Search for Spitfire stories will start in Chichester

Kurt Turchan
Kurt Turchan

A Canadian cyclist touring England to collect stories of the iconic Spitfire aircraft will start his journey in Chichester.

Kurt Turchan will be cycling the South Downs Way in support of http://allspitfirepilots.org.

He is offering a pub night for anyone interested – on September 11 at 7pm in Chichester’s Wetherspoons in West Street, opposite the cathedral.

Kurt is the founder of allspitfirepilots.org, a website dedicated to the Spitfire and the pilots that flew it,. He will be touring England this autumn to expand his online history of the renowned British fighter aircraft that includes photos, memories and a database of Spitfire pilots from around the world.

“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’s 100-mile bicycle tour kicks off on September 11 at 7pm in Wetherspoons, the old Dolphin & Anchor in Chichester, a pub frequented by airmen from the Tangmere airfield throughout the war and during the Battle of Britain, where he will be joined by author and former RAF pilot Ron Powell. Ron will give a talk on selected Battle of Britain pilots. All are welcome, and Kurt hopes to meet with those who may be able to contribute to the site. After attending the Battle of Britain Day ceremony in Capel-le-Ferne on September 15, Kurt will visit the Old Jail pub after visiting Biggin Hill and again welcomes anyone to join him.

“The site captures technical details and operational records, but it is the human stories that are the most compelling.”

One of Kurt’s 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. “The air war was vicious and fiercely fought, but there were some lighter moments. These were heroes, each and every one of them, whether they survived or were killed in training, an accident, or battle.”

Kurt’s plan is to continue to update the custom software he developed for the site, then transfer the stewardship of it to an organisation in the UK.

“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.

“Many photos have been liberated from attics, and some of the stories are very moving, and humbling, with many mysteries solved. One avid contributor and now editor for the site, Kevin Charles, owes his existence to the Walrus pilot who plucked his father out of the sea after he bailed out into the ocean off Italy. Kevin focuses on the North African and Italian campaigns, adding pilots from squadrons that served there, like his father's 601 Squadron.”