Harry joins Spitfire veterans

Hillingdon Times: Prince Harry sits in a Spitfire during a visit to the Boultbee Flight Academy in Goodwood, West Sussex. Prince Harry sits in a Spitfire during a visit to the Boultbee Flight Academy in Goodwood, West Sussex.

Battle of Britain veterans were transported back to their days as pilots when Prince Harry climbed into the cockpit of a Spitfire and started the engine during the launch of a flight scholarship for injured ex-servicemen.

The war veterans attended the Boultbee Flight Academy in Goodwood, West Sussex, today, to give their support to the Spitfire Flight Scholarship.

The scheme for wounded ex-servicemen and women is part of the Endeavour Fund, which was created by the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry in 2011, ensuring that more wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women have the opportunity to rediscover themselves through physical challenges.

This summer, a team of six candidates will be chosen to begin flight training to mirror that of Second World War pilot veterans.

The programme will see one of the candidates progress from a Tiger Moth to a Harvard and finally the Spitfire, a Kensington Palace spokeswoman said.

It will culminate with one pilot taking a solo flight in a Spitfire, to help mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in September 2015.

This scholarship draws inspiration from pilot Douglas Bader, who despite losing both his legs in a crash in 1931, claimed 20 individual aerial victories in the Second World War.

Former Spitfire pilot Joy Lofthouse, 91, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, presented the prince with a spitfire mug and said she learnt to fly planes after replying to an advert in a magazine.

Before that she had never been in the air, she said.

She went on: "The culmination of that was being able to fly a Spitfire which was the fastest thing I had ever experienced.

"By the time you had fastened your belt and got the hood down you wouldn't be able to see the airfield."

Describing the prince as laid back and very normal she said the noise the Spitfire made as the prince started it up took her back.

She said: "There's nothing quite like it.

"Last July was the first time in 68 years I had flown a Spitfire. I hadn't been up in one since 1945. It was marvellous."

Harry also met veteran pilots Peter Hale, 91, from Portsmouth, Hampshire, Joe Roddis, 93, from Selsey, West Sussex, Jimmy Taylor, and 94-year-old Eric Carter, from Birmingham.

Mr Carter, who served in 81 Squadron, flew Hurricanes and Spitfires during the war.

He said: "I actually flew the Spitfire that Harry was in last year when I was 93. I had not flown one for 70 years plus and it was like getting back on an old bike."

He added: "Harry was lucky to start that Spitfire first time."

The prince was also presented with a mini jumpsuit for his nephew Prince George by John Laity, expedition co-founder for Flight For Freedom, which is supporting the scholarship at Boultbee in partnership with Aerobility, a registered charity offering disabled people the opportunity to fly an aeroplane, and The Endeavour Fund, for which Prince Harry is patron.

Mr Laity said the prince asked him whether the jumpsuit was the real thing or a onesie.

He said: "I told him giving the prince the jumpsuit would make him the best uncle in the world."

Mr Laity continued: "Post-recovery flying activities demonstrate what is possible for often severely disabled people to achieve.

"This can inspire those still in rehabilitation and enable recovery for our wounded, injured and sick.

"It is really important that we do not just train pilots but also provide opportunities that allow them to develop and go on to support others in need.

"This is what this project will do, by allowing our pilots to show that in the air they are free of disability and capable of flying a national treasure."

Before visiting Boultbee, Harry spent the morning racing classic cars alongside injured servicemen.

He smiled as he sped around Goodwood Motor Circuit in a 1964 two-series blue Aston Martin DB4, a black Lamborghini, a silver Aston Martin and a red Jaguar, a prototype F-type Coupe R.

Harry also spoke to soldiers supported by The Endeavour Fund which has so far supported more than 300 men and women through projects including the Walking with the Wounded trek to the South Pole, Race2Recovery, Walk On Wales, Flying For Freedom and a Fastnet Race team.

Captain Mark Jenkins was part of a team of four who took part in Row2Recovery, sailing from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The 34-year-old, who is part of the Royal Army Medical Corp, was joined by amputees, soldiers Cayle Royce and Scott Blaney, and fellow serviceman James Kayll.

He said the project would not have been possible without a £30,000 grant from The Endeavour Fund.

Capt Jenkins said they received the funds after going through a "Dragons Den-style" presentation.

He said: "It's the best thing you have ever done, the hardest thing you have ever done, the worst thing you have ever done, all in one experience. It's hard to mentally and physically motivate yourself to keep going."

Mr Jenkins said the scariest moments were when their boat capsized and getting a bit too close to a few ocean liners for comfort.

He said the team were hoping to raise £100,000.

David Wiseman, who was a captain in the Yorkshire Regiment, joined The Endeavour Fund last year after taking part in challenges for Walk with the Wounded.

The 31-year-old, who was shot in the chest in Afghanistan, climbed Manaslu, in Nepal, the eighth highest mountain in the world, in 2011, and attempted Everest in 2012.

He said he joined the Fund because he knew the power challenges like this could harness in people who have been injured.

RAF Corporal Alan Robinson, 35, who is involved with Flying For Freedom, spoke to the prince about how the Fund has helped to train servicemen to become microlight pilots.

His aim is get a team together to fly a microlight to the Antarctic, he said.

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