July 2021

Alan Matlock – Posted on Facebook 1st July 2021

Spitfire wings made in a Roller Skating Rink!

A laundry, a bus depot and a strawberry basket factory all became Spitfire production sites. Now a new Supermarine location (to me) has surfaced in the shape of The Boulevard Rink Company Limited which was built in Leicester in 1909 to accommodate the newest sporting craze to hit Edwardian Britain – roller skating, or ‘rinking’ as it was known.

During the First World War, the building served as the perfect space for drill sessions and training of new recruits.

The Boulevard played an even larger part in the Second World War, when it was requisitioned and converted into the Number 21 Factory due to its strategic location to the Great Central Railway.

The history of the building was compiled by De Montfort University’s Dr Su Barton, who found that between 1942 and December 1944 a total of 1,257 pairs of wings for Spitfire aircraft were produced for the war effort; its wide, arched roof providing the perfect manufacturing location for the iconic aircraft.

Here in Southampton, a premises with equally good internal height, the Hants & Dorset Bus Depot in Winchester Road, was requisitioned for the same purpose and it’s interesting to compare the archive photos of the two facilities. Used to ensure absolute precision in the manufacturing process, the metal frames or jigs holding the wings are clearly evident in both images. (Photos 1. Vickers Archives and 2. https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news)

Spitfire Wings at Hants & Dorset Bus Depot and at the Boulevard Roller Rink in Leicester

If you think you might know of any other facilities that may have escaped our attention please do let us know. A list of the ones we are hoping to commemorate with a plaque, both in Southampton and beyond can be found here: https://spitfiremakers.org.uk/the-plaques-project-what-next/

Alan Matlock – Posted on Facebook 11th July 2021

Salisbury’s Secret Spitfires are not so secret now!

Several members of the Spitfire Makers team, Michaela, Alan and Robert, were delighted to be invited to attend the Salisbury Secret Spitfires Charity event on Friday 9th July when they ‘unveiled’ their replica Spitfire memorial at the site of one of the dispersed facilities where Spitfires were made.

We were treated to live music by an RAF band and afterwards the Goodnight Sweethearts. The RAF regiment gave a splendid display of precision marching before Norman Parker, former Spitfire engineer and the historian who brought so much of the Salisbury Spitfire story to light, cut the ribbon (with scissors he once fashioned out of spare Spitfire metal!)

The proceedings were concluded with three heart-stirring overhead passes by a Spitfire from the BBMF (thanks to our Spitfire Makers Patron, Sqn Ldr Mandy Singleton, whose team keep all the BBMF planes flying!)

Spitfire Makers send our congratulations to all who have contributed to the Salisbury project over the years and, in particular, our thoughts turn to film-maker Ethem Cetintas, producer of the excellent “Secret Spitfires” film, who died suddenly earlier this year. A memorial bench, next to the Spitfire bears his name.

The replica Spitfire at the top of Hudson’s Field is an amazing sight next to the A345 road to Old Sarum and Amesbury and, in addition to this memorial, commemorative plaques have been placed at the sites of eleven Spitfire production sites in and around Salisbury.

Precise numbers are hard to verify but it is thought that the Salisbury dispersal network in these workshops produced somewhere in the region of 2,000 or more planes. Other hubs were set up in Newbury, Reading and Trowbridge with the main one being in and around Southampton where, despite the bombing of the original factories, it is said, a total around 4,400 were made. Numbers coming out of the Castle Bromwich ‘Shadow Factory’ – now the Jaguar Land Rover works – were in the region of 12,000.

Spitfire Makers now knows of more than thirty locations in Southampton where parts for Spitfires were being manufactured. Our project to place commemorative plaques at each of these is progressing well with the first three due to be ordered very soon.

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