Operation Spitfire Aims to Restore Stoke City Icon

Spitfire XVI being lowered into its new home in October of 1985. (photo credit: Martin Tideswell)
Spitfire XVI being lowered into its new home in October of 1985.
(photo credit: Martin Tideswell)
Reflecting the new paradigm of crowd-sourcing, Operation Spitfire is enlisting the public for assistance in restoring Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVI RW388 and the updating of its exhibits. The 1945-built plane was donated to the City of Stoke-on-Trent in 1969 to commemorate the birth of its chief designer, Reginald Joseph Mitchell who was born there. Unmodified and unmolested, this Spitfire is perhaps the closest remaining example to exactly what rolled of the production line all those years ago, so much so that the machine was used as the template for the fabrication of authentic replacement parts needed for the restoration of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire Mk XVI TE311 at RAF Corningsby.

The gallery that the plane resides within at the Stoke Potteries Museum and Art Gallery was built around the plane which was lowered into place prior to the buildings roof being built. As a result, the plane is planned to be restored in situ which is being taken as an opportunity to educate and inspire the public who will be able to watch the restoration take place.

Also planned for the gallery is a state of the art Spitfire flight simulator, donated by Peter Coats, the Chairman of the Stoke City Football Club as well as ever-changing multimedia presentations intended to ensure that the space will be a dynamic and exciting venue, with always something new for visitors to experience. The project to restore the plane and gallery is headed Julian Mitchell, the great nephew of R.J. Mitchell and the familial pride is quite evident in the ambitious rethinking of the exhibit that he is trying to implement, bringing the presentation of events from the middle of the 20th century alive for those in the 21st and well-reflected by their motto, “Inspiration through Restoration.”

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1 Comment

  1. I remember being part of the RAF crew that delivered this aircraft from 71MU, Bicester to Stoke in 1972.
    We took it there on a Queen Mary low loader, assembled the aircraft and secured it onto the pylon that had been installed there for the Spitfire.
    I also remember having lunch in the Police Station crew room opposite the site.
    One of many interesting jobs while serving with the RAF at Bicester.

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