A full-size replica of a Spitfire has been erected in the grounds of Salisbury Rugby Club, situated on the same estate as Burlen’s headquarters
The story of the men and women who built the Spitfires in secret was brought to wide attention by the 2016 film The Secret Spitfires, which also provided the inspiration for a permanent memorial to be created.
The Spitfire memorial stands on the site of the former Spitfire Factory Number One, serving as a visible and lasting tribute to the hundreds of women and men of Salisbury who contributed to an astonishing part of the city’s history by building over 2,000 Spitfires in total secrecy. The replica is made from fiberglass over a steel shell and has a wingspan of 36.5ft. It measures just over 31ft in length. Standing on a 20ft support pole, the Spitfire creates the illusion of flying alongside the A345.
In 1940, the Germans targeted their attacks on the Spitfire factories in Southampton, believing they had ended the threat from their nemesis upon destroying the construction site of Britain's main fighter. Unbeknownst to them, the British were building Spitfires in secret and Salisbury become a major centre for manufacturing these aircraft.
Throughout the war, unskilled and unqualified young girls, boys, and women worked in secret to build over 2000 Spitfires in Salisbury (10% of the total built during WWII). With more built elsewhere around the southern counties, the effort would prove to be instrumental in winning the war.
The Secret Spitfire Memorial was the brainchild of Chris Whalley, former President of the Salisbury Rugby Club. Chris decided that Salisbury needed a lasting tribute to the extraordinary people of the city who contributed so much to the war effort and created the Secret Spitfire Charity to fund the creation and upkeep of the Spitfire replica.
Mark Burnett, Managing Director of Burlen, said “What an honour it is for all Burlen staff to pass the Spitfire replica every day to reach our Headquarters. We’ve always been immensely proud of our aviation and WW2 history, and feel inspired to work in an ex-Spitfire factory, but to be reminded of the huge part Salisbury played in manufacturing the much-loved Spitfire through a life-sized replica on our doorstep is humbling. We urge anyone who loves the Spitfire to support the Secret Spitfire Charity and to pay a visit to this spectacular memorial of the people who created these wonderful machines in complete secrecy.”