UPDATE: Restored piece of cinematic history is unveiled at war museum

The historic, life-sized aircraft replica was officially unveiled at the war museum today (Wednesday).

The We’ll Meet Again WWII Museum near Boston is now home to a piece of cinematic history.

Today marked the grand unveiling of the full-sized Hurricane plane replica used during the filming of the 1969 film The Battle of Britain starring Lawrence Olivier and Michael Caine.

Paul Britchford, 56, who founded the museum in 2017 with wife Linda, purchased the damaged fibreglass, steel and wood replica back in August. With the help of supporters, Paul painstakingly spent months restoring it - despite suffering with terminal cancer.

The Hurricane was unveiled at the museum grounds this morning to a crowd which included museum volunteers, local dignitaries and The Lord-Lieutenant of Lincolnshire.

Linda told us: “Everybody who has been part of the restoration was there with us today, along with the Lord-Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, which was amazing. It was a really special day for us.”

Explaining how he managed to acquire the replica, Paul said: “We were told about the Hurricane by a close friend of the museum. We travelled down south to look at it, where it had been kept inside an open barn for about 16 years.

“We didn't know at this stage that it was the one they put on top of the Odeon Cinema in Lincoln for the film premiere. This fact made us more determined to secure it for the museum as many people would remember the sight of a full-size Hurricane on the cinema roof.

“I remember going to the cinema to see the film with my father all those years ago, it has always remained one of my favourite war films, I thought it would be fantastic to have such an icon at the museum.”

Paul said the Hurricane, originally built in Pinewood Studios in London, was in a poor condition when they retrieved it – with birds’ nests in the exhaust pipes and damage to the coverings.

"We soon realised it was going to be a huge job,” he said. “But it was a once-in-a-lifetime find, and an important piece of film history.”

Paul admits the restoration was a ‘huge challenge’ especially as they decided to stick to traditional Second World War methods for the work.

But with a real team effort, which even included children from their young museum group, they managed to pull off the impressive feat.

“We all worked on it together,” Paul explained. “The main restoration work has been carried out by three of us – myself, Darren Avison and Bradley Cooper. But we have also had outside support with enthusiasts helping us with things like the cock-pit rebuild and coverings. Witham Oils also supplied all the correct paint free of charge.”

From humble beginnings as a travelling Homefront museum visiting schools, the Britchfords established their award-winning static museum close to old coastal defences at Freiston Shore back in 2017. It boasts a vast collection of artefacts, weapons and clothing from both world wars, along with genuine items from the Homefront.

Unlike most museums, it is a place where people can get hands-on with the exhibits, which was important to the couple. The museum has been growing and developing in scale, exhibits and supporters every since.

This latest edition marks a huge personal investment for the museum by Paul – who was diagnosed with cancer last year.

“The hardest thing was taking on a project like this while on end-of-life cancer care,” said Paul. “I was determined to see it through, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the determination and support from Darren and Bradley who worked tirelessly to make it happen.”

He added: “My wife has told me I need to take it easier now and am not allowed to go shopping on my own anymore, especially with Darren as we come home with things like full-sized planes!”

The couple offered thanks to all who supported the project which was part-funded by a grant from the UK Government’s UK shared prosperity fund.

It is hoped that in future the Hurricane can be hired out to a small number of events around the county to help raise funds for the We’ll Meet Again Museum Charity.

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