The Spitfire Penny

23rd May 2018 — 17 Comments

Spitfire. Wikipedia CC Licence

The Spitfire was probably the most famous fighter aircraft of all time, reigning supreme and unsurpassed from the biplane era to the dawn of the jet age, a period that included the Second World War. 

Better Ways Treat Your Muse

I’ve had a bad spell, was running out of words and inspiration, and thought my muse had deserted me. When once she used to seductively tease, keeping me awake, filling my mind with different ideas and scenarios, she was no longer there when most needed. I guessed she had found a younger man. Or that’s what I thought!

On reflection, I should have seen it coming. Instead enjoying a productive and satisfying relationship with her, I would rather check my emails; contribute to an online detecting forum, compose a blog post, or do some ‘research’. These were typical displacement activities rather than committing spending more time in the right direction. I’ve now seen the light.

As a result I have decided to create a safe, comfortable routine, so when my absent muse does show up she’ll feel welcome. I’ll avoid distractions like Twitter and Facebook. If she says something, then I’ll write it down, even if I’m in the bath. And it seems to be working! I won’t over-discipline her ever again.

I suspect some of my readers are nodding sagely, muttering that I’ve eventually lost the plot. You may think that I’m a good candidate for the Funny Farm, simply because I’ve written over 200 words without really mentioning the hobby, but I ask you to stick with me.

Don’t Panic

The muse can take you in strange places. I was wrapped up in my own little world, ensconced in the Odeon cinema’s wonderfully comfortable premier seats, salivating over Catherine Zeta Jones and impressed with the acting skills of Toby Jones, when she paid her visit. Yes, I was watching the cinematic remake of the classic television series, Dad’s Army … and enjoying every moment. Whatever you do, don’t make a beeline for the exit when the credits go up. They show out-takes, which are rather funny. Sitting tight until everyone has left is one of the advantages of being a decrepit detectorist … can’t think of many more!

Whenever a remake is announced, eyebrows are raised, and often for good reason. There have been a lot of cinematic travesties, but given the pedigree of the cast and crew of this film, I was prepared to give it a chance, and I’m pleased I did. You will know Toby Jones as Lance in the Detectorists television series, starring Mackenzie Crook.

I vaguely remembered an episode of Dad’s Army where the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea, the fictional seaside resort where the series was set, were collecting money for the purchase of a new spitfire plane. Light-bulb moment! I had my idea for my article!

Courtesy ticketybooupney

Raising Funds – Buying a Spitfire

The story of how the British public dug into their own pockets and had a whip-round in order to pay for the plane isn’t well known. In early 1940 Lord Beaverbrook – the Anglo-Canadian media tycoon Max Aitken – came into government to speed up aircraft production. He pushed the idea of public appeals in a bid to help with the war effort. The public responded with gusto, imagination and dedication, which led to countless fund-raising ideas. To encourage the idea every penny counted, a components price list was published, included a wing for £2,000, a gun at £200, down to a spark plug at 8 shillings, or a rivet at sixpence.

There was a type of sweetheart brooch ( often referred to as trench art ) made by RAF personnel during WWII and usually fashioned from pennies. The practice was continued long after the war. Once completed, they were sent home to loved ones to be worn with pride. A safety pin was usually soldered to the undercarriage.

Sweetheart Brooch – seen on eBay

I was interested in knowing if detectorists had ever found any of these brooches; you never know, so I asked on social media. One of the replies came from detectorist Paul Clay who sent me a picture of one he had found, but it wasn’t unearthed when metal detecting. His wife’s father was a Royal Navy deep-sea diver in the 1950’s, and in his off-duty time, fashioned the Spitfire. Paul said, ‘He was very good with his hands and very artistic.’

Paul Clay’s Example

Simple to Make

In my enquiries I was fortunate to come across an old gentleman, the father of David Hymes, who had made a Spitfire out of a pre-decimal penny, during or shortly after the Battle of Britain. He also said that men serving in the armed forces, made large numbers, corroborating what I have stated above.

A letter from David in the January 2016 Best of British magazine, had some other interesting information. He said, “As these (lapel badges) were in celebration of the RAF’s victory of the Luftwaffe, it is generally thought that officialdom turned a blind eye to the destruction of coinage in favour of the significant propaganda value of these pieces during such exceptional times.

My Dad explained that the construction of the model from an old penny was really quite simple and easy to do. Only four basic tools – a hammer, mini-vice, small saw and file – were required to make the model. Along with plenty of elbow greased and patience, of course.”

United Kingdom Detector Finds Database

There is an example of a detectorist find on the UKDFD ( 34136 ), described as, ‘A hanger made copper alloy toy aeroplane possibly representing a Spitfire. The tail is split.’ From the image and the rest of the details it looks as though it could have been made from a coin. What do you think?



Earlier, I said that I had asked on social media if anybody had found a Spitfire coin. Unknown to me, trench-art fanatic Brian Ridley of the Northern Relic Hunters forum, decided to have a go at making one. I haven’t seen it until now. Thank you for sharing Brian, and thank you. I wouldn’t have seen the mistake until you pointed it out! 🙂

© Brian Ridley

After seeing John Winter’s post asking if anybody had found a ‘trench art type spitfire’ made from a penny I thought I would have a go at making one. It’s taken me some time so here is my very crude but first attemptmade from a worn smooth old penny cut in half.

