The summer of 1940 was glorious in more ways than one. It was unusually hot, with what should have been day after day of unbroken blue skies. Those skies however writhed with white contrails as Britain and her airforce desperately fought for her survival against overwhelming odds. The young men who perspired in the hop fields of Kent would frequently take a break from their labours to watch their fellow young countrymen fight and die for mastery of the air above their heads.
The RAF, massively outnumbered by a previously invincible German air force, appeared to be doomed. But there was one source of hope that the British public clung on to, an amazing machine that had seized their imagination.
It’s name? The Supermarine Spitfire.
The Spitfire looked fabulous, with her distinctively elliptical wings and tail. She sounded gorgeous too with her perfect Rolls Royce Merlin engine powering her into battle at speeds of up to 355 mph. But above all she could outperform the best that the Nazis had to offer, in the form of their fearsome Messerschmitt BF 109.
As a result the Hawker Hurricane fighters, which also had Merlin engines, were tasked with shooting down the German bombers, while the Spitfire pilots were given the more glamorous (and more dangerous) job of duelling head to head with the experienced Luftwaffe aces.
The battle was fierce and a close run thing, but eventually the Luftwaffe's losses became unsustainable and the German invasion was cancelled. The Spitfire emerged from the Battle of Britain with flying colours having destroyed over 520 German aircraft and went on to become the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. To this day it remains the ultimate symbol of British wartime heroism and engineering prowess.