New Biggin Hill aircraft hangar to be home to historic Spitfires
TWO Second World War fighter pilots launched a state-of-the-art aircraft hangar where Spitfires will be restored, displayed and flown.
Last week the veterans, both in their nineties, cut the ribbon at the official launch of the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, which will be a flying centre opened regularly to the public.
Robin Brookes, who helped to organise the launch, said: "We are especially excited about the Spirit of Kent Spitfire, which flies in memory of squad 131, from the Battle of Britain.
"It was bought using money donated by people across Kent and no other county has its own flying Spitfire.
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"It recreates history as it was – the hangar will be used for educational purposes – school children can visit, and every year the planes will fly over the beaches of Normandy on June 6."
One of the veteran pilots, squadron leader Nigel Rose, 93, left training as a quantity surveyor to join the forces when he was 20.
He said: "I'd love to say I wanted to defend my country but really it was to impress the ladies."
The widowed veteran pilot, who lives in Beaumont, Essex, trained near Southampton until war broke out, before being posted to Cambridge, and then Kinross in Scotland.
In 1940 he joined the 602 squadron and was sent to Goodwood for the Battle of Britain.
He added: "It was a time of considerable excitement – it seems strange during wartime but I actually have pleasant memories of it.
"I loved spending time with the chaps posted there – I had no idea I was becoming a part of history."
Father-of-one Mr Rose was overjoyed to open the hangar, saying: "This is only the second time I have been to Biggin Hill – the first time we only landed and took off again, so it's lovely to see the area properly and wonderful to see the planes displayed here."
The second pilot, flight lieutenant Rodney Scrase, 91, from Bromley, flew with the 611 squadron from Biggin Hill in 1942 and returned briefly at the end of the war.
He said: "The area has changed so much – at the time it was badly damaged and seemed intimidating – the emotions I felt then are coming back today.
"It's exciting to be back and I'm delighted to see the planes in top shape again and hear engines roar into life."
The father of two, who also has two grandchildren, and who attended the launch with his wife Sue, flew after the Battle of Britain, making sweeps over France, and also fought in Algeria, Tunisia and Italy.
Kent county councillor Alan Marsh, who attended the event with his colleagues, said: "The planes on display here are a legacy that will last 1,000 years and we are thrilled to be at this event.
"Children can come here and see the planes their grandfathers flew – it's an amazing way for them to experience history.
"There are only 34 Spitfires left in the world and there were around 20,000 built – it's amazing to be able to come here and see some."