Our story is a journey, a journey that starts, surprisingly, with the writing of a song and a children’s bedtime story book. One that would inspire the formation of Spitfire Heritage Trust, that would deliver a Spitfire Tribute to Africa and on route create one of the finest gins in the world. In the spirit of the Spitfire created to be the best.
In 2009 Ian Hewitt wrote a song entitled The Ghost of Cameron Crowe the song tells the story of a Grandfather, his grandson and his secret Spitfire hidden out on the moss. Live Audience's really connected with the story inspiring Ian to write the story down and published as a bedtime story book. Illustrated by Kayleigh Radcliffe the book has a heady quality best described as the dark side of Beatrix Potter.
The book was published in 2012 at the Spirit of the Spitfire festival where Ian met David Spencer Evans the them Chairman of the Spitfire Society.
It was here that David told Ian another story. The story of the African Kingdom of Lesotho.
Lesotho is one of the heroes of the Second World War. In 1940 Britain was on the brink of invasion. At this critical time the Kingdom of Lesotho (formerly known as Basutoland) presented Britain with twenty-four Spitfire fighter aircraft, sufficient to equip two entire RAF squadrons.
This was a disproportionately generous contribution from a Commonwealth country the size of Wales with a population of only 400,000 people.
No. 72 (Basutoland) Squadron is one of the relatively few Second World War squadrons that are still in existence. Told the then Chairman of the Spitfire Society.
Creating the Trust
Ian was one of those good punks in the 70s, he was into Rock Against Racism and the Anti Nazi League.
Anyone who knows Ian will tell you that if Ian likes anything it is a campaign.
Inspired by the story of the Lesotho Spitfires Ian and David committed to pay tribute to and offer thanks on behalf of the rank and file of the British people to the people of Lesotho for their support.
A rare example of international aid not being a one way street.
So the SPITFIRE HERITAGE TRUST was born….it’s mantra being that the Spitfire is much more than a vintage aircraft.
It is a Great British icon that symbolises the coming together of all the nations of the Commonwealth, as we stood together in defence of our common human values and freedoms.
The Trust would become robustly engaged in the strengthening of links and the development of programs that create opportunities, educate, celebrate and give thanks to our Commonwealth family of nations, and to our shared values that transcend culture, religion and gender.
The more we told the story of Lesotho’s Spitfires the more people wanted to say thank you to Lesotho.
In 2014 and with the help of the children of Castle Vale we presented a Spitfire prop to the Lesotho High Commissioner in London.
An Invitation From The Senate
In January 2016 we received the official letter of invitation from the Lesotho Senate to present King Letsie III in November that year our Tribute Spitfire as part of the Lesotho 50th anniversary of independence celebrations.
A final push was needed, but how to fund it!
Some serious out of the box thinking was required.
We needed a product, something worthy of the Spirit of the Spitfire and most importantly a product that we knew that the Great British public would buy.
Ian pointed out Gin as the Great British tipple, it was of the correct calibre and most at home in officer's messes around the world.
He also knew that the girls of the ATA were known to have carried a snifter of gin as part of their kit bag.
Ian enlisted the talents of multi award winning Master Distiller Dr John Walters and the plan to create an extraordinary gin was hatched.
The Gin was to include:
Rosemary for Remembrance, Borage for Courage , Blood Orange for the Fallen , English Rose Petals for the ladies of the ATA.
And with that John worked his alchemy to create a 1930’s retro gin of exceptional quality.
In the spirit of the Spitfire created to be the best.
SPITFIRE HERITAGE GIN
Is distilled in the heart of Blighty in hand beaten copper stills, housed in a stunning 300 year old barn next to a duck pond. It doesn’t get more British than that!
The distillery is one of only a handful of Single Estate Distilleries in England.
Gin is made from Vodka!
Single Estate means that we sow our own crop (sugar beet) harvest it and distil into our SUPERMARINE Vodka.
Most other small batch producers have to buy in vodka from larger suppliers who produce on an industrial scale.
You can’t make perfect vodka on an industrial scale!
Creating the Brand
Confident that we had created one of the finest gins in the world, we now needed to create a brand to do it justice.
The 1930’s were the triumphant hey-day for gin, and the decade that saw the Birth of a Great British and Commonwealth icon.
The defender of our freedom to live and love and drink GIN with whomsoever we choose.
It took a certain type of person to fly a Spitfire. Strong, intelligent, self-assured and a little bit reckless.
That’s why women made such great Spitfire pilots.
In the roaring 20s flapper girls were all the rage, but in the 30s and 40s young ladies learnt to fly.
Once again we went straight to the top enlisting the help of world renowned aviation illustrator ROMAIN HUGAULT to create our ATA girl character and brand mascot Bunny.
The world of Romain Hugault is a blend of aeronautical subtlety, eroticism and slices of history. In less than fifteen years, this aviation lover has forged a name for himself as one of the greatest comics illustrators. More than a mere draftsman, his style has undoubtedly breathed new life into the world of aeronautical comics.
He also a really really nice chap.
What of the LESOTHO TRIBUTE?
In November 2016 SPITFIRE HERITAGE TRUST presented
His Majesty King Letsie III with a full sized Spitfire Tribute.
Located in Makoanyane Square in the capital city of Maseru. The Spitfire Tribute is to be ultimately housed in the Lesotho National Museum of History.
As part of the 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations the Spitfire serves as a permanent reminder of the strong bond of friendship between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Lesotho.
In addition to the Spitfire Tribute we shipped 270 mountain bikes for the children of Lesotho.
Donated by Merseyside Police these mountain bikes serve as a means on which to get to school for the children as well as serving as a central focus for youth bike based community activities.
The bond of friendship was further underlined by the creation of a special anniversary Basotho blanket, the national dress of the people of Lesotho. The blanket bares the Lesotho Royal Crest and the emblem of Spitfire Heritage Trust.
Not many spirits brands can make claim to having their emblem on the national dress of a nation.
Princes Seeiso were his Spitfire Basotho Blanket
Spitfire Heritage Distillers continues to support the work of
The Spitfire Heritage Trust.
We shall continue to immerse ourselves in all kinds of
Spitfire related adventures.
Read about our Spitfire Repatriation Expedition to Norway in our Blog.
We believe that in keeping the spirit of the Spitfire alive and relevant, we are playing our part in passing on its legacy of freedom to subsequent generations.
A Freedom that we all must continue to defend.
We are proud of our Spitfire Heritage and grateful for our freedom to live and love and drink gin with whomsoever we choose.
Chin Chin Darlings!