The Essex Memorial Spitfire is an exact replica of the Spitfire used by hometown Second World War veteran, Jerry Billing.
Because of his health, organizers of the Essex Memorial Spitfire project raised funds and got a rush order on the replica that will not only honour the Essex fighter and airshow pilot but all Essex County veterans of the RAF or RCAF. Organizers are hoping to get him by ambulance to a Sept. 21 dedication ceremony at a park behind the legion where the Spitfire and a monument with the names of hundreds of Essex County air force veterans will be on permanent display.
The fibreglass Spitfire was shipped from England to Montreal where the cargo container was put on a train to Brampton and then delivered by truck to Essex. On Friday volunteers finished assembling the Spitfire by adding the landing gear, propeller and wings to the body that was shipped in one piece. Billing’s son Erik said it was like Christmas in August.
“It’s basically like a big plastic model.”
The RAF replica plane bears Jerry’s name, call sign letters and serial number. Erik said the only difference is the white strips on the wings look crisper than the original ones that were hurriedly painted on the night before D-Day to help Allied forces avoid shooting at their own fighters. From the air the June 6, 1944 battle was fairly quiet for the Spitfire pilots but by July 1, Jerry had been shot down for his third time. He crash landed that Spitfire in France and escaped German capture.