This annually awarded Fellowship was established by former wartime Spitfire pilots, their ground crews and the Spitfire Association, with additional support from private and corporate partners. It is intended to serve as an enduring and dynamic memorial to the significant contribution of the Spitfire aircraft and its squadrons during World War II.

The Fellowship provides encouragement for the development of advanced knowledge and expertise which will aid in the defence of Australia. It offers recipients financial support valued at up to $60,000 per annum as well as significant public recognition. The Fellowship is awarded to senior students and academics who plan to study or undertake research at either UNSW Kensington or Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Applicants from other appropriate institutions within or outside Australia are also eligible. This Fellowship is open to Australian citizens who are suitably qualified graduates or who have significant appropriate work experience.

Since its inception in 1998, more than 20 Fellowships have been awarded. Several of these recipients have been former Australian Defence Force personnel and almost all of them are distinguished engineers who have been recognised for their excellent research. In some years, however, an award has not been made, as applicants have not shown sufficient merit. This speaks to the rigorously high standards employed by the Fellowship’s selection committee.

The Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship was conceived by pilots of 457 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), including the late AVM Lyndon Compton AO OBE, the late FLTLT Edward Sly DFC MiD and the late FLTLT Philip (Peter) Watson DFC.  Their vision for the Fellowship was as an ongoing living memorial rather than a traditional granite and bronze monument. The Fellowship cannot be vandalised and does not require refurbishing and serves to remind us all of the enormous sacrifices made by Australian servicemen and women. This prestigious award is presented by the Governor-General at Government House in Canberra.

The Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship wishes to attract worthy applicants and therefore wider publicity is necessary. As we strive to keep this memorial alive well into the future, we ask that you consider a donation. A gift to us is a gift to the continued defence of Australia. 

Edward Sly worked tirelessly for the Fellowship and saw it officially launched with a formal dinner at the Officer’s Mess at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) at the UNSW Canberra campus on 5 May 1998. At its launch, the Fellowship was supported by $150,000 donated from companies, individuals and the University.  With many subsequent donations over the last two decades, the capital now stands at more than $1 million.

The Spitfire Association and UNSW would like to sincerely thank all the generous donors and partner organisations that have supported the Spitfire Memorial Defence Fellowship since its launch in 1998.

In the past 23 years, we have awarded prestigious Fellowships to some of Australia's most distinguished engineers and academics, and helped support important research programs that are contributing to the future defence of Australia.

Without your support, this unique living memorial, honouring the bravery and sacrifices made by Spitfire pilots and crew in WWII, would not be possible.

As new security threats emerge around the world, it’s vital that we continue to support Australian researchers who are developing the breakthrough technologies that will keep our military capabilities at the cutting-edge – technologies that can save lives, protecting our soldiers and civilians from harm.