16 April 2024

Town set for double Spitfire spectacular

By Sam Hawcroft

Two wartime Spitfires will take part in a spectacular duel over Withernsea at this summer’s Blue Light Weekend, it has been announced – but organisers have warned that the display could be the last without more local sponsorship.

The Gazette can reveal that the historic aircraft, part of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, will form part of the free Tier 2 airshow on Sunday, August 11 – along with the RAF Typhoon display team, which was announced a couple of weeks ago, and many more aerial attractions including the return of Nick Lee in his Tiger Moth, the Starlings stunt plane duo and the Jubilee Pitts aerobatic team.

But, while the air show – among the biggest in the North of England this year – is set to attract thousands to Withernsea’s prom, it comes at a high cost. In the face of a funding shortfall, the Blue Light Weekend organising committee is again appealing to local businesses and residents to help in any way they can.

Event co-director Andy Medcalf said: “We really do understand that times are tough for businesses and individuals at the moment – but this event could put Withernsea on the map like never before.

“Previously you’d have to travel right across the country to see some of these aerial displays – but this summer, they are coming right here to our town, and it will all be free for people to enjoy.

“The knock-on impact it could have on our local businesses – pubs, shops and eateries, etc – could be huge, so we’re urging the town to get behind us.

“We’re offering some great promotional rewards in return for sponsorship, as well as some experiences that money can’t buy. Please help us ensure that this year’s second Blue Light Weekend – which will be even bigger and better the first – isn’t the last.”

The 2023 Blue Light Weekend was the original vision of Andy’s brother, Steve Medcalf, Withernsea’s lifeboat operations manager who tragically died in December 2022.

The first event was a huge success, and the organising committee are passionate about carrying on Steve’s aim to “put Withernsea on the map” while also raising money for local lifesaving and emergency services.

The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight commemorates all those who have lost their lives serving in the RAF, or its predecessor the Royal Flying Corps, in all conflicts from 1914 up to the present day. It comprises 12 historic aircraft, including six Supermarine Spitfires.

Among these is a 1940 Mk IIa – the only surviving flying Spitfire from the Battle of Britain.

The Mk Vb, meanwhile, flew 143 operational missions during the war, including four sorties during the aerial battle in support of the Dieppe Raid in 1942, as well as numerous cover patrols over the D-Day invasion beachheads on and after June 6, 1944.

The Mk IX, which first came on service in spring 1944, was damaged by enemy fire on three occasions and suffered three “wheels up” landings, the last of which, in June 1944, ended its brief, but action-packed, operational life.

The BBMF’s other three Spitfires comprise the clipped-wing Mk XVI, which was commissioned in June 1945 and later used at the Empire Central Flying School, and two that were built in the late 1940s and served as postwar photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

A spokeswoman for the BBMF said it was too early to confirm which Spitfires would be visiting Withernsea because the plans depended on factors such as weather, aircraft serviceability and pilot availability nearer the time.

Last year, a Lancaster Bomber wowed the Blue Light Weekend crowds with an extended 20-minute flypast, and this year the Spitfires will perform a similar display.

Rather than only flying over the town once – they will circle over the prom and back numerous times, in what promises to be a stirring and memorable spectacle.

It will be a fitting conclusion to an action- packed weekend in August – the first day, August 10, being devoted to attractions in the sea and on land, including lifeboat exercises, sea swims and the hugely popular 2km colour run along the prom.

Any local businesses who would like to discuss sponsorship opportunities should contact Kristina Richardson at [email protected]. The organisers are also seeking volunteers to help out at this year’s event – for more information or to sign up, email [email protected].

To donate to the Blue Light Weekend, or enter the raffle to win a flight in a wartime Tiger Moth, visit give.bluelightwithernsea.com.