History in the making as war plane returns to Leeds 74 years on

The oldest flying Royal Navy Swordfish Mk1 in the world, Swordfish W5856, returns to Sherburn-in-Elmet where it was built. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
The oldest flying Royal Navy Swordfish Mk1 in the world, Swordfish W5856, returns to Sherburn-in-Elmet where it was built. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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A Second World War plane made a flying visit back to Leeds as the city marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The Swordfish bi-plane torpedo bomber was built at Sherburn-in-Elmet more than 70 years ago – and returned to the site yesterday.

Built in 1941 by Blackburn Aircraft, the plane went on to become one of the most successful aircraft in the history of naval air warfare.

Sarah Douglas, whose family ran the Blackburn Aircraft factory, said: “People in Yorkshire have a great affection for the Swordfish.

“The factory was run by my grandfather, Norman Blackburn, and local companies took great pride in making Swordfish components.

“The whole family was at the factory when the last Swordfish departed [...] and I shall never forget it.

“Blackburn aircraft became known as ‘Blackfish’ and it will be wonderful to see a Blackfish Mk1 come home.”

The Swordfish W5856 played a crucial role protecting convoys from U-boat attack in the Battle of the Atlantic, sunk the Italian fleet at Taranto and crippled the Bismarck in the Northern Atlantic in 1941.

It has undergone an extensive restoration over the past 10 years and has been repainted, given new wings and had an overhaul of the engine, which has new specially-made pistons and cylinders.

The Yorkshire Air Museum is also marking the anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a new exhibition at Victoria Gardens in Leeds city centre today.

It runs from 9am to 5pm today and includes performances and an historic 1937 MGTA roadster – the favourite transport of the young fighter pilots – which will also be on display for the public.

Ian Reed, museum director, said: ”The exhibition will reflect this amazing contribution to the outcome of the Battle of Britain and present some of the key moments and facts about this historic aerial battle, which could be seen really as the battle for Britain.”

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