(Reviewed by John Glennie)
An excellent documentary about this legendary fighter plane that was instrumental in defending Great Britain and winning World War II (WW2).
The movie includes interviews with WW2 fighter pilots who speak openly and candidly about their encounters and experiences in the Spitfire. Many pilots – old and new – rank the Spitfire as one of the most beautiful planes ever built. One of the veterans describes it as “childishly simple to fly” and a current RAF pilot says he feels privileged to fly it.
There is some amazing original footage of actual “dog-fights” with German fighters thanks to cameras installed in the Spitfire wings which activated when the machine gun trigger was pulled. The veterans describe how they came to be pilots – in some cases they wanted to fly but could not afford it and joined the Air Force so they could be paid to learn to fly. When war broke out these pilots were only 18-20 years old.
One said how the prime goal was to avoid getting shot down and he soon learned that the best way was to never fly on the same line for more than 10 seconds. He also describes how he enjoyed his “job” though admits he probably shouldn’t when human lives are being lost.
After many losses in the Battle of Britain, the Germans changed tactics and started to bomb London instead of the airfields. This gave the Spitfire pilots time to gain some much-needed rest and the opportunity to build up the supplies of Spitfires and enhance their capabilities. Women played a vital role here in building the aircraft, helping with new designs and flying them from the factory to the airfield. The women said it was an amazing experience when they had the opportunity to fly the Spitfires but had to take great care landing them – citing that it was “a lady in the air, but a bitch on the ground”. One said she had over 1000 hours flying time and, at 18, enjoyed going to the bases saying she had lots of boyfriends in those days!
Even though I am not fanatical about planes, I found this quite captivating as my father was a fighter pilot in WW2 before becoming a flying instructor. I look forward to seeing this movie again actually. Even if planes do not rank highly in your list of things to see, I still recommend this movie for the amazing footage or even just to gain insight into what these men and women had to endure at such a young age.