The monument will stand as a tribute to the true ‘Spirit of the Spitfire.’ This is celebrated in the engineering prowess of its designer, RJ Mitchell, to the hard work and dedication of the men and women who built the aircraft at the Woolston Supermarine factory and finally to those who flew and operated the aircraft in the RAF, Royal Navy and around the world.
The Spitfire and Southampton are inseparable and it is the attitude of perseverance, ingenuity and patriotism that embodies the Spirit of the Spitfire. There is no monument to the Spitfire in Southampton and it is right that, coming up to its 80th birthday, it is celebrated.
The people of Southampton devoted their lives on the home front to building the Spitfire. The dedication and fortitude of the men and women, most of whom were not professional aircraft fabricators, really was remarkable.
When the Supermarine factory was bombed during the Battle of Britain with the death of over 100 workers, this did not stop the efforts of the workers. Key sites were requisitioned throughout the city so as to disperse the building of the aircraft. Manufacturing never stopped. In total, the people of Southampton produced 8,000 Spitfires throughout the lifetime of the aircraft. Their resilience is celebrated through this lasting landmark to be built in Southampton.
The National Spitfire Monument is significant in inspiring and evoking hope, courage, vision and fortitude for future generations and draws on the spirit of the Spitfire to keep it continuously relevant. The Spitfire is an iconic piece of British engineering and deserves an iconic monument in its home city. This will be the National Spitfire Monument and a focal point in the UK to remember not only the pilots and ground crews, but also the people who designed and built the aircraft, even in the event of their factory being bombed.
Southampton is the true home of the Spitfire. RJ Mitchell started working for Supermarine in Woolston in 1917. He had a passion for racing aircraft and this passion would drive him to develop the Spitfire.
The prototype was completed in 1936 and fabricated in the Woolston factory. It made its maiden flight from Eastleigh airfield (now Southampton Airport) on 5th March of the same year. After the initial test flight, Supermarine’s chief test pilot, Captain Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers, famously said “Don’t touch anything”.
The people of Southampton delivered the first operational Spitfires to the RAF on 4th August 1938 and the Woolston factory continued to be the only supplier of Spitfires until the summer of 1940.
Within the master plan of the £450 million Royal Pier development, it was decided that the original location of Trafalgar Dock would now become the new Red Funnel Ferry Terminal. With this, it was decided the new home for the Spitfire Monument would be Mayflower Park. Southampton City Council has generously provided the land and the National Spitfire Monument will be a focal point of a vastly expanded Mayflower Park and visible to all cruise ships as they sail in to Southampton.
The stainless steel Spitfire reproduction will soar 40m (131ft) above ground seemingly taking flight over Southampton water.
The stainless steel mast elegantly curves skyward where it is topped by the Spitfire reproduction. The mast resembles a vapour trail; wider at the base it guides the eye of the visitor to the Spitfire at its pinnacle.
The circular plinth evokes the style of the roundels or insignia used by the RAF and other international air forces. It will protrude over the waterfront as well as having a reflection pool at its centre. The stepped design will raise the reflection pool at its centre and the outer edge will include seating for quiet contemplation whilst overlooking Southampton Water.
The outer ring of the plinth will display the roundels and insignia of the 31 allied air forces that flew the Spitfire throughout its service career. The roundels will be interactive so as to draw people in to the monument. They will guide you to a webpage telling the story of its air force, city, organisation or company and explain its role in the building and operation of the Spitfire.
Legacy & future
The monument is intended to inspire. We want to engage with the general public to show them an important part of our national heritage whilst making the Spitfire relevant to future generations. We intend to do this by developing interactive features within the monument. It is the intention that the 30 plus roundels laid in the base structure of the monument will be incorporated in to a mobile app. The aspiration is that once the device camera picks up the particular roundel, it will redirect automatically to information, videos, audio and photos.