You may not be familiar with the name Burlen, but you likely are well aware of one of its products — SU carburetors. Those air-and-fuel mixing devices not only were used in a variety of British sports and other cars, but in the famed Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft that were so important to England’s military airpower during World War II.
After the Axis bombed the primary aircraft factories, Spitfires were produced at a secret facility in Salisbury, England. That facility, now known as Spitfire House, has become the home of Burlen’s headquarters and manufacturing.
“To honor the people of Salisbury who manufactured the Spitfire in secret after the main factories were bombed by German military, Burlen says in a news release, with the Secret Spitfire Memorial commissioned a replica Spitfire that is mounted nearly 30 feet aloft next to the A345 roadway in front of Spitfire House on the grounds of the Salisbury Rugby Club.
Burlen notes that more than 2,000 Spitfire aircraft were assembled “by unskilled girls, boys and women in Salisbury, an effort instrumental in winning World War 2.”
Their story was brought to wide attention by the 2016 film The Secret Spitfires which also provided the inspiration for a permanent memorial to be created.
The re-created Spitfire has a fiberglass body over a steel shell. It is 31 feet long and has a wingspan of 36.5 feet.
“What an honor it is for all Burlen staff to pass the Spitfire replica every day to reach our Headquarters,” Mark Burnett, Burlen managing director, is quoted. “We’ve always been immensely proud of our aviation and WW2 history, and feel inspired to work in an ex-Spitfire factory, but to be reminded of the huge part Salisbury played in manufacturing the much-loved Spitfire through a life-sized replica on our doorstep is humbling.”
The Secret Spitfire Memorial was launched by Chris Whalley, the former Salisbury Rugby Club president who sought a lasting tribute to the people of the city who contributed so much to the war effort.