Two years ago I was making an Airfix model of a Spitfire with my daughter. As we made the plane I told her the few things I knew about the Spitfire and the men who flew it. Most of my information came from the war films I watched and the cartoon stories I read as a child.
I realised that in order to tell my daughter the Spitfire story properly we needed to visit the RAF Museum in Cosford together.
The museum trip helped her. A lot. She saw the world’s oldest Spitfire. Understood how small it was and saw how alone the pilot might feel, strapped under the canopy of this plane, facing the enemy. And, like other children – and adults – she wanted to sit in the Spitfire cockpit, to try to imagine what that had been like.
But the Spitfire wouldn’t last long if everyone who wanted to sit in one came and did that. Luckily the museum has other aircraft that visitors can sit in (Open Cockpit Evenings).
The Cosford visit helped me with my writing. I had a strong urge to put a child of today in the cockpit of a Spitfire. Because, I couldn’t do it in real life, I had the idea for a book called Spitfire, where a child makes a model of a Spitfire and upon finishing it – finds themselves at the controls of one in the Battle of Britain. (Via a time slip.) That’s where the adventure begins.
The RAF Museum helped me a lot. By being there to visit. Also, through its wealth of information and artefacts. For instance, the silk map of France and Germany that I was able to look at, that helped my characters evade capture in occupied France.
I love museums because they help us to tell stories that mean we can understand our past. They are full of those stories and full of inspiration. None more so than the RAF Museum.
That’s why I was proud to launch the book in June at the RAF Museum Cosford. Over 100 people attended the launch, mostly families. It was exciting to read passages from the book standing right next to the Spitfire and to contribute in a little way to helping the museum to tell the stories.
Spitfire by Tom Palmer is published by Barrington Stoke.