• The donation of specially marked weapons of war to the actual combatants has been carried out for centuries, and in the First World War the tank and the aeroplane joined the list of presentation weapons. The government urged the public to ?do their bit? and donate to funds which would ?buy? a tank, ambulance, field gun or aeroplane.

    This idea was resurrected in the second World War, and a ?price list? was made out, ?5,000 for a single-engined fighter (usually a Spitfire but sometimes a Hurricane or other type), ?20,000 for a twin-engined aircraft and ?40,000 for a four-engined aircraft. A Spitfire was a snip at ?5,000, this being just half the cost for a torpedo at that time.

    Most presentations were for one or two aircraft, but some were for whole squadrons, the first being No.152 (Hyderabad) Squadron, funded by the Nizam of Hyderabad on 21 December 1939. During the First World War the Nizam donated a squadron of D.H.9As, and had received a letter from the Air Ministry thanking him for his generous gift, saying that his name would be forever linked with a squadron of the RAF.

    However, with the end of hostilities the government of the day began cost cutting, and the RAF suffered drastically. When the Second World War started, the Nizam enquired what ?his? squadron would be doing. This created some embarrassment at the Air Ministry as the name ?Hyderabad? had long been forgotten, but they extricated themselves from the situation by explaining that his original donation covered the cost of perhaps two modern fighters, so the Nizam promptly stumped up more cash, thus setting a precedent. He also had small badges made for the pilots, and even sent them ?60 with which to have a party, though the pilots thought he could have been a little more generous.

    The Spitfire Funds

    Meanwhile, the idea caught on, and ?Buy a Spitfire? funds sprang up overnight, being further encouraged in 1940 by Lord Beaverbrook when he was appointed by Winston Churchill to run the newly-formed Ministry of Aircraft Production. Very soon the streets of every village, town and city resounded with the rattle of collecting tins, as well as assorted donations from overseas. From Accrington to Zanzibar, from Scunthorpe to New Zealand, from Iceland, America, Brazil, South Africa and India the money poured in.

    Newspapers started funds amongst their readers urging them to get ?their? Spitfire before a rival newspaper, and a running total with full lists of donors and donations was published each week. ?From all at No.15 Station Lane?, ?My week?s pocket money ? Fred Smith aged 7?, ?My first week?s old age pension ? 10 shillings (50p) towards our Spitfire?. Penny by penny, pound by pound the fund grew, until that magical day when the target was reached, the cheque sent, and the local newspaper proudly published a photograph of the town?s Spitfire.

    A Kent farmer charged people sixpence (2?p) ?to see the only field in Kent without a German aircraft in it?. During an air raid, the manager of a London cinema pushed a wheelbarrow up and down the aisle, asking for donations, ?The more you give, the less raids there will be?, which resulted in MISS A.B.C. 1, 2, 3 & 4 (AD260, AD263, AD294 & AD309). A member of the Royal Observer Corps charged people threepence to see a bomb crater near his post, all proceeds to OBSERVER CORPS (P7666) and ROYAL OBSERVER CORPS II (serial unknown as yet).
    The British Community in Brazil gave BOTAFOGO (BM161), amongst others, this being named after a fortress overlooking a beach of the same name near Rio de Janeiro, whose name translates literally to ?Spit-Fire?. Mr J.Urie of City Bakeries, Glasgow made a wager with a friend, the loser to shave off his moustache, and when Mr Urie lost, off came the moustache and SANS TACHE went on R7293.

    THE DOG FIGHTER (W3403) was presented by the Kennel Club and THE MARKSMAN (W3215) by Marks & Spencer. Not to be outdone, NIX SIX PRIMUS (X4921) and NIX SIX SECUNDUS (X4923) were presented by Woolworths, referring to their pre-war policy of nothing in their stores costing over sixpence. CRISPIN OF LEICESTER (W3242) was presented by the boot and shoe manufacturers of that city, St Crispin being the patron saint of shoemakers. From the uninspired H & H (X4922) presented by Higgs and Hill Ltd, to the unpronounceable HOELOESOENGAI (AD239) of the Netherlands East Indies. MAH TAL smacks of India, but was actually presented by Mr J.Latham, a reversal of his name. SKYSWEEPER (P8082) came from who else but Hoover Ltd, whilst NIPPY (P8656) referred to the waitresses of Lyons Corner Houses.
    The motor industry donated over ?100,000 for Spitfires to equip No.154 (Motor Industries) Squadron, with such names as LORD AUSTIN (BM415), NUFFIELD (BM248) and GO TO IT (BM624). Donations from other industries included EDGLETS (R7061) from the Brooke Bond tea company, B.R.C. STAFFORD I and II (R7229 and R7263) from British Reinforced Concrete, THE SWAN (R7268) from the Bryant & May match firm and ARKWRIGHT (R6722) from the English Sewing Cotton Company.

