And finally…Never was so much paid - Spitfire sells for record-breaking £3.1m

P9374. (Image courtesy of Christie’s).

An RAF Spitfire which is the last of its kind after being painstakingly restored over five years has been sold at auction for a record £3.1 million.

Auctioneer Christie’s said the total of £3,106,500 paid had broken the previous world record for a Spitfire sold at auction of £1.7 million set in 2009.

Spitfire P9374 was donated for sale by the American philanthropist Thomas Kaplan and his wife, with the multimillion-pound profits donated to charity.

Mr Kaplan said he and his wife were “overwhelmed and thrilled” with the sale price.

The airworthy Vickers Supermarine Mark 1 fighter, based at Imperial War Museum Duxford, is one of only two left in the world restored their original specification.

The record-breaking sale came on the same day that The Duke of Cambridge visited Duxford to see a second Spitfire, which was also restored under Mr Kaplan’s commission, donated to the museum’s collection.

Money raised from the sale of P9374, which was shot down over Calais in 1940 and discovered when its wreckage was exposed by the tide in the 1980s, will go to the RAF Benevolent Fund and Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

The aircraft was originally piloted by Old Etonian Flying Officer Peter Cazenove during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Despite saying on the radio, “Tell mother I’ll be home for tea,” he was shot down on 24 May 1940, and crashed on the Calais coast before being captured and sent to Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, where British airmen launched their famous ‘Great Escape’ in 1944.

Although ultimately unable to make good his escape, he survived the war and returned to the UK.

However, it was not until the parts were bought by Mr Kaplan and shipped to the UK that the task of restoring his aircraft began at the former home of RAF Duxford, in Cambridgeshire.

Mr Kaplan said: “When we all embarked upon this project, it was to pay homage to those who Churchill called “the Few”, the pilots who were all that stood between Hitler’s darkness and what was left of civilization.

“Today’s events are, more than anything else, concrete gestures of gratitude and remembrance for those who prevailed in one of the most pivotal battles in modern history. “

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