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Generous gesture saves big repair bill

The Trust feared thousands of pounds worth of damage had been done to the Spitfire and Hurricane replicas earlier this year when a storm ripped through the clifftop site at Capel-le-Ferne.

While the Hurricane escaped with a damaged tail wheel, the undercarriage on the Spitfire was badly twisted, with the result that site manager Jules Gomez and trustee Nick Lawn had to make it safe by supporting the wings with wooden pallets, donated by local timber and builders’ merchant Youngs

In the meantime, Dave Brocklehurst MBE, chairman of the Kent Battle of Britain Museum Trust at nearby Hawkinge, visited the site, discussed the damage with Jules and trustees and put together a plan to do the work on site, removing the need to transport the aircraft hundreds of miles back to the makers for costly repairs.

Dave then contacted Eric Cook, a director of local welding company Cook Fabrications, whose daughter Lucy is one of his museum volunteers, and persuaded the company to help repair the damaged undercarriage on both aircraft free of charge.

Eric asked welder Chris Clifford to spent a day working alongside Dave, Jules and museum volunteer Kevan Dunn-Beeching to fit new, strengthened, supporting plates inside the Spitfire and re-fix the undercarriage. The tie-downs on both aircraft have also been adapted in order to prevent similar problems in future.

Dave explained that as well as wanting to help his near neighbours, he had been motivated by his close friendship with the late Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, DSO, OBE, DFC* who flew in the Battle of Britain and led the campaign to create the National Memorial to the Few, unveiled in 1993.

“Geoffrey was a close friend of mine and asked me to promise that if the Memorial ever needed help in the future, I would be there – and this seemed like one of those times,” Dave explained.

“My museum is only a couple of miles up the road and this was a great chance to help out another charity that shares our aim of honouring the memory of Geoffrey and the rest of the Few.”

Trust chairman Richard Hunting CBE said: “This was a remarkable gesture both by the company and by Dave, whose practical skills and experience allowed him to see what needed doing and who then set things in motion. This has saved us a lot of money at a difficult time, and we are delighted with such generous support.”

A local man, Eric Cook’s mother served in the WAAF at the frontline Battle of Britain RAF station at Hawkinge, part of which is now home to the museum.

He said he had a close affinity with the Trust’s work to remember the Few, adding: “We had the skills and the equipment to be able to help the Trust in its hour of need and I was delighted that we were able to do so.”

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