Kessingland pupils feel sky high after Spitfire visit

When schools hold second world war history days they may be lucky to have a gas mask, fading ration books or a piece of shrapnel on display.

But for one lucky set of north Suffolk primary school pupils, a tritube to real aviation history dropped in to say hello during lessons about the 1939 to 1945 conflict.

Pupils at Kessingland Primary School in Kessingland, near Lowestoft, were stunned to see a Spitfire make a surprise appearance at their history day.

The replica mark IX Spitfire is owned by Terry Arlow, from the Oulton Broad area, who has lovingly built the plane from scratch over more than 28 years using original parts.

An exact copy of a Spitfire known as Mk 805, the plane became the centre piece of Kessingland Primary's history day as Mr Arlow's son Stuart is a teacher there and suggested the fighter could be set up in the school's field.

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Pupils, some of who dressed up in a second world war theme, could not believe their eyes when they saw it and for five lucky pupils they even had the chance to sit in its cramped cockpit by winning a drawing competition.

Many of the pupils had never heard of Spitfires before but they soon learned the important role the planes carried out in fighting off the Nazi menace.

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The original Spitfire Mk 805 flew 38 operational sorties and carried out low level bombing missions, fighter sweeps, shipping scouting missions and provided escort for the ill-fated glider Bridge Too far landings at Arnhem.

Kiaya Brighty, nine, enjoyed finding out about Spitfires. She said: 'They were important to the war because they helped by flying over enemy places.'

Anthony Cox, eight and whose distant cousin died in the war, said: 'I think the Spitfire is amazing. It is bigger than I thought it would be.'

As well as the Spitfire, the 75 year three and four pupils made second world recipes based on rations books, including vegetable pastry, and had a good sing along to classic wartime tunes such as We'll Meet again.

They were also intrigued to hear about the experiences of Mary Draper, who was evacuated as a child from Lowestoft to Derbyshire.

The children also learned how to swing to dance music from the era, such as the Lindy Hop, and held a street party with parents and grandparents.

Headteacher Pat Hogan said: 'Some people might bring a gas mark to something like this. But we get to have a Spitfire, which is just amazing.

'I would say it is an inspiration for our pupils to have it here as it helps them to understand the second world war and what people went through even more.

'You can see how vulnerable the pilot must have felt sitting in a Spitfire's cockpit on a mission.'

The original Spitfire MK 805 crashed in Belgium in September 27, 1944.

It had been flown by flight lieutenant Tony Cooper, of 64 Squadron, on all of its 38 operational missions.

Mr Cooper, who lives in Lowestoft and attended yesterday's event, had christened the plane Peter John III during the war in honour of his baby son.

In February Mr Cooper inspected the replica and told the EDP at the time: 'It is absolutely tremendous. It just looks like the real thing.'

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