One half is the wings the other bit is the body, it took me ages to try and solder the two bits together. I think I got it right, but I’ll leave it up to you lads to see my mistake, yes more solder could have been taken off the joint but after 10 attempts to get it in some sort of position it did my head in. Say what you think, good points bad points. I wont take offence. This one’s for you John!  Brian


My post prompted Jakeg50 of the British Metal Detecting forum to dig one out he’d found a couple of years ago. He’s kindly taken a photograph and allowed me to use it on the blog. He tells me that it is one of his favourite finds. Notice that it’s just as it came out of the ground … and still remains uncleaned. 🙂

© Jakego50


Acknowledgements – UKDFD : Wikipedia : Paul Clay : Best of British : David Hymes : The ticketybooupney blog spot : The Searcher magazine : Brian Ridley


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17 responses to The Spitfire Penny

  1. Marvellous! Tempted to write NEEEEOOOWWW DAKKADAKKADAKKADAKKA!! which I heard a fully-grown man (not me) yell at an airshow when the Spitfire turned up, but I’d better not… Inspired idea John, combining the Spitfire with metal detecting: I’m hoping you bag a brace of BOAS (Bit Off A Spitfire) ditties now! The trench artefacts are wonderful. The one in the pictures looks like a Spitfire, almost by default, as the Hurricane is not lovely aesthetically. Clever and simple: fold the penny, saw out the rough shape, file it to the proper shape then fold out the wings and tailplane; the whole thing holding together at the canopy. Lovely! I’ve no Spitfire detecting ditties, but I did once help trawl for an alleged Hurricane at the bottom of Loch Leven… bogus journey… Cheers and thanks John!

  2. Yes, that turned out well, Dave.
    I always enjoy your comments …

  3. The first “spit” I ever saw, was stuck up in the branches of an oak tree, just outside
    Dovercourt, my birth town, in Essex. It was within a field next to the local hospital,
    sadly the pilot never made it. From time to time as I allow distant memories to
    wash through my thoughts that plane pops up to bring back my young days.
    Thank you John.

  4. When I was a lad, I saw my first Spitfire at an airshow in Comox, B.C… There was also a Lanc there.. I fell in love with the Spit at that instant.

    The battles that those men had, and the losses,…. what a hugely brave bunch..

    I also noticed that the poppy shop also has some Spitfire jewellery on sale..A very apropos item to sell as well.. And those items fall into the general category as the ‘trench art’


  5. Very Interesting John, enjoyed it

  6. Hi John:
    A great read close and one to my heart. 303 Squadron had many Polish pilots some of whom notched up many kills during the Battle of Britain. I make no apology for what follows.

    To this country’s eternal shame we disallowed Polish ex-combatants to parade alongside British and Commonwealth ex-servicemen on Armistice Day during the Cold War for fear of insulting the Soviet Russians.

    Edited by JW

  7. I found one of those ‘ trench art’ spitfires on Marske beach John, which as you probably know is just south of Redcar.
    It’s in great condition & a great talking point when I show it to others.

  8. brian (OSD on NRH) 23rd May 2018 at 8:22 PM

    interesting john trenchart is one of my pastimes, but im no expert never will be

  9. Another good blog John and you even managed to get to the point before I needed another shave, well done you!

    I think that when you mention the word Spitfire to people of our generation, we get a warm feeling and a huge sense of pride just by the very mention of it.

    To be able to make them from an old pre-decimal penny is, just like the Spitfire, an art in itself. Very well done to My old friend Brian for actually making one. Brian is very,very good at Trenchart and I was given a piece of his work which is a British Tommy made from a half crown. It’s my lucky Talisman and is on my key ring which goes everywhere with me.

    Thanks again John.

  10. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 25th May 2018 at 5:10 AM

    Fantastic idea for an entry John.

    As for Brian Ridley, instead of saying it was a mistake he should suggest that he was making a Hurricane rather than a Spitfire. They looked similar enough, that people could believe it. LOL….

    As for trench art……’s simply amazing what these people can do, with what items they had to while the time away.

  11. Great reading john..and very happy to see a update from a bmd member

  12. Hello John.

    Very interesting thread. I have ‘landed’ on it by chance. I collect these little planes and am writing a book about them at the moment.

    The shiny one on the coin (image from eBay) is made by David Davies. He is currently making them…every now and then. His ones are particularly detailed. So much so that you can tell if it is a Spitfire or Hurricane etc.

    I have a few metal detector finds in my collection. It is nice when they come from an old airfield.



  13. I have a spitfire brooch my grandfather made while stationed in France during WWll. I wore it pinned inside of my wedding dress near to my heart. My grandfather had been more of a Daddy to me. He was deceased by the time I married and my biological father walked me down the aisle. But, my grandpa was near to my heart via that sweetheart spitfire brooch. All of his grand-daughters and great-Grand daughter’s will get to wear it as their something old on their wedding days. We are descended from an honorable man who was a beautiful example of a husband and father.

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