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Thousands turned out on Sunday (30 August) to see the ‘THANK U NHS’ Spitfire fly over many of the NHS hospitals across the North. This was the final leg of a national tour which began on 5th July to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the birth of the NHS and to raise money for NHS charities in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Spitfire PL983, which has already flown across east Yorkshire on 11th July, bears the message ‘THANK U NHS’ under it’s wings and took off from Duxford airfield, near Cambridge, at 10am. Flying up through the East Midlands, it reached Leighton and Countess of Cheshire Hospitals in Crewe and Warrington & Halton Hospital by 11am. The Spitfire continued by visiting NHS hospitals across Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool before a refuelling break at Blackpool Airport.

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The public have been offered the chance to nominate the name of a loved one to be hand written onto the family-owned Aircraft Restoration Company’s blue Spitfire to raise money for NHS Charities Together. From a family member to a kind neighbour, a close friend or a community hero, the public are invited to thank those who have performed acts of kindness during the Covid 19 pandemic. In return for a donation, nominated names will join up to 80,000 names written on the Spitfire.

Each name nominated will help the nation to say thank you to the NHS by contributing to the NHS Charities Together charity. To nominate a name please visit The NHS Spitfire JustGiving page and donate a minimum of £10 along with the name of the person and the reason for the nomination in the donation comment. Names will be added to the Spitfire from donations up to 20th September with updates on social media as the blue outer-surface of the Spitfire is covered in the names of the nation’s local heroes.

NHS Spitfire visits NHS hospitals across the North
NHS Spitfire visits NHS hospitals across the North

“The response to our initial flight over the last 8pm #clapforourcarers Thursday was incredibly humbling,” said John Romain, founder and managing director of the Aircraft Restoration Company, “with hundreds of people from the local community sharing how wonderful it was to, not only see the Spitfire, but also to read the message emblazoned across its wings.

“After such positive response we decided to leave the message painted on the Spitfire for the rest of the flying season. This is where the idea to hand write the names of the nation’s loved ones onto the aircraft to raise money for the NHS Charities Together began.”

The Spitfire is a true British icon, playing a pivotal role during The Battle of Britain in 1940 and throughout World War II. Spitfire PL983 was specifically built and used for photo reconnaissance during the conflict, carrying cameras instead of weapons. It was later flown in air races by the famous female ATA pilot Lettice Curtis.

Following the break in Blackpool the Spitfire returned to the skies, for the afternoon leg of the tour, and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and NHS hospitals in Preston and Blackburn before heading for Yorkshire and the Bradford Royal Infirmary, Calderdale Royal Hospital, Halifax and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

The Spitfire then flew back towards Lancashire and Rochdale Infirmary, Royal Bolton Hospital and NHS hospitals across Greater Manchester. Finally the Spitfire visited Wythenshawe Hospital, Altrincham and Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport before returning home to Duxford.

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