The Black Horse Spitfire
‘A spontaneous desire has been expressed by members of the staff to purchase a Spitfire for presentation to the Royal Air Force’ declared Sydney Parkes, Chief General Manager of Lloyds Bank, in July 1940.
Anxious to help the war effort, staff and directors clubbed together to raise £7,000. They reached their target with ease. Parkes telegraphed Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, on 6 August, informing him that ‘The Directors and staff of Lloyds Bank will give a Spitfire to our gallant Royal Air Force and would like it to be named "The Black Horse" after our sign in Lombard Street'. It had taken just six days to raise the money.
The plane was delivered to RAF Kinloss, in the north of Scotland, on 15 March 1941. It took part in patrols protecting naval convoys in May. In July it began sweeps and escorted bombers to and from their targets. It was during this time that it shot down a Messerschmitt over Gravelines in northern France.
'The Black Horse' suffered a number of crashes during its lifetime (belly landing when its undercarriage failed to deploy, engine failure, and crash-landing in strong cross-winds). It met its end, however, on 12 July 1942, when it collided mid-air with another Spitfire. The pilot, Sergeant W. J. Johnston, bailed out safely, but the plane was lost in the West Country… until 10th July 2015.
As part of Lloyds' anniversary commemorations, TV historian Dan Snow led a very special excavation to uncover 'The Black Horse' spitfire. Widely reported in the media, the dig yielded some significant discoveries including the plane's propeller, parts of the exhaust and then, finally, the intact engine.