As the Battle of Britain raged over southern England in the summer of 1940, Hertfordshire joined the nation in helping fund the building of much-needed Supermarine Spitfires.

Following the evacuation of Dunkirk, Britain stood alone against Germany and the threat of invasion loomed large.

But, for the Axis to launch their planned amphibious landing Operation Sea Lion, the Luftwaffe needed to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force.

Germany went about bombing RAF airfields across the south of England, with Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfires - piloted by brave young men who often had no more than a few hours flight training - rising to meet them.

A costly air battle ensued, now known as the Battle of Britain, and more and more RAF aircraft were needed to continue the fight.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Spitfires played a key role in winning the Battle of Britain.Spitfires played a key role in winning the Battle of Britain. (Image: Imperial War Museum)

So a plan was devised by Minister of Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook that would see the many provide the machinery for the few.

The Spitfire Fund was launched, which would see communities around the country raise money to help build a Spitfire, priced at an entirely theoretical £5,000, for RAF service, and it proved a massive success.

"The Spitfire funds were a home front phenomenon," aviation historian Paul Beaver told BBC News.

"The aircraft, and the idea of buying one, seemed to hit the national psyche.

"Britain wanted to believe in something and the Spitfire, that combination of beauty and power, was the great saviour."

Even in the summer of 1940, just as the Spitfire was cementing its legacy, it had captured the attention of the British public with its grace and power.

Launched in May 1940, more than 1,000 Spitfire appeals were set up by councils, businesses, voluntary organisations and individuals across the UK, with those who raised enough money having their city, town or village emblazoned on the side of an aircraft they helped to fund.

Garfield Weston, the MP for Macclesfield, presented £100,000 to the Spitfire Fund, while the Nizam of Hyderabad donated so much that 152 Squadron was named in his honour.

The effort even went global, with neutral Uruguay funding 17 Spitfires, and remarkably, inmates in a German POW camp donated a month's pay through the Red Cross to fund an aircraft.

“Almost every big town in Britain came to have its name on a Spitfire by the end,” Matt Brosnan from the Imperial War Museum told BBC News.

But how did our towns contribute to the Spitfire fund?

Welwyn Garden City

In Welwyn Garden City, October 26 to November 2 was dedicated as Spitfire Week, with several events put on to raise money, including dances, social functions, street collection and bring-and-buy sales.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Spitfire Week advertised in the Welwyn Hatfield Times.Spitfire Week advertised in the Welwyn Hatfield Times. (Image: Welwyn Hatfield Times)

A go-as-you-please smoking concert was held at the Cherry Tree pub, while one individual donated 1 penny for each German aircraft that had been shot down by that stage of the war, some 2,349 planes.

By far and away the biggest attraction was a special guest on the Campus, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter that had been shot down by the RAF, helping to raise £58 1s in donations.

A total of £1,472 6s 1d was raised, £71,776.45 in today’s money, which was forwarded to the Minister for Aircraft Production.


The Stevenage Spitfire Fund was set up by a local garage, which organised a ten-a-penny club that asked members to pay one penny for every ten enemy aircraft shot down.

The aircraft tally was kept by Mr Furr the fishmonger, who listened to the 8 o’clock news and kept score on a chalkboard outside the shop.

Within five days the club had raised £454, but it is not known how much was raised in total.

St Albans

Welwyn Hatfield Times: St Albans joined the efforts for the Spitfire Fund.St Albans joined the efforts for the Spitfire Fund. (Image: Herts Ad)

In St Albans, the Herts Advertiser placed a noticed for the Spitfire for Victory fund, which exclaimed: “Help us to buy it now. And it all depends on you.”

House to house collection took place throughout the city, while items were donated to a shop in George Street, with all proceeds going to the Spitfire Fund.