Operation Bairn

THE Falkirk Herald is backing an appeal to raise funds for a new Spitfire – 67 years after we campaigned for one to protect the skies over Britain.

Back in the summer of 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Falkirk Herald readers took part in a Spitfire funds drive and raised 5000 to buy a Mark Vb model, which was named "The Falkirk Bairn".

Now, over half a century later, 1333 Grangemouth Air Training Corps is looking to enlist readers' help to raise 22,000 to buy a full-size Spitfire replica for their memorial garden, which commemorates the fighter pilots who died serving with Grangemouth's 58 Operational

Training Unit in WWII.

Back in 1941, the Herald accepted a letter of thanks from Lord Beaverbrook, minister for aircraft production, on behalf of the readers who raised the funds, and also a special wooden plaque – which is now proudly displayed in editor Colin Hume's office.

The aircraft the readers purchased was usually flown by Polish pilot Sergeant Michael Cwynar and is believed to have taken part in action over France and the English Channel, shooting down two Messerschmitt 109s.

Sadly "The Falkirk Bairn" crashed in Castletown, on the Isle of Man, on September 19, 1942, during a training exercise.

Now Flying Officer Tom McMorrow, Grange-mouth ATC commanding officer, hopes that with our readers' backing, this 21st century Spitfire campaign will be just as successful.

He said this week: "The memorial garden is quite large, about 25 metres square and Forth Valley College have agreed to build our memorial stone – which will feature the names of pilots from Poland, Canada,

Australia, New Zealand, Holland and America.

"We were going to get a one-to-four scale model of a Spitfire for the memorial, to highlight just what it was commemorating. Then we became aware of a full scale replica Spitfire which had been built."

The replica had been constructed by the company which supplied full scale models for films such as Pearl Harbour and Battle of Britain.

"I spoke to the builders," said F.O. McMorrow, "and they said it could be painted in Grangemouth RAF colours with the name 'The Falkirk Bairn' added to it.

''The only thing is, it costs a lot of money – but it would look fantastic and I think people would come from miles around to see it."

The 22,000 would have to be raised by August in order to get the Spitfire replica painted and in position in the memorial garden in time for the opening ceremony on September 13.

"It's a lot of money to raise in such a short time, but the people of Falkirk have done it before," said F.O. McMorrow.

The memorial garden, located just off Bo'ness Road by the BP petrol station, is situated near the site of the old Grangemouth airfield and will be officially unveiled at a spectacular ceremony, which will be covered by BBC television – featuring a Battle of Britain fly past, complete with a working Spitfire, and a guest list that includes Scottish Justice Minister Kenny McCaskill.

If you can help the Air Cadets with their Spitfire appeal, get in touch with the squadron on 0131 310 5822.