TOWERING into the skyline, it will undoubtedly be the grandest tribute to the Spitfire anywhere in the world.

The stunning memorial will rise up in Southampton, the birthplace of the legendary fighter plane.

It’s home will be a premier waterfront site, just two miles from where the Spitfire was designed by RJ Mitchell at the Supermarine Aviation Works.

The Spitfire will welcome millions of international cruise passengers each year and the distinctive shape that made the Spitfire instantly recognisable will be visible across the powerhouse south coast city.

The Spitfire Tribute Foundation - a dedicated team of politicians, business leaders, ex-military representatives and the Daily Echo – have championed the campaign since its earliest days in 2007.

Last year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown brought the tribute to the nation’s attention when he threw his support behind foundation’s efforts.

"People of Southampton and elsewhere who contributed to the war effort deserve our greatest praise and congratulation," Mr Brown said.

"It's the bravery of these people that will be remembered with this memorial to the Spitfire. Everybody that is contributing to this memorial is contributing to something that is great about Britain."

Southampton Itchen MP John Denham has declared the Spitfire tribute as a project of national significance.

Labour’s Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills said the memorial would be the defining landmark for the south.

Councillor John Hannides, the foundation chairman, has committed £70,000 from Southampton City Council towards detailed feasibility into the ambitious project.

A full feasibility is being carried out, including the testing of a scale model in a wind tunnel and detailed research into the construction.

The foundation are now preparing to embark on their greatest challenge yet – raising the estimated £1.5m to £2 million needed to make their vision become a reality.

The legend of the Spitfire, by Squadron Leader Alan Jones, Solent Sky Museum curator

AT 3.45pm on March 5, 1936, the peace of the normally tranquil Eastleigh airport was shattered by the noise of a Merlin engine as the prototype Spitfire K5054 took off on its maiden flight.

After 15 minutes the aircraft touched down again and Mutt Summers, Supermarine’s chief test pilot, turned to Reginald Mitchell, the aircraft’s designer, and said: "Don’t touch anything, it’s almost perfect."

Little did these two colleagues realise that within 10 years Britain would have fought and won war that nearly brought an end to the free world.

They also could have had no idea that by the end of the Second World War 22,000 of these remarkable aircraft would be built and what part it would in securing peace.

Mitchell designed and built the first Spitfire at the Supermarine factory in Woolston and by 1940 the aircraft was in full production.

In September that year, two daylight raids by German bombers destroyed the factory killing more than 100 workers.

Undaunted, the surviving employees, led by the Supermarine management, dispersed the production through out Southampton.

In the most appalling conditions at the height of the Blitz, in requisitioned laundry’s bus stations and garages, the Spitfire was put back into production.

By 1945, more than 8,000 of the total aircraft built were from Southampton. This enormous effort was not down to politicians, multi-national companies or corporations.

It was due to the ordinary people of Southampton, or should that be the extraordinary people of Southampton.