    As well as the sublime and the humorous there were also stories of tragedy. Mr H.H.Merrett of St Michel-le-Pit in south Wales received a telegram from the Air Ministry, informing him that his only son, F/O Norman Merrett had been killed on active service. A Spitfire fund was started, and from the 100 inhabitants of that small village came the ?5,000 needed to mark W3211 NORMAN MERRETT.

    The Shepley?s of Holmesfield, Derbyshire, lost three of their family in the first eleven months of war. Jeanne Shepley a nurse in the F.A.N.Y.s, was killed when the SS Yorkshire was torpedoed, Flt Lt George Rex Shepley was shot down flying a Lysander supply sortie to the troops at Calais, and P/O Douglas Clayton Shepley flying a Spitfire of 152 Sqn was shot down into the Channel off the Isle of Wight. SHEPLEY (W3649) was the culmination of many local donations but tragedy stayed with it when it was damaged over France, and crashed into the Channel taking with it W/Cdr F.V.Beamish DSO & Bar, DFC, AFC, who was killed.

    Sqn Ldr N.?Fanny? Orton DFC & Bar was shot down and killed flying MORAY (W3772), presented through the Northern Scot newspaper. Wg Cdr D.R.S.Bader DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar was shot down and taken prisoner while flying LORD LLOYD I (W3185) donated by Mr Oswald Finney.
    DOROTHY OF GREAT BRITAIN AND THE EMPIRE (AB201) came from donations by females named Dorothy, the youngest 7 weeks, and the oldest 88 years, and not to be out-done, a dog, calf, cat and swan, all named Dorothy by their owners, also subscribed! If a town was unable to reach the target figure of ?5,000, it often joined forces with a nearby town in a similar predicament, hence ACCRINGTON, CHURCH & OSWALDTWISTLE (R7154), NEWPORT HUNDREDS & WOLVERTON URBAN DISTRICT (W3317) and many more. Some of the presentation Spitfires were named after wives and sweethearts, such as P8742 ADA, R7230 BRENDA, but DIRTY GERTY VANCOUVER donated by Mr Herbert F.Morris, stretches the imagination somewhat! The last Spitfire to be presented was TB900 on 19 March 1945, fittingly named WINSTON CHURCHILL.
    Of all the Spitfires which were presented during World War 2, only one is known to still be in existence, Mk.IIb P8332 SOEBANG, which is in residence at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. It was presented by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and named after a Netherlands East Indies location, along with over 100 others, of which many have yet to be identified. Mk IIa P8092 ELLAND (Yorkshire), was held in storage from 1944, for eventual museum display. This did not come to fruition, and its eventual fate is unknown.

    Each donor of the ?5,000 (or multiples of) target figure received two photographs and a small plaque, very few of which still exist. Such is the way that Britain regards it?s heritage.

    The Air Ministry laid down strict rules regarding the representation of the name, most of which were ignored, and markings tended to follow the whim rather than the rule. At first, any such details were supposedly to be contained in a 9 inch by 6 inch rectangle, though this would obviously be too short for a lengthy name. The early names were in dull yellow script, but this soon gave way to light grey, white and, in some cases, black. The small rectangle was soon forgotten, and large coats of arms (2ft 6ins), began to appear, transfers being provided by the donor. Some names were chalked on simply for the benefit of photographers, but by 1942 the light grey 2-inch lettering had become standard. Aircraft built at the Castle Bromwich factory could originally be distinguished by their presentation names being in italics, but by 1941 the use of italics had been dropped. Some aircraft had other presentation details added, obliterating the original names, but very few of these names were intact at the end of the war.
    The town of Stamford?s Spitfire Fund had sent a cheque to Lord Beaverbrook and wanted a photograph of ?their? Spitfire. A transfer of the name STAMFORD along with the coat of arms was taken to nearby Wittering where it was applied to P8505 J.G., it being much easier to cover up ?J.G.? than THE OLD LADY (P8509) or HUNTLY COCK O? THE NORTH (P8644) amongst others which were there at that time. Whether it remained as STAMFORD or reverted to ?J.G.? is open to speculation, but the local Mayor was happy with his photograph.

    By the end of the war, well over fifteen hundred Spitfires are known to have carried presentation names, and allowing for those still not traced, donations totalled something in the order of ?8,000,000 (around ?175,000,000 in present-day values). Sadly, the serials of nearly two hundred of these are unknown, largely because most of the relevant official documentation was scrapped in the early post-war years. The only surviving evidence of a presentation name may therefore be on a snapshot in an old photograph album, and then sometimes only when examined under a magnifying glass.

    The four photos below are "Hendon Lamb",(later became the mount of Sgt Mieczystaw Adamek,
    No 303 Sqn, Northolt,December 1941),"Hendon Griffin","Hendon Endeavour" and last "Hendon Pegasus".
    Regards Duggy.

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