Chalke Valley Cricket Club in south-west Wiltshire and the Kent Spitfire have become surprising partners as they launch a nationwide competition for a lucky winner to have a private aerobatic display by this most iconic of wartime aircraft at a time and place of their choosing.
The competition aims to raise money to send the Spitfire to Arnhem this September for the 65th Anniversary of the battle in support of the Arnhem Veterans’ Club, and also to help Chalke Valley build a new cricket ground.
Pilot of the Spitfire, Clive Denney, and the Honorary Secretary of the Chalke Valley Cricket Club, Second World War historian and author, James Holland, became friends some years ago when the two collaborated on a successful project to take a Spitfire and Hurricane back to the Mediterranean island of Malta for the first time since the end of the war. When Clive told James that he needed to raise money to take the Spitfire to Arnhem this year, an idea was hatched to provide a solution to both their needs.
For Chalke Valley Cricket Club, the new 7.5 acre site will allow the club to grow and particularly to develop junior cricket. Last year, the girls’ cricket team from the Valley primary school came third in a national competition, and the Club are anxious that both boys and girls should be allowed to develop their cricket further once they leave the local primary school. â€˜Few local secondary schools offer much sport and very little cricket,’ says James. â€˜It is essential that every boy and girl in the Valley has a chance to play plenty of sport and cricket is an important part of that. It is still our national summer game, after all.’
The new ground is already under development thanks to generous and enthusiastic local support. They have also received help from wider afield such as from England batting star, Kevin Pietersen, former England captain and Sky commentator and writer, Mike Atherton, and even former Prime Minister, John Major, and footballing legend, Sir Bobby Robson.
â€˜The support has been overwhelming,’ says James. â€˜I think people recognise the need for rural regeneration and appreciate what a fabulous new cricket ground would mean for the area.’ The Club is not eligible for any grants from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), so they are looking towards other means of raising the necessary funds.
The Spitfire competition may just be the answer to their prayers, although Chalke Valley Cricket Club are keen to stress that it is the Arnhem Veterans who will receive the first funds from the competition. â€˜Who knows,’ says James, â€˜we might not be playing cricket today if it wasn’t for all those people who fought for our future in the Second World War. It is only right that we still acknowledge the huge sacrifices they made.’
This will not be the first time in recent years that the Kent Spitfire has crossed the Channel. â€˜We took the Spitfire over to Normandy this summer and the veterans loved it,’ says Clive, an experienced war-bird pilot and director of Vintage Fabrics at Audley End Airfield in Essex. â€˜I want to honour those men who fought so valiantly at Arnhem too. There will probably not been another chance.’
â€˜I am thrilled with the initiative to add the Spitfire to the Commemoration at Arnhem in September,’ said Vice President of the Arnhem Veterans’ Club, Colonel John Waddy. Colonel Waddy, then a major and a company commander in 156th Parachute Battalion, fought and was wounded at Arnhem in September 1944.
The organisers believe this is a unique competition. Those entering will be supporting two worthy causes but they also have a realistic chance of winning. Whether it be for a birthday, wedding, anniversary, fund-raiser, or just for fun, it is a truly wonderful prize: there can be few more thrilling sights than seeing this most beautiful and famous of aircraft twirling and pirouetting over the sky, the sound of its Rolls Royce Merlin engine roaring overhead.
There are no limitations to the number of tickets an individual or organisation can purchase. The competition closes on Monday 12th October. Members of Chalke Valley Cricket Club will be selling tickets at air shows, fÃªtes and other events during the rest of the summer, but the competition can also be entered online at:
The Kent Spitfire, a MkIXe model, TA 805, was built at the Castle Bromwich factory in the West Midlands in late 1944. It is currently painted in the RAF late wartime pattern and with 134 Squadron markings, and with the distinctive black and white stripes on the wings that were added for the D-Day invasion in June 1944.