Thursday, 12 April 2012

Flight - Sepia Saturday

 When I saw 'Flight' was the subject of this week's theme I decided to repost this from a blog I wrote in 2009. Enjoy the read.

The Thornaby Spitfire

The decision to site a replica Spitfire on a roundabout at Thornaby was quite controversial at the time. The aerodrome, now submerged by the buildings of the Thornaby new town operated from 1930 – 1958. The RAF’s 608 Squadron - the Tees Valley's auxiliary squadron, which was based at Thornaby during the Second World War - did not fly Spitfires until after the war. It flew Avro Ansons and, later, Lockheed Hudsons.

However Spitfires based at Catterick used Thornaby as a base in 1943 as was too far from the coast. Canadian and Polish pilots flew the Spitfires on sorties over the North Sea,

Both the cost and the size of a replica Hudson aircraft meant it was unfeasible to commemorate it on the roundabout. Consequently it is the Spitfire that took pride of place in the centre of the roundabout on the approach to Thornaby in 2007.

Funded in part by a lottery grant, the Spitfire was put into position by its Norfolk manufacturer on 8March 2007. A media blackout was imposed its erection as the local council was concerned that crowds would impede the operation. It was only on the day itself that the first TV recordings were made.

The fiberglass fuselage contains the insignia YO-T of the 401 Canadian Squadron who flew Spitfires in 1943 and B-RAO of the 608 North Riding (F) Squadron who flew the post-war planes. The replica was delivered in ‘kit’ form; the wings were attached on site prior to the plane being lifted on onto its plinth.



The Spitfire was dedicated on 1 April 2007 with representatives and an honour guard from RAF Leeming.

The plane is illuminated at night, although there have been problems with vandalisation of the lights. Information boards on the roundabout tell the history of the aerodrome. A model of a propeller, also erected, contains a map in the centre of the town from Google Earth with the old runways superimposed. The runways are now hidden beneath the buildings of the new town.


Thornaby streets have aviation links as seen in Master and Martinet Roads, De Havilland Way, Trenchard and Tedder Avenues. Mitchell Avenue is named after the designer of the Spitfire aeroplane – R J Mitchell. A pub also carries the Spitfire name; another pub is the Roundel from the circular red, white and blue emblem used on the sides of RAF aircraft/

A Thornaby Heritage Aerodrome Trail has been created, a leaflet for which may be downloaded from www.stockton.gov.uk.

{Photos by 'twiggles' sourced from flickr}

For more flights go to gate Sepia Saturday 121

23 comments:

DW96 said...

We live and learn. Always been interested in aviation, Bob, and I know Thornaby from my old trucker's days, but I never put the two together until now.

barbara and nancy said...

What an interesting post. I don't know one airplane from another, but I have heard of spitfires. I love that the plane has been honored in this way. But how awful that it's sometimes vandalized.
Nancy

Little Nell said...

That's interesting Bob. I suppose it was inevitable that the runways would now lie beneath the new town. With your connection to ghostly tales are there any stories of hauntings by WW2 pilots?

Howard said...

fascinating. i believe there is a company somewhere that makes these full ssized spitfire replicas.

Bob Scotney said...

@Little Nell; not only is there a ghost, it's a spitfire - at Biggin Hill.
Check it out here: http://bobscotney.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/january-ghosts.html

Alan Burnett said...

I think it makes quite a fitting tribute and I am all in favour of putting things in the middle of roundabouts - they are such wasted spaces otherwise. One forgets how many of those Second World War aerodromes there were, and how many must have been lost to development over the last sixty years.

Kat Mortensen said...

Oh, very good! We have implemented some roundabouts in our area, and I'd be more than happy to take my turns round a spitfire!

Kristin said...

Interesting ghost stories too. I never knew you did those. Did the headless wife of the guilty man in the ghost post have her head chopped off too or was her ghost just in sympathy with her husband?

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Bob, this is so interesting, and I am left to wonder what everything looked like before the new town was built on top.

I like the idea of an airplane as art in a roundabout. I've seen plenty of things in the middle, but never that.

Kathy M.

Little Nell said...

Just reading my family’s history and was reminded that my Dad was at Thornaby in 1943 before transferring to Swinderby (bombers).

Postcardy said...

It must be kind of eery coming upon the Spitfire replica unexpectedly at night.

Titania said...

Hi Bob, interesting to read, as I do not know much about these planes. I am glad this beautiful plane is dedicated to all the very brave pilots who flew these machines at that time. I do like the last sentence...go to gate 121...

Christine H. said...

I love the idea of a Spitfire in the middle of a roundabout. Thanks for the history behind this one.

Wendy said...

In the nearby city of Virginia Beach is an aviation museum manned by volunteers, most of whom are former pilots. Your post makes me want to go. Fighter planes have some amazing stories to tell.

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Well now I know what a spitfire looks like- I think it looks great as an art piece.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

A nice post. Our town is in the process of constructing round-abouts. We will probably have horses or distilleries in the center of ours. I love the many romantic movies I have seen about the RAF.
QMM

Pat transplanted to MN said...

A sopitfire in a round about will make the drivers appreciate the detour. I especially like the fighter planes and their names..

Tattered and Lost said...

This has me thinking back on a visit I made to the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in D.C. It was amazing to walk in and see the Wright Brothers plane and the Spirit of St. Louis suspended above me.

It's nice that this old plane gets so much attention as drivers pass by each day.

Tattered and Lost said...

This has me thinking back on a visit I made to the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in D.C. It was amazing to walk in and see the Wright Brothers plane and the Spirit of St. Louis suspended above me.

It's nice that this old plane gets so much attention as drivers pass by each day.

whowerethey said...

As an American I have to ask what you mean by "the new town"? Was the town destroyed somehow? Or just new building around the old base?

Bob Scotney said...

Martha - after the war a number of areas were designated to have new towns built there. Thornaby was one such and they built over and around the airbase used during the war.

Mike Brubaker said...

A neat story, Bob. Interesting how history is altered to fit the expediency of a budget.

And well spotted on the oblique reference to the flight theme on my post this weekend. But you inspired me to add a bit more this morning and I've expanded it with an audio visual extra!

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

How interesting and it was delivered in "kit form". I guess that makes it easier to get it there that way.