The day a Spitfire and a hero came to Lowestoft school
PUBLISHED: 08:58 08 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:03 08 January 2014
They were the brave pilots and iconic aircraft that helped turn the tide of the second world war.
But, 70 years on, youngsters at Meadow Primary School in Lowestoft got a chance to meet a former RAF pilot and get up close to a life-sized replica of the Spitfire he flew on more than 30 dangerous sorties.
Tony Cooper, 97, and the replica Spitfire MK 805 made a visit as part of a second world war day for year six pupils.
Although the pupils knew they were having a day focused on the war, they had no idea that a Spitfire and Mr Cooper would be visiting and were stunned to find the plane had somehow “landed” in the school grounds.
During a question and answer session, Mr Cooper told the children about his wartime missions and how, amazingly, he escaped with just a bump on his head when his Spitfire crashed in Belgium in 1944.
The pupils also asked him about the technical aspects of Spitfires and were intrigued to find out the fighters could also take part in bombing sorties.
Mr Cooper, who lives in Lowestoft, said: “It was lovely to visit the children. They asked a lot of very interesting and amazing questions.”
During the war, the RAF’s Spitfires played a key role alongside Hawker Hurricanes in winning the Battle of Britain – a victory that was pivotal in the Allies’ eventual victory over Hitler’s forces.
Mr Cooper called his plane Peter John III after his baby son and he flew it on 38 operational missions. The replica Spitfire was built over 28 years by Terry Arlow, from Lowestoft.
Rebecca Allott, year six teacher, said: “There was a real buzz in the school when the children saw the Spitfire and met Tony.
“You’d don’t expect to see a Spitfire arrive at your school and it caused so much excitement.
“They asked Tony a lot of questions such as had he ever crashed or been seriously hurt and he said he just got a bump on his head.
“The pupils were fascinated about Spitfires and asked some technical questions about them, they never knew they could carry bombs.
“It was great to have Tony and the plane here as it helped to bring the war to life for the children.”
The school’s second world war day also saw pupils dress up as evacuees, take part in a mock air raid drill and tuck into meals based on wartime rations, such as spam.
Some staff dressed in 1940s costumes, including one who became an evacuee billeting officer for the day and there was vintage music from the era.
The pupils have all written thank-you letters to Mr Cooper for his visit.