Salisbury (Sarum) Probus Club

Sarum Probus Club is an organisation for retired men living in the Salisbury Area.


  • Griffons, Merlin’s, Spitfires

    On 11th May the Club was able to welcome back Kevin Patience for a talk on how he found, dug up and identified a spitfire in Malta.

    Kevin grew up in Kenya and joined as a Boy Entry the RAF in 1961. In addition to flying training and navigation school he was trained as a diver and diving instructor. Diving became very much his passion in addition to his enthusiasm for Spitfires.

    In 1967 he was posted to Malta. In addition to his RAF engineering duties he engaged in seabed searches for sunk spitfires.As Kevin explored the underwater world off Gozo, he came across the remains of a World War II-era aircraft. The unmistakable shape and distinct features left no doubt in his mind: after extensive search he had found the Spitfire. Kevin and his team had known their must be a spitfire wreck in the bay. However, drifting sand and prolific seaweed turned it into a very difficult find.

    Kevin carefully examined the wreckage, noting the aircraft's (partial) serial number and taking photographs from various angles. He wanted to document his find and share it with the world.

    Over the following days, Kevin and his team meticulously researched the aircraft's history. They learned that this particular Spitfire had crashed during a mission in 1942, when it was shot down by enemy fire. The pilot had managed to eject safely, but the plane had sunk into the depths.

    Driven by his passion, Kevin collaborated with local authorities and historical organizations to protect and preserve the site. Together, they eventually arranged a comprehensive survey and recovery mission to document and salvage at least parts of the Spitfire.

    As word spread about Kevin's discovery, it caught the attention of historians, aviation enthusiasts, and the media. He also engaged with the locals who recalled that they had cut up and salvaged the pilot’s parachute in July 1942 while they filled the pilot with wine.

    From this information and the partial serial number Kevin and his helpers were able to identify this plane and his pilot, Saunders. The pilot eventually became a test pilot at Castle Bromich and sadly died in a flying accident there.

    The recovered spitfire is now on display in the Malta War Museum.

  • The Falkland War

    On August 25th Colonel James Porter gave the club a well-illustrated overview of the Falklands War including fascinating details.

    The speaker was stationed at Port Stanley one year after the conflict and was thus able to combine a strategic overview of the campaign with local detail.

    The 10-week conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands began on April 2, 1982. Argentine forces, eventually 12000 strong, invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands, followed by the invasion of South Georgia the next day. The British government responded by dispatching a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. In support eventually 52 merchant navy ships were requisitioned and speedily modified.

    On 12 April, 1982 the UK declared an exclusion zone around the Falklands. On 2 May the task force deployed. It included five nuclear submarines and the two aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. The Argentine cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by the submarine HMS Conqueror on May 2, 1982, with the loss of 323 Argentine lives. This ended the threat posed by the Argentine surface fleet. However, enemy aircraft and especially Exocet missiles continued to be a lethal threat.

    The loss of HMS Sheffield pointed to errors and highlighted the dangerous lack of point-to-point air defence. Also, multiple targets confused the missile systems and made them ineffective. On 18 May the amphibious force assembled and an SAS commando landed and destroyed 12 Bukhara aircraft.

    This was followed by the main amphibious landings on May 21, 1982 at San Carlos Water on East Falkland in "Operation Sutton." The landing comprised Army, Royal Marines, and Parachute units with support from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Col. Porter emphasised what a feat it was. The troops had to march with all their heavy supplies 25 miles over rough terrain; practically all their helicopters had been lost during a major accident on Ascension Islands.

    One of the decisive battles was fought by the 2 Bn Paras, led by Col. H. Jones, at Goose Green, despite being heavily outnumbered by 1000 dug in Argentines.

    Eventually, the surrender was signed on 14 June 9.30 pm During the ensuing discussion Col Porter pointed out that, surprisingly, the overwhelming proportion of Argentine troops were poorly trained and unmotivated conscripts. This led to the question whether the Argentine military Junta was feeling fairly sure that there would not be a decisive response from Britain.

  • Here are details of some earlier talks given to the Club.