611 (Woodvale) Squadron Air Training Corps is making a bid to have a Spitfire return to Woodvale and act as a gate guardian. The Station Commander supports the idea and fund raising has started to collect an estimated £30,000 for a replica aircraft. The real thing is far too expensive and also is a major maintenance problem with the salt air and damp so only replicas are acceptable. Spitfires are synonymous with Woodvale as they were flown there by Nos 308, 315, 317, 501, 322, 222, 316, 650 and 63 Squadrons during World War Two plus by 611 (West Lancashire) Auxiliary Squadron RAF (Later Royal Auxiliary Air Force) from its reformation in 1946 until giving them up for Meteor fighters in 1951. However Spitfires continued at Woodvale until June 1957 when three Mk PR.19 models flew daily flights to a point in Herefordshire taking weather readings every one thousand feet as they climbed up to a height of approximately 30,000 feet. These readings formed part of the UK weather forecast for many years prior to being overtaken by radar and satellites. These aircraft are still airworthy and formed the nucleus of the Battle of Britain memorial Flight in 1957.
Flight Lieutenant Peter Tipping, Officer Commanding 611 Squadron, ATC said:
'The Spitfire is the most fitting aircraft to have on the gate as the type is everyone's favourite and it played a major role in the history of RAF Woodvale and 611 Squadron. 611 was the first Auxiliary Squadron to receive Spitfires before WWII started and fought with them almost exclusively throughout the war until they were replaced by the longer range Mustang fighter in 1945. 611 Squadron reformed at Woodvale in 1946 with Spitfires and later the three serving with the THUM Flight at Woodvale were the last Spitfires in the RAF to fly routine operational flights undertaking weather forecasting duties. They were withdrawn in June 1957 and formed the basis of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight now based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. All three are still flying, two with the Flight and one now owned by Rolls Royce.'
Anyone wishing to support the fund should write to Flt Lt Peter Tipping RAF VR(T), Officer Commanding, 611 (Woodvale) Squadron ATC, RAF Woodvale, Formby, Merseyside L37 7AD
The RAF provided this replica Spitfire on the Woodvale gate for two weeks in May to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. A similar full size replica is proposed but painted in 611 Squadron colours