Spitfire 75th anniversary commemorated in stage play

Image caption, Mitchell's Wings tells the life story of RJ Mitchell

A new stage play has been written to mark 75 years since the first Spitfire test flight at Eastleigh in Hampshire.

Mitchell's Wings tells the story of designer RJ Mitchell whose plane went on to play a key role in World War II.

Teacher Johnny Carrington spent two years gathering testimonies of former Spitfire pilots, RJ Mitchell's son and a witness to the first flight.

Mr Carrington said: "The stories are just incredible - it's difficult to comprehend what these people did."

The play is being performed by The Maskers amateur theatre company with students from Southampton's Oasis Academy, where Mr Carrington is a drama teacher.

Many of the students are about the same age the Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain.

Son's support

Mr Carrington said: "It's really important to inspire the next generation about the incredible stories, the humility and modesty of the people whose lives the Spitfire touched."

Image caption, RJ Mitchell died before World War II started

During his research Mr Carrington interviewed RJ Mitchell's son Gordon who gave his support to the project shortly before his death.

He said the students involved in the play learned a lot about the plane designer, who died of cancer in 1937 and never saw the crucial role his plane would play in the war.

He said: "They've got a real appreciation of a character who persevered against severe adversity. His courage in continuing while he had cancer was an inspiration."

The play will have its premiere at the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop on 4 March, the anniversary of the first test flight.

Middle Wallop was also one of the airfields from where Spitfires flew during the Battle of Britain.

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