10,000 Spitfires Head for Germany

When I saw the headline “Fears for the worst as 10,000 Spitfires head for Germany” at the London Telegraph (via Memeorandum) I was rather puzzled. Was this some strange precursor to a war with Iran? Didn’t the Spitfire go out of service half a century ago? And does the RAF have 10,000 fighter planes in the fleet? Or perhaps there was just a classic car show and the headline writer was being clever? It turns out, none of the above.

The last time they flew across the Channel, they were 32 feet long, with Rolls-Royce engines and wings bristling with 20mm cannons. Now they measure all of 18 inches, have no engine and not so much as a peashooter – but their “pilots” still risk being thrown into German captivity. The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that a “big wing” of more than 10,000 inflatable Spitfires will this week cross into Germany and, when the World Cup starts on Friday, they could face the kind of frosty reception encountered by their wartime counterparts.

10,000 Spitfires Head for Germany World Cup Photo England football fans have been warned of arrest by the British Home Secretary, threatened with “zero tolerance” by a German police chief, and told not to mention the war by the creator of Basil Fawlty himself. Some have responded by packing inflatable Spitfires by the thousand into their camper vans to sell throughout Germany and finance their World Cup trips.

Alf Ancell, 31, who designed the Spitfires, admitted he had found plenty of fans willing to sell the planes in Germany. “I got 10,000 Spitfires in a couple of months ago and I am now down to my last 2,000 and expecting to sell the remainder. “It’s not a link to the War,” he insisted. “It’s just an English symbol of victory. They look like flags when you hold them aloft. I don’t see how that can be inflammatory.”

Planning to sell them on campsites, in beer tents, and on beaches, Fred Arnold, Andy Mitchel and Terry Dorell last week vowed never to surrender their blow-up Spitfires until the buyer paid £5. The three have packed their VW camper van with more than 1,000 Spitfires, bought for £3.75 each on a sale-or-return basis, and will this week be selling them to fellow fans all over Germany. “They’re original and brilliant,” enthused Mr Dorell about the miniature fighters decorated with St George’s Crosses and camouflage patterns. “They may not like it in Germany,” he added. “but who gives a sausage?”

Tim Worstall deems this “Absolutely marvelous.”

While it does indeed seem like harmless fun, the combination of xenophobia, alcohol, and soccer may not be a great idea. Neither, however, does sending out the Polizei to harrass soccer fans with balloons.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Cernig says:

    I think you nailed it with “the combination of xenophobia, alcohol, and soccer”. The logic, if it can be called that, seems to be that Germany has won more World Cups but England has won more World Wars. It’s a nasty kind of little-england hooliganism which would conjoin the two and which is hardly condusive to international sporting friendship.

    Regards, Cernig @ Newshog

  2. John Burgess says:

    There’s a British expression that seems to fit:

    “Too clever by half.”

    Yes, it’s a cute idea. But it’s brainlessly stupid, too. Maybe in another generation–after all those who survived the various blitzes and massive bombings raids are gone–everyone might find it amusing. Until then, though, it’s pretty callous. That “Fawlty Towers” episode (“Don’t mention the war.”) seems not to have been very popular among Germans, either…

  3. Tim Worstall says:

    There�s a line in the newspaper piece that James hasn�t used from an Asst Chief Constable: “Germans do have a sense of humour”.

  4. DC Loser says:

    I’m just waiting for some German football fans trying to sell inflatable Messerschmitts in Old Blighty.

  5. John Burgess says:

    DC Loser: I think the HEINKEL HE-111 would be more apposite.

  6. DC Loser says:

    John, somehow the name Heinkel or Dornier aren’t as catchy as Messerschmitt. How about a V-1 model?

  7. Well at least its better than re-enacting the battle of Trafalgar with the red and blue teams so no one’s national pride gets hurt.

    Just as an aside, can anyone name the last war France won without being allied to either the US or the UK?

  8. DC Loser says:

    Just as an aside, can anyone name the last war The US won without being allied to France? 🙂

  9. DC Loser,
    I suppose it depends on the definition of a war, but certainly Grenada and Panama were without France. WWII had France as “junior” partner, but I guess we can’t count that.

    I suppose the last major war without the French (excluding the current Iraqi situation) would be the Spanish American war.

    So now, how about providing the answer about the last war the French won with out being allied to the US or UK.

  10. DC Loser says:

    YAJ, I can’t go back that far 🙂 But at least they did win the World Cup in ’98.

  11. DC loser,

    I honestly can’t say I have found any war the France has won that they weren’t allied to the US or UK.

    I did find the great stormin normin quote.
    “Going to war without the French is like going deer hunting without your accordion”.