Britain receives Spitfire gifts from US donor

9th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

Prince William on Thursday inspected a rare Spitfire plane gifted to a British museum by a US philanthropist on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain aerial campaign by Nazi Germany.

Gold investor Thomas Kaplan also donated the proceeds from a Christie's auction on Thursday of a second Mark I Spitfire he owned to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund and Panthera, a wildlife charity.

The two planes -- the earliest models of Spitfire -- both crashed on French beaches during the battle of Dunkirk in 1940 and sank into the sand.

They were recovered and are now the only two of those models in existence that can still fly, following a painstaking restoration lasting years.

Some spare parts were bought on eBay from the descendants of air force veterans who had kept them as mementoes of World War II.

The Spitfire donated to the museum took to the skies for a display on Thursday. The other one was later auctioned for £3.1 million (4.3 million euros, $4.8 million).

The auction house said in a statement that the plane's flying officer Peter Cazenove, who survived but was taken prisoner, had radioed back to base shortly before being forced to make a beach belly-landing: "Tell mother I'll be home for tea!"

Kaplan said that the donations were "to pay homage to those who Churchill called 'the Few', the pilots who were all that stood between Hitler's darkness and what was left of civilisation".

"The events of today are, more than anything else, concrete gestures of gratitude and remembrance for those who prevailed in one of the most pivotal battles in modern history," he was quoted as saying in a statement from the museum.

The plane was being shown off at the air force museum in Duxford north of London, which hosted Britain's first squadron to fly Spitfires and where the Spitfire originally flew from in 1940.

© 2015 AFP

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