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Battle of Britain: Restored Spitfire unveiled in Stoke-on-Trent

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image source, PA Media

image captionNorman Lewis, a 102-year-old veteran, was given a preview of the restored Spitfire

A Spitfire which was donated to Stoke-on-Trent in honour of the famous aircraft's designer has gone on display in a new £5.4m glass gallery.

The Mark XVI Spitfire was unveiled in the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery's extension on Battle of Britain Day.

The new Spitfire Gallery will tell the story of the famous aircraft designed by Reginald Mitchell.

Julian Mitchell, his great-nephew, said he hoped it would be an "inspiration", particularly for future engineers.

The plane, which was donated to the area by the RAF in 1972, spent three years in a workshop at an airfield in Kent, where it was restored, before being transported back, with a crane lifting it into its new home.

image source, PA Media

image captionThe Spitfire was restored during three years in a workshop at an airfield in Kent

Mr Mitchell, whose great-uncle died aged 42 in 1937, remembered being taken as a child to the ceremony when it first went on display.

"The plane means a lot to the people of Stoke-on-Trent. I think it means a lot to the people of the country, and it's a symbol of hope, the Spitfire," he said.

It will be illuminated at night in the gallery, which opens to the public on Saturday.

World War Two veteran Norman Lewis, aged 102 and from Meir, was among those given a preview of the restored Spitfire and said it was a "wonderful sight".

He was captured in June 1940 in France while serving with the Royal Engineers.

"I covered 10,000 miles in three months and I arrived home on April the 1st, 1945. Some good news was, when I got to Egypt, they told me I'd got five years back-pay to pick up, which was wonderful."

image source, PA Media

image captionThe reconditioned Spitfire will be the new centre-piece of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery

Mr Mitchell said he hoped it would "inspire visitors to think about the possibilities in engineering" and help plug the profession's "massive skills gap".

He added it would also tell the story of a "local boy" educated and apprenticed locally "who then went on to create the most beautiful aircraft that ever was built, that ever flew, and helped save the country in its hours of greatest peril".

He said: "It is here, as a symbol of hope, of inspiration, and really something that says to anyone who drives past 'anything's possible'".

The exhibition received £210,000 from a funding pot run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Wolfson Foundation.

The Mark XVI Spitfire was built at Castle Bromwich, West Midlands, in May 1945 and last flew in 1952 when it was damaged during take-off.

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