January 2021

8th January 2021 – Alan Matlock on Facebook

Spitfire Makers IN PRISON!

Thanks to author Dilip Sarkar, MBE, for sharing the images of Spitfire leading edges being made in the old prison in his home town. The buildings in Castle Street, Worcester, were used pre and post WW2 by GT Rackstraw Ltd to make their high quality reproduction antique furniture.

With the establishing of the Castle Bromwich shadow factory a network of dispersal sites was set up in the area. Production of “Architectural Furniture”, was switched to making Spitfire wing parts and some experienced workers were transferred from Castle Bromwich to train the new workforce.

One of these, Alan Wintle recorded his memory of the time on the BBC’s People’s War Archive. He remembered, “a lot of local labour, mainly women (were taken on) and after a brief period of training my word – weren’t they quick! — and good too, particularly at getting the rivets to lie flush.” He recalls that before prefabs were built for them on the edge of town that they were accommodated in the old prison cells!

The last photo shows the works before the war when Rackstraws made furniture for the Queen Mary liner.

Although we are based in Southampton, the home of the Spitfire, Spitfire Makers is committed to researching the locations of all Spitfire production sites. Please let us know of any like Rackstraws that are further afield.

16th January 2021 – Alan Matlock on Facebook

“Building Spitfires Without a Factory”

Here’s me Zooming my online talk to the Totton U3A group yesterday afternoon. I had a lot of very positive feedback and several stories from the audience that tied in with the ones that I’d uncovered about the hidden Spitfire production sites in WW2 Totton.

On behalf of Spitfire Makers I would like to thank the Totton U3A for their generous donation to our Trust funds.

After a general intro, common to most of my talks, I highlighted the local, Totton-based activity of Supermarine but also other agencies as well as the general population who all helped to win the war: the Land Army, Home Guard, Fire Service, Auxiliary Units and local Starfish (Decoy) Site operators etc.⭐ The Supermarine company from its start through to the Spitfire⭐ The bombing of the main factories in September 1940⭐ Dispersal of production across Southampton and beyond⭐ Spitfire production and WW2 in Southampton with particular reference to the Totton area⭐ The aims of the Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust

Any groups wishing to book me for a similar online presentation please email me at spitfiremakersresearch@btinternet.com

27th January 2021 – Alan Matlock on Facebook

Rob Byrne contacted Spitfire Makers a couple of days ago with the sad news about his father Bernard. He passed on other photos which we hope to share with you on our page in future. He is definitely one of the amazing Spitfire Makers who we want to commemorate.

Rob Byrne writes to Spitfire Makers Facebook page – “My dad Bernard (Bernie) Byrne passed away last Thursday . Working throughout the war from 1940 in the Supermarine Flight Shed at Eastleigh Aerodrome , he survived the Luftwaffe bombs and stranding but he could not survive Covid-19.

He was one of the last of the special people that made the iconic Spitfire that alongside the Hurricane saved the nation from the nazi tide.

After the war he was one of the Hampshire Aero Club team that in the 50’s and 60’s flew and maintained G-AIDN which took part in many air races , including the 1959 Kings Cup in Paris.

A normal working class chap from an Eastleigh council estate, yet he led a remarkable life. It’s a big ask I know but his final journey to Wessex Vale Crematorium is on Wednesday 17th February at 10-45am. If any pilot owners plan to be in the skies over South Hampshire around that time , would it be possible to fly by and maybe tip your wings as an acknowledgement not only of my dad but of that indomitable generation. Please Facebook message me if you’re able to help. Thank you.”

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