THE crowd-pulling visit of a replica World War Two Spitfire to Kendal has sparked a groundswell of support for an RAF Association branch in the town.

The hand-built aircraft attracted hundreds of visitors during August's RAF centenary weekend, including 95-year-old former Spitfire pilot Vinnie Smith, who made an emotional return to the cockpit.

The fighter plane was brought to Kendal by the town's Business Improvement District (BID). Vice-chair Brian Harrison said the Spitfire had been "the catalyst to kickstart" a local branch of the RAF charity, which supports servicemen and women past and present, and their families.

"A question many people visiting the airplane asked was, why is there no RAFA branch in Kendal?" he told the Gazette.

Mr Harrison, who served in the RAF, said he had been asked by RAFA to investigate if there was enough public support to re-establish a branch for Kendal and South Lakeland.

" It can now be confirmed that enough support has been received to petition for a branch," he said, "and it has been presented to the RAF Association offices in Preston requesting a Kendal and South Lakeland branch be formed."

He added: "The support for the new branch has been really satisfying and it has come in from across members of the RAF family and from different areas of South Lakeland."

Mr Harrison said almost anyone could join the association, but the majority of interest came from people with links to the RAF, such as servicemen and women, veterans and their families; and Air Cadets and staff past and present.

If given the go-ahead, the RAFA branch would support the nationwide fundraising Wings Appeal, and would also offer social and welfare support to meet local need. Mr Harrison said 1127 (Kendal) Squadron RAF Air Cadets was already keen work with the branch, and was offering its Queen Katherine Street base for committee meetings and activities.

To find out more or to become a founder member, email Mr Harrison on or call 07739-467574.Applications and Freepost envelopes can also be picked up from Relish Café & Deli in Kendal Market Place; the New Union Pub at Stricklandgate; and the Fantastic Kendal tourist information centre on Finkle Street.