As we commemorate ANZAC Day 2020, let's see what you know about the Spitfire Association in 2020.
1. From "Preserving the Memory" to "Carrying the Spirit Forward"
There comes a point where all wartime associations face the inevitable question of survivability. For the Spitfire Association it was between 2015 and 2016.
In 2015, it was clear that our numbers were dropping as the Spitfire pilots and crews, and their wives passed on. The question of whether to continue was forced on us as numbers rapidly dropped from veterans dying and the association not maintaining the attention of those remaining. To continue, the committee could no longer be solely focussed on just the Spitfire and its people; and our membership and wider audience would have to grow and evolve. The committee voted to continue, but the way ahead still wasn't clear. It would be a full eighteen months work by the Committee led by Life Vice President Lysle Roberts and President Geoff Zuber.
In 2018, just as the tide was turning, we were hit with a double whammy; we lost past President and Spitfire pilot, J Lysle Roberts, aged 93 and we also saw incumbent President Geoff Zuber suddenly required in England for 12 months due to family illness. Lysle’s passing brought a profound sense of sadness and loss, but also a renewed determination to succeed.
The strategy prepared by Lysle and Geoff was endorsed by the Committee only months before he passed away. The incoming 2019 Committee re-endorsed our desire to “Carry the Spirit Forward” of the Spitfire Association and its pilots and in doing so work towards helping Australia remain resilient.
2. We are no longer just a wartime association
To survive, the Spitfire Association must develop an equal focus on past, present and future.
- Focusing on the past involves preserving the memory of the air and ground crews of World War II, the men and women in war support roles, and the Spitfire aircraft.
- In the present is our yearly calendar of efforts supporting membership, functions, tours, fundraising, our links with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and growth of the association. The present also brings consideration of what direction we move to help Australia remain resilient.
- In the future is the work of the Spitfire Association as it supports fund raising to maintain and grow our ability to help keep Australia resilient. We do this by continued and active maintenance of the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship as well as bring other selected projects to life.
Maintaining the right balance as we reshape is crucial. We are committed to ensuring that we forever remain a living breathing memorial to the Spitfire generation, whilst Carrying their Spirit Forward.
3. A skilled team with a common interest
When the Spitfire Association was first formed, it was as the name indicated, an association of Spitfire pilots. Early members such as Bob Cunningham ensured wives and associated members were quickly included and as time went on, non-Squadron members, then associate memberships were created.
It is a new era now, one guided through history by the hands of our founders. Today's committee, while not all linked to the Spitfire generation, carry a deep reverence for the efforts of our air and ground crews in World War II. We only have one pilot, and there are two serving military Committee members. Regardless, everyone brings their considerable expertise to the committee, and are doing an outstanding job as a team.
4. We are proud to have ongoing support of the Australian Defence Force
The incumbent Chief of Defence (CDF) holds the responsibility to be, or nominate from Service chiefs, the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship Patron. This patronage is vital to ensure that the association remains connected to Defence as a whole, not just the Air Force. We are honoured to have, as current Patron, the Chief of the Air Force Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, AO, DSC. Our previous Patron when CDF was Air Chief Marshal (Ret'd) Mark Binskin, AC.
P=The current Patron of the Spitfire Association itself is Air Vice Marshal (Ret'd) Mark Skidmore, AM. AVM Skidmore was Air Commander Australia from 2008-2012.
Each year, the SMDF is presented at Government House by the Governor General of Australia.
5. The Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship support isn't restricted to just Air Force
A quick look through the awardees of the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship shows the tri-service nature of our support to Defence and increasingly towards Cyber and Space. The SMDF has sponsored study across the three services, e.g. hypersonic flight, unmanned surface vessels and effectiveness of soldiers due to hydration. There are also projects that benefit the services equally, such as cybersecurity and blast survivablity of cement composites.
6. The Spitfire is a symbol, for what we actually do.
Our site has many stories of the reverance in which Spitfire was held. It had grace while it had grit; it had the perfect blend of curves and presence. Pilots universally spoke of the unforgettable experience of flying it. The pilots too, showed similar spirit. In a world away from todays Air Force, many WWII pilots were often given little more than a few hours training on the aircraft, the enemy and combat, before being thrust into a life or death battle on the world stage. They showed as much spirit as the aircraft. That spirit is what we carry forward from our founders, as a guiding set of principles. We will never forget the past, but now our eyes are set firmly on the future.
To Help Australia Remain Resilient.
In 2020, the Spitfire logo represents that ethos. On one glance, it is flying upright, wings resolute and climbing. On another glance, it is inverted above you, looping downwards. In this way, it symbolises focusing on the past at the same time as the future. The clean lines of the text were selected to match RJ Mitchell's elliptical wing design, a design of beauty, but which allowed the maximum of firepower from the minimum space and the widest possible envelope of performance. It has yet to be matched by any other aircraft in its flexibility or mission capability.