There is nothing so beautiful and moving, no single man-made creation of wood and steel that can tap into male emotion as quickly, as strongly as the Spitfire.
When the musician Alex James flew one recently, he said: "I can't recall being moved quite so viscerally by anything fashioned by human hands or minds."
Pilot Colin McGregor, brother of Ewan, said the same thing after his flight on a Spitfire. As soon as he landed, he broke down. "It was everything rolled into one," he said. "My impression of how the aeroplane would be, how I'd been brought up with that image of it, and the guys that flew it."
Loading article content
The guys that flew it. I met one of them once. Nigel Rose, the last surviving pilot of 602 Glasgow Squadron, and he told me what flying in one of those planes was like. He told me about seeing 100 German fighters in the sky, black crosses against the cloud, and knowing he must take them on. "We were told to pick our target and down you go," he said.
On his mantelpiece at home, Mr Rose still has a piece of a Spitfire; he also has pictures of them on his wall although there is nothing triumphalist about it. It's just a celebration of the men he knew, and the plane: those stout shoulders, the cocky little nose, the growl when it clears its throat.
Which is why it is such good news that around 20 Spitfires have been found in Burma, where they were buried to prevent them falling into the hands of the Japanese, and even better news that they will be coming back to the UK.
David Cameron was criticised recently for saying he will spend £50m on marking the First World War, but that is how it should be. We should celebrate what man can do in the name of war: what he can build – planes like the Spitfire – what he can face, what he can achieve.