in the year.