June 2020

4th June 2020 – Alan Matlock on Facebook

Just in case you were wondering, there isn’t a “Building Spitfires Without A Factory” talk at the Millbrook Local History Society tonight! It will be rescheduled. But all is not lost… For a short burst of Spitfire stories tune in tomorrow to the BBC World Service or the BBC Sounds app and listen to the next episode of their 10 part series: “Women take control”Spitfire: The People’s Plane Episode 5 of 10 The new Spitfires need to be flown to RAF bases desperate for reinforcements. That’s the job of the ATA Girls – the female flyers of World War Two. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct0t1k Their official motto was “Eager for the air” but unofficially ATA came to stand for, “Anything to Anywhere”! Out of a total of around 1,200, 168 were women pilots and one of the two all female ‘ferry pools’ they operated was based at Hamble airfield near Southampton. When they were stood down at the end of the war Lord Beaverbrook said, “They were soldiers fighting in the struggle just as completely as if they had been engaged on the battlefront.” Listen in to find out what they, and the sometimes forgotten men of the ATA, were doing in the cellars of Marwell Hall!

ATA Wings

6th June 2020 – Alan Matlock on Facebook

If you have been enjoying the Spitfire: The People’s Plane series on BBC Sounds: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xtv79/episodes/downloads they’ve now brought out an accompanying video: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3367857246566711&id=163571453661989

Some of the local research done by The Supermariners website and Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust chair Alan Matlock, who does a couple of voiceovers, is included in the video.

12th June 2020 – Alan Matlock on Facebook

The People’s Spitfire : “The Shilling factor”

Episode 6 of 10 – A wonderful series available on BBC Sounds, and available as a podcast. As brilliant as the Spitfire was, it had one major flaw : in a steep dive fuel couldn’t reach the engine, and the engine choked. A solution is urgently needed. That was a job for the fastest woman in Britain: champion motorcycle racer and pioneering engineer, Beatrice Shilling – in her own way another of our Spitfire Makers! https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xtv79/episodes/downloads

17th June 2020

SPITFIRE MAKERS CALLOUT

The Southampton-based “Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust”, launched in Feb this year, has been working in association with the excellent website “The Supermariners” to establish the location of all of Supermarine’s dispersed facilities around Southampton and beyond. We are also wanting to collect the valuable anecdotes of those ‘Spitfire Makers’ who worked in them.
After the bombing of the Woolston and Itchen Works, 80 years ago this September, production was spread out into garages, workshops, public buildings and even a laundry, not just in Southampton but in other towns across the South. We are aiming to place informative, memorial plaques at these sites and currently a side-project is to gather photos and info about the ‘Spitfire Makers’ – from shop floor to boardroom – to be printed, (thanks to a generous offer from a local sign-making company), onto commemorative bunting style flags (e.g. attached.)
We want to pay tribute to the vital contribution made by our Southampton workers: women, children and non-combatant men, who helped to produce the plane that defended the country from the threat of invasion and helped turn the tide of the war.
If you know of any such ‘Spitfire Makers’ in your family or friends it would be great if you could please send us this material, with your permission to use it, to: spitfiremakersresearch@btinternet.com so that we can rightly commemorate them in our ‘roll of honour’.

Edward “Ted” Angel – Apprentice Sheet Metal Worker at Woolston from 1936, aged 17. Made wings for Walrus Flying Boats and Spitfires.

Image by Alan Matlock

19th June 2020

Do you like detective work? Wanted: SUPER SLEUTHS!

Can YOU help uncover another of Southampton’s secret Spitfire Factories?

The Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust is wanting to place informative, memorial plaques at the site of Supermarine facilities across Southampton and beyond. We have now located around 3 dozen of these within the current city boundaries alone.

We have just heard of the possibility of a ‘new’ one, this time in Wilton Road, Shirley, just around the corner from the three we know about on Winchester Road – the Sunlight Laundry and The Hants & Dorset Bus Depot on the Retail Park site and Seward’s Garage over the road where The Range is now.

The evidence is in an excellent new book (see link below), “Secret Spitfires” – https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/…/secret-s…/9780750991995/ which mentions it in a list of other sites in Southampton:
“Two sheds, 16, Wilton Road, Southