Tuesday 23 April 2024
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Spitfire project joins forces with MP to inspire Rushcliffe students about careers in science

Ruth Edwards is joining forces with the Spitfire AA810 project to celebrate British Science Week and encourage more people to pursue careers in STEM.  

This project is working to restore a World War Two spitfire which was recovered from a crash site in Norway.

Since its recovery in 2018, work has been underway to bring the plane back into flying condition, incorporating a significant amount of original material.

Some parts of the aircraft which are not suitable to be used in the rebuild are being incorporated into memorials to men of the Photographic Reconnaissance Units which helped to plan major operations such as the D-Day landings and the Dambusters raid.

One of these brave pilots was Rushcliffe local John Fowler, who was born in Normanton on the Wolds and was declared missing presumed killed at age 27. 

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With 2024 being the 80th anniversary of D-Day, this was a perfect opportunity to raise awareness about the project and inspire the next generation.

Every year, Ruth celebrates British Science week by sending a pack of inspirational Rushcliffe speakers who work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to local schools. 

STEM logo

Speakers have signed up to come and talk to pupils about their careers and the exciting opportunities that are out there for them.

Current speakers include local professionals working in geology, physics and biotech. This year the Spitfire AA810 Project will be amongst them. Tony Hoskins, who leads the work on the AA810, hopes the restoration will inform and inspire young people from all backgrounds to consider paths into the aviation and aerospace industries. 


Ruth said:

“The 80th anniversary of one of the biggest events in history is a great opportunity to bring the story of the AA810 Spitfire to the next generation and inspire them into STEM careers at the same time.

“I’m so grateful to all our speakers for volunteering to share their stories and I would encourage any STEM professionals in Rushcliffe who would like to be part of this year’s pack to contact me. STEM is vital to the future of our economy, we need to do everything we can to encourage more people to pursue these subjects as a career.”

Photo Reconnaissance Units 

The PRU was formed on the 24th of September 1939 and throughout the Second World War it operated highly dangerous, clandestine photographic reconnaissance operations over all theatres of operation, and captured more than 26 million images of enemy operations and installations during the war.  


The purpose of the PRU was to provide up-to-date intelligence to strategically plan the Allied actions in the war. Flying Spitfires and Mosquitos, the intelligence it gathered was used by all the armed forces, giving same day intelligence on enemy activity. 


The intelligence provided by the PRU was used in the Cabinet War Rooms – now the ‘Churchill War Rooms’ located underneath the Treasury – and was instrumental in the planning of major operations; D-Day and the Dambusters Raid, the monitoring of major shipping movements such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz, and the locating of the site of the V1 and V2 rocket launching site at Peenemünde. 


Due to the clandestine nature of their operations – they flew solo operations, unarmed and unarmoured – the death rate was nearly fifty percent. However, despite having one of the lowest survival rates of the war – life expectancy in the PRU was around two and a half months – there is no national memorial to the PRU.  


The ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’ has therefore led the campaign to establish such a memorial to the PRU pilots and navigators.  


Local Hero 

Among those who served in the PRU was John Fowler. 


F/Lt John William Southmayd Fowler was born the son of Percy and Mildred Southmayd Fowler and had pre-war married Sheila, the couple residing in Normanton-on-the-Wolds.  


Joining the RAF and learning to fly the Spitfire, John was selected to join the RAF’s new clandestine Photographic Reconnaissance Unit operating from RAF Heston.  


As part of B Flight, on the 9th November 1940 John was selected to fly a reconnaissance mission of the enemy coast between Flushing and Cherbourg.  


He failed to return from that flight and 27-year-old John Fowler remains missing presumed killed to this day. 


More information on the ‘Spitfire AA810 Project’, the history, the plane and its pilots, and the Memorial campaign can be found on its website: www.spitfireaa810.co.uk.  

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