Normandy trip for aviation enthusiasts

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A team of wartime aviation enthusiasts who raised funds to construct a new RAF memorial are set to head from Lancashire to Normandy for this summer’s international D-Day commemorations.

The Lytham St Annes Spitfire Display Team’s labour of love began in 2009 when the group’s chairman, John Coombes, re-discovered in old archive documents that the residents of Lytham and St Annes had taken part in the Spitfire Fund programme in 1940, purchasing a Mark Vb Spitfire W3644 for the war effort.

The aeroplane, which was bought using the fund, piloted by Sergeant Alan Lever-Ridings, a young man with family connections to St Annes, was shot down off the Devon coast in 1942 as it returned from escorting bombers over France. Alan, aged just 20 was killed.

The team of volunteers have since raised £120,000 following a mammoth UK wide tour to build the new RAF Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Command Memorial, which is now located on the shores of Fairhaven Lake in St Annes.

After months of refurbishment the former RAF Gateguardian has been transformed by the display team members, including a full cockpit revamp.

The final touch has been the addition of the familiar black and white invasion stripes on the wings and fuselage.

The Spitfire, nicknamed Lucy, will be transported by road to Portsmouth before crossing the sea in time for the commemorations, which run from June to August.

John Coombes, Lytham Spitfire Display Team chairman, said: “There will be heads of state from all over the world to remember the sacrifices made 70 years – a worthy tribute to acknowledge an operation that saw the tide of the war start to turn.

“Thousands of people have supported our project from across the world and many have viewed our Spitfire and the memorial on Fairhaven Lake since it was declared open in 2012.”




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