What About That Spitfire Bahrain Donated to Britain Long Ago?
A model of the iconic Spitfire fighter aircraft was presented to His Majesty King Hamad yesterday by businessman Yousif Salahuddin.
His Majesty welcomed Mr Salahuddin at the Sakhir Palace where they discussed the historic aircraft’s special place in Bahraini history.
In 1943, the nation came together to donate a fleet of Spitfires to support the British war effort during the Second World War.
Ten fighting machines inscribed with ‘Bahrain’ in both English and Arabic were given to the Royal Air Force (RAF) by the Hakim (Ruler) of Bahrain at the time, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
These planes participated in several important WWII battles, and are said to have helped the British win crucial battles in the skies on several fronts.
To collect the funds, a tent was pitched in Al Bakhsheh Park, Bahrain’s first ever public park in Manama, and up to £50,000 was raised for the cause.
Mr Salahuddin also gave His Majesty a photo album documenting other efforts by the late Hakim to support Great Britain in its time of need, including a rare image of the fleet’s inauguration ceremony.
Bahrain is considered one of the first Arab countries to stand by the United Kingdom in the Second World War. The late ruler sent a telegram to King George declaring that Bahrain was sympathetic to the Allied cause.
In the telegram, Shaikh Hamad also pledged that Bahrain would do everything it could to support the British war effort.
The Spitfire was renowned for its superb speed and excellent manoeuvrability, which made it one of the top fighters in Britain’s Royal Air Force.
The first Bahrain-funded Spitfire was flown by Airman Francis Scott-Malden, a member of the 603 Squadron.
An additional six aircraft were purchased using funds raised in Bahrain. The planes bought by Bahrain were of the ‘Mark 5’ Supermarine Spitfires, built-in 1941.
Kuwait and Oman also contributed to the British war effort, who along with Bahrain, formed the Gulf Fighter Fund.
The Spitfire was part of the Gulf Fighter Fund where the GCC donated BD31,000 to finance the purchase of 11 Spitfires to aid the war effort. PM651 was one of the six fighters provided by Bahrain which is why it bore Bahrain’s name.
The RAF went on to produce several Arabic-language posters demonstrating the aircraft in action and showing German fighter planes crashing in flames.