A Canadian cyclist is set to start a 100-mile bicycle tour of England to collect stories about the Spitfire and the men who flew the iconic aeroplanes.
Kurt Turchan, 58, from Ottawa, is the founder of allspitfirepilots.org, a website dedicated to the Spitfire and its pilots, and he hopes his tour will help him expand his online history of the renowned British fighter aircraft.
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Kurt said: “Thousands of Spitfires and pilots have been submitted to allspitfirepilots.org by users from all over the world including the UK, Australia, Canada, the US, France, Poland, Norway, New Zealand and South Africa.
“While pilots from many nations flew the Spitfire, it was designed and built in the UK so it is my hope that this trip will raise awareness of the site and encourage history buffs and Spitfire enthusiasts to visit the site and contribute their own stories, photos and pilot information.”
Kurt will start his bike ride at the Dolphin and Anchor pub in Chichester on Wednesday (September 11) at 7pm, where he will be joined by author and former RAF pilot Ron Powell, who will give a talk on Battle of Britain pilots.
All are welcome to attend the talk, where Kurt hopes to meet people who may be able to contribute to the site.
The Dolphin and Anchor was frequented by airmen from Tangmere airfield throughout the Second World War and during the Battle of Britain.
After attending the Battle of Britain Day ceremony in Capel-le-Ferne on September 15, Kurt will visit the Old Jail pub in Biggin Hill after visiting the nearby airport, and again welcomes anyone to join him.
Kurt said: “The site captures technical details and operational records, but it is the human stories that are the most compelling.”
One of his favourite stories was told by the son of photo reconnaissance pilot John Bendixsen, who detailed his father’s crash landing during which he ploughed through a hedge and onto a road, stopping just short of a stone wall, only to be told off by a girl on her bicycle for interrupting her ride.
Kurt’s plan is to continue to update the custom software he developed for the site, then transfer the stewardship of it to an organization in the UK.
He said: “The goal of the site is to capture not just the aces, but each and every pilot and their pre and post-war activities.”
Anyone can register and contribute a pilot or a Spitfire photo, add to existing entries, leave a comment or ask a question.
Visitors can also follow a pilot and receive notifications of new additions.
Visit allspitfirepilots.org to find out more about the Spitfire and its pilots.