Gerard O’Donovan previews The Spitfire: Britain’s Flying Past (BBC Two), in which John Sergeant celebrates the 75th anniversary of Britain’s best-known fighter plane.
“It’s the most wonderful, the most beautiful, the greatest aircraft in the world… it is, of course, the Spitfire.” John Sergeant (“I was once called ‘Flight Sergeant Sergeant’ if you want to know”) gets this 75th anniversary tribute to Britain’s best-known fighter plane off to an enthusiastic start, and keeps the levels high throughout a documentary that reaches beyond the mere machine and celebrates the people who built it, flew it and fought in it.
Tracing the history of one of the few examples still flying, the MH434, Sergeant embarks on a flight path that takes him first to the Castle Bromwich plant (now a Jaguar factory) where it was brought into being. From there it’s on to the Hornchurch airbase from where the MH434 flew more than 90 sorties, and a vivid contemporary account penned by the pilot who flew it more times than any other: “Pat” Lardner-Burke, whose diaries and flight logs have only recently been discovered by his family. Sergeant is a most convivial guide and director Eoin O’Shea gets the best from the the aerial footage and the interviews. A real treat for fans; as Sergeant says: “It was going to be called the Shrew. I’m so glad it wasn’t.”
By Gerard O’Donovan
Published: 7:00AM BST 22 Sep 2011
Read the review on telegraph.co.uk