The Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund

12th August 2019

During the Battle of Britain, the Belfast Telegraph launched the Spitfire Fund. The aim was to raise enough money for one of the iconic fighter planes.

The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the best known planes of World War Two. Along with the Hawker Hurricane, they became legendary during the Battle of Britain campaign. In 1940, an idea was put forward where individuals, towns, and businesses could present aircraft to the Royal Air Force. As the most popular plane, Spitfires were the obvious choice.

Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production set the cost at £5,000. Although the actual cost was closer to £12,000, a lower figure would seem more obtainable to those donating. People of Northern Ireland raised enough money to buy 15 Mark IIa Supermarine Spitfires. The campaign appealed to business owners and working-class people alike. The press used slogans such as “A Spitfire a day keeps the Nazis away”, and “Speed That Spitfire”.

Thousands of pounds came flooding into the Belfast Telegraph offices of Royal Avenue, Belfast, Co. Antrim. In total, the campaign raised £88,633 16s 5d. That is almost £3,000,000 today. The initial press talked of the 100,000 Shillings Fund. The aim was to raise £5,000 to cover the cost of a single Spitfire. That total was almost raised by workers at Harland and Wolff alone. The workforce at the Belfast shipyard donated £4,559. Across the country, a pair of schoolgirls in Co. Fermanagh donated 336 half-pennies. The Belfast Telegraph published the name of each donor.

Battle of Britain Spitfire

A Battle of Britain flypast at the Portrush Airwaves Airshow allowed crowds to watch a World War Two era Supermarine Spitfire in graceful flight. Photo taken on 4th September 2016.

Ulster's Presentation Spitfires

Among the Presentation Spitfires flown by the Royal Air Force, the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund provided some of the earliest. The first was The Londonderry Spitfire and was soon followed by City of Derry, Belfast, and Harlandic. The names of the towns, cities, counties, and businesses adorned the engine covers in 4″ high yellow lettering. The Mark IIa Spitfires fitted with a 1,175 horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin XII engine had a top speed of 370mph. Built at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, these fighter planes could reach heights of 32,800 feet.

Most of the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund planes did not survive the war. The enemy shot down the Tyrone Spitfire and the Harlandic Spitfire in a battle over the French coast. 1941 also saw the City of Derry Spitfire and the Londonderry Spitfire struck off. A total of 12 pilots lost their lives in the Northern Ireland Presentation Spitfires. Only the Enniskillen Spitfire and the Fermanagh Spitfire still flew at the end of World War Two.

The Aldergrove Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Aldergrove Spitfire P7843 collided with another Spitfire over The Lizard, Cornwall on 24th January 1942. It was a Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund plane.

The Ballymena Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Ballymena Spitfire P7835, funded by the Belfast Telegraph Spitfure Fund, flew with many RAF Squadrons until its loss over France on 24th July 1941.

The Bangor Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Bangor Spitfire P7842, funded by the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund and people of Co. Down, crash landed in Hampshire during the Second World War.

The Belfast Spitfire

The Belfast Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Belfast Spitfire P7684 was a Mark IIa version of the iconic Royal Air Force fighter plane. The people of Belfast, Co. Antrim raised funds during 1940.

The City of Derry Spitfire

12th August 2019

The City of Derry Spitfire P7839 was the second Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund presentation plane funded by people in the area during the Second World War.

The Down Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Down Spitfire P7823 was funded by people from Co. Down. On 7th January 1942, the iconic Supermarine fighter plane crashed near Derrymacash, Co. Armagh.

The Enniskillen Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Enniskillen Spitfire P7832 RN-S was one of the few to survive the Second World War, having served in many crucial campaigns between 1941 and 1944.

The Fermanagh Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Fermanagh Spitfire P7838, funded by people of the rural Ulster county, served with the Royal Air Force throughout World War Two until 5th June 1945.

The Harlandic Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Harlandic Spitfire P7685 was the only Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund planes not named after a town or county. Harland Wolff raised almost £5,000.

The Larne Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Larne Spitfire P7841 caught fire at RAF Tangmere, West Sussex in 1941. People of the Co. Antrim town donated to the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund.

The Londonderry Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Londonderry Spitfire P7683 was the first of the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund presentation planes presented to the Royal Air Force from Ulster people.

The Mid-Ulster Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Mid-Ulster Spitfire P7834 served throughout the Second World War until struck off charge at the war's end by the Royal Air Force on 28th June 1945.

The Mountains of Mourne Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Mountains of Mourne Spitfire P7840, funded by people of Northern Ireland, served throughout the Second World War, being struck off on 5th June 1945.

The Portadown Spitfire

The Portadown Spitfire

12th August 2019

The Portadown Spitfire P7833 was funded by the people of the Co. Armagh town in Northern Ireland during the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund in summer 1940.

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