The historic sound of Rolls Royce Merlin Engines could be heard over Shepway Today as vintage warplanes fly over the district to commemorate the fiercest fighting of the Battle of Britain.
In what has been hailed as the biggest memorial flight of its kind, 18 Spitfires and six Hurricanes will scramble from Biggin Hill Airport at 12.45pm, before splitting into three formations of eight aircraft.
The first – Grice flight – will head south over Westerham before overflying Surrey and West Sussex, en route to the Solent, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth.
The second – Mortimer flight – will go east over Downe, Chelsfield, Farningham, Eynsford, Detling and RAF Kenley.
The third – Hamlyn flight – will route south-east over Sevenoaks, Yalding, Ashford over the Marsh and follow the coast along to Dover.
The 24 fighters are scheduled to return before 2pm, with one flight maintaining a protective aerial patrol around the airport while the other planes touch down – a carbon copy of the tactics used on August 18, 1940.
Robin Brooks of Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, which is organising the spectacle in conjunction with the airport, said: “This is proving to be the largest tribute ever to all those service personnel who fought and died during those dramatic four months [of the Battle of Britain].”
Event organiser Colin Hitchins added: “I’d encourage as many people as possible to witness this unique flypast and to wave as the formations fly by.”
The planes, which have been arriving at Biggin Hill over the past few days, some are privately owned, while others belong to large fighter maintenance organisations like Duxford and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. On the ground, Second World War fighter pilots will also be heading to Biggin Hill to witness the historic flypast.
Among them are Flight Lieutenant Tony Pickering – who was with No 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill before moving on to No 501 (County of Gloucester) Auxiliary Squadron at Gravesend – and Wing Commander Tom Neil, who joined No 249 Squadron at Church Fenton before moving to North Weald.
Mr Brooks said: “It’s important that veterans from the Battle of Britain – which was fought from July to October 1940 – witness the very best we can offer.
“We can never repay the sacrifice of those who died. Likewise we can never repay the devotion to duty of those who are still living.”