There was a Supermarine surprise for passengers at London Bridge this morning as a full-scale replica Spitfire fighter aircraft appeared in the station concourse, above.
Network Rail has teamed up with the Imperial War Museum to create this installation to mark the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings in World War II.
The replica Supermarine Spitfire is usually on display at IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire and will be housed in London Bridge’s vast, airstrip-like concourse until 9 June.
Ian Hanson, stations director for Network Rail’s South East route, said: “The railway played a vital role during the Second World War, including transporting troops and equipment to the embarkation ports ready for the D Day operations. It’s fantastic to be able to help Imperial War Museum mark this important anniversary by hosting this Spitfire, and a great surprise which we’re sure will thrill our passengers too.”
London Bridge Station was chosen for the display thanks in part to its proximity to the permanent mooring point on the Thames of HMS Belfast, the WWII cruiser which was one of the first warships to fire on the Normandy beaches on D Day in support of Canadian and British troops on Juno Beach, opening fire at 5.27am on June 6, 1944.
The Southern Railway, as the operator of the railway through London Bridge was then known, made an immense contribution to the war effort, both before and after D-Day.
The railway was a vital part in Britain’s military supply chain, from the crucial evacuation of civilians away from London during the Blitz, to moving the masses of troops returning from Dunkirk back inland.
The Southern Railway also maintained a civilian passenger service, continuing to run trains during blackouts despite incurring heavy bomb damage. Some of the larger rail junctions in soouth London, such as Clapham Junction and Norwood Junction, were frequent targets for the Luftwaffe’s bombers in an effort to disrupt the war effort on Britain’s Home Front.
A dockyard at Southampton owned by The Southern Railway prior to the outbreak of WWII was also used extensively to ship large quantities of military freight and personnel over the course of the conflict and was especially busy around the time of D Day. From D-Day to VE Day, over two and a half million British and American service personnel passed through the dockyards at Southampton.
IWM is marking next week’s 75th anniversary of the D Day landings retelling the extraordinary land, air and sea story through its Second World War collection and its three historic sites: HMS Belfast, IWM Duxford and Churchill War Rooms.
As part of these events, IWM is distributing a free limited-edition newspaper, full of facts and stories about D Day, throughout the week at London Bridge and Waterloo stations. There will also be a small digital exhibition showing clips about D Day on screens at both stations.
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