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Battle of Britain: Journalist to deliver special lecture to mark 80th anniversary since first ever Spitfire flight

Battle of Britain 504x257 “This talk will explore the background of the men who flew in the Battle, the world they occupied as they have recounted it to me and the way they became national heroes.” Geoff Simpson

Date posted: 8 February 2016

A journalist who has spent more than three decades documenting the lives of Battle of Britain veterans is to give a talk at the University of Derby to mark the 80th anniversary of the first ever Spitfire flight (March 5,1936).

Geoff Simpson, Historical Consultant for the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, has met with hundreds of Royal Air Force Fighter Command aircrew who took part in the Battle between July 10 and October 31, 1940.

And next month, he will share their stories and memories during a public lecture at the University’s Kedleston Road site.

The talk, which takes place on Thursday, February 18, will focus on the experiences of the airmen, the subsequent calls for their public recognition and the challenges of compiling a list of those who fought in the Battle of Britain – a task which is still not complete.

Geoff said: “Growing up in South East London after the Second World War when there was still much bomb damage around is where my fascination for the Battle of Britain began.

“I can remember damage waiting to be repaired at my parents' house when I was very young. I have been interested in the subject since childhood but my serious research began in the 1980s.

“I have met and interviewed several hundred of the Allied aircrew who took part in the Battle of Britain. Sadly only about 20 veterans are still alive.

“This talk will explore the background of the men who flew in the Battle, the world they occupied as they have recounted it to me and the way they became national heroes.”

The Battle of Britain is the name given to the effort by the German Air Force to end the ability of the RAF to interfere in an invasion.

Over the years, Geoff has spent time researching and corresponding with aircrew for journals, books and articles.

He added: “They are ordinary people yet many of them performed great acts of heroism. In some cases they then went back after the war to doing routine jobs, as if they had not been through several years of adventure and danger.”

Geoff regularly writes for a range of publications including Britain at War magazine and is honorary editor of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust's 1940 magazine.

His most recent book, A History of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association: Commemorating The Few, was published in 2015.

His next book, A Dictionary of Coastal Command 1939-1945, is due for release in July 2016.

Jeremy Swan, External Relations Officer at the University of Derby who has helped organise the event, said: “As this year marks the 80th anniversary of the first ever Spitfire flight, we decided to mark the occasion with a public lecture focusing on the pilots who flew during the Battle of Britain – the time when the Spitfire legend was born.

“Derby has a unique relationship with the Spitfire as the birthplace of the Merlin Engine and as a hub of innovation. Engineers in Derby worked throughout the war to develop the Spitfire’s engines so that it could fly faster, higher and for longer. These innovations helped give the RAF an edge during the Battle of Britain.

“We’re pleased to welcome Geoff Simpson to the University of Derby and we look forward to hearing his insight into this fascinating period of history.”

The free talk, which comes as part of the University’s new Public Lecture Series, starts at 6.30pm on Thursday, February 18.

To book, visit: www.derby.ac.uk/spitfire

To find out more about Geoff's work, visit www.geoff-simpson.org.uk