A unique piece of history will shortly be unveiled at the Battle of Britain Memorial in Kent following the presentation of the original nameplate and squadron badge from a classic steam locomotive. The Battle of Britain Locomotive Society presented the items from Battle of Britain class Pacific engine 34081 at a ceremony at the Nene Valley Railway, near Peterborough.
The nameplate and the badge of 92 Squadron – famously based at Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain in 1940 – will shortly go on display at the Battle of Britain Memorial in Capel-le-Ferne, home to the National Memorial to the Few. The long-term loan of the historic items was suggested by the preservation society as a way of ensuring the items could be displayed ‘in a truly appropriate setting’.
They were presented to Group Captain Patrick Tootal, Secretary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, and Wing Commander Andrew Simpson, one of the Trustees, by Ian Bowskill, Chairman of the Society, formerly known as the Battle of Britain Locomotive Preservation Society. The items will be displayed in The Wing, the Trust’s visitor centre.
“We will be proud to add the locomotive nameplate and badge from 92 Squadron to the other items of memorabilia at the Battle of Britain Memorial,” said Wing Cdr Simpson.
Locomotive 34081 entered service from the Brighton works in September 1948 but was withdrawn from Eastleigh shed in August 1964 and subsequently sold to Dai Woodham’s scrapyard at Barry Island in South Wales.
Purchased by the preservation society in autumn 1973, she arrived at Wansford on the Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough on 7 December 1976. Following restoration, she moved under her own power in 1998 – the first time since 1964 – and became a regular performer on various heritage railways until being withdrawn for overhaul at the North Norfolk Railway in May 2008.
The locomotive returned to service on the Nene Valley Railway in February following seven years of extensive restoration work. She was rededicated at a ceremony held at Wansford Station during which a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performed a flypast. After the re-dedication, replica nameplates were unveiled on the locomotive by Wing Commander Tim McAuley, Officer Commanding 92 Squadron, so that the original nameplate and badge could be handed over to the Trust.