Jaguar Land Rover’s Castle Bromwich factory is synonymous with the legendary Spitfire and a surviving pilot who flew the aircraft in the Battle of Britain was the guest of honour at a special event held there to mark a piece of Royal Air Force history.
The Midland carmaker invited more than 40 members of 19 (Fighter) Squadron to the site to celebrate its centenary year at the site where it was formed in 1915.
Among the group was retired Flight Lieutenant Ken Wilkinson, the last surviving member of the corps of 19 (Fighter) Squadron pilots to have flown Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.
The squadron was the first to receive the Spitfire prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.
To mark the occasion the 97-year-old from Solihull and his former comrades were taken on a tour of the site’s C Block facility which supported the manufacture of nearly 12,000 Spitfires to support the British war effort from 1940.
Mr Wilkinson then unveiled a commemorative plaque to be installed within the factory site to cement the historical link between 19 (Fighter) Squadron and Castle Bromwich.
He said: “What an extraordinary building it is. It’s wonderful. I’m very grateful to have been invited here to unveil this plaque and it’s been a very appropriate way to mark 19 (Fighter) Squadron and its members both still with us and those we have lost over the years.”
Les Ratcliffe, Jaguar Land Rover’s head of community relations, added: “It was an incredible honour and a great pleasure to be able to welcome the members of 19 (Fighter) Squadron and help them mark such a historically significant milestone.
“Jaguar Land Rover is extremely proud of the rich history and heritage of the Castle Bromwich site and to celebrate this occasion in the same year that we recognise 75 years since Spitfire manufacture began at the site and 80 Years of Jaguar is extremely fitting.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity to welcome someone such as Flt Lt Wilkinson and honour his sacrifices and, equally, those made by so many others. We look forward to this plaque being displayed for many, many years to come.”
The 112-acre Castle Bromwich factory site has been home to Jaguar since 1977.
The plant started out as an Operation Shadow Plan military factory in 1938, a programme which was initiated by the British Government prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.
With military production capacity already stretched, 22 new factories were created - Castle Bromwich being the 12th.
It became famous as the place where the Supermarine Spitfire was predominantly built.
In all 11,798 of the aircraft were built in Castle Bromwich, which represented 80 per cent of all the Spitfires built.
Later in the war the factory was also used to build Lancaster bombers, with 305 of the aircraft constructed there.