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Keighley’s Spitfire is found
The restored Spitfire ‘Marion’, which was originally bought through collections among the people of Keighley during the Second World War,
An amateur historian has tracked down an iconic Second World War fighter bought with cash donated by Keighley residents.
And Ian Walkden, who lives in the town, was delighted to discover the Spitfire was still flying more than 70 years after it was built – one of only 50 left in the world still able to take to the skies.
The plane, named Marion after the girlfriend of its original Canadian pilot, has been restored in recent decades and is currently based in the US.
Mr Walkden said among surviving Spitfires, Marion was unique because it was gift-funded during the conflict through the generosity of Keighley residents.
He said: “She’s one of 20,200 Spitfires built and one of only 50 still flying, but how many ‘gifts of war’ are still flying?
“I’m proud I found her. This is so exciting for me – it was an eureka moment to find out she was still flying.”
The Spitfire was featured in the Keighley News in 2008 in an article by local historian and memory Lane author, Ian Dewhirst.
He told how townsfolk raised £11,600 in 1942 to buy a Spitfire and Hurricane to support the war effort.
The Spitfire – a Mark Vb numbered BL628 – originally bore the Keighley coat of arms with the town’s motto, By Worth.
Mr Walkden, a member of Keighley’s Men of Worth military history group, decided to investigate the fate of ‘Keighley’s Spitfire’ after a friend mentioned it.
He contacted the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, and was directed to sources of information about what had happened to the aircraft.
Mr Walkden discovered the Spitfire had been used for fighter sweeps over Europe and convoy patrols, and finished its war career in 1945 training pilots in Cornwall.
Marion’s centre section and cockpit were discovered on a farm near its Cornish base in 1977, and the plane underwent restoration in Australia and the UK during the next three decades.
Following its return to the sky in 2007, the plane is now owned by Texas-based Lewis Air Legends, and is used for air shows and films.
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