Wolverhampton volunteers bid farewell to P82 Defiant

  • 30 April 2013
  • From the section England
Media captionA group of volunteers has rebuild one of the most famous fighters produced in the factory, the P82 Defiant.

The last aircraft designed at a Wolverhampton firm has left the city.

At its height Boulton Paul Aircraft employed about 5,000 people and produced aeroplanes from World War I right through to the jet era.

Almost 40 years after the company closed, a group of volunteers set out to rebuild one of its most famous fighters, the P82 Defiant.

Ten years after it was completed it has left the original factory, with plans to sell the building.

Project engineer Jack Holmes, 86, joined the company as a 14-year-old office boy in 1941, before being taken on as an apprentice and eventually spending 48 years there.

"It was just like a wonderland of aeroplanes, the whirling of machines. I got completely absorbed by it," he said.

In 1991, the Boulton Paul Association (BPA) was formed to pay tribute to the company and the thousands of Wolverhampton people who worked there.

The association even set up a small museum within the former factory.

Mr Holmes said: "We were quite concerned that we'd started this association and didn't have anything to show for it.

"We all went for a trip to [the museum at] RAF Hendon to see the last remaining Defiant.

"It was quite sad as we knew there was no chance of getting it for Wolverhampton, but on the coach home I made a cursory remark, 'why don't we build one?'"

'Emotional' farewell

More than 1,000 of the two-man fighters were originally produced from 1937, but just one had survived.

The aircraft, which featured a gun turret, rather than forward-facing armaments, saw action in the the evacuation of Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain.

Some 50,000 man-hours later an exact replica of a Defiant was unveiled at the BPA base in 2002.

About 15 volunteers worked on the project, many whom had previously worked at Boulton Paul Aircraft.

The replica aircraft has stayed at the BPA museum for the last decade, but plans to sell the factory meant the aircraft had to be moved.

Mr Holmes said it meant an "emotional" parting with the aeroplane.

"When you've given your life to a company and after a project like this, you've got to have mixed feelings about it. I don't like it going away," he said.

The BPA Defiant has now been moved to its new home at the RAF Museum in Cosford.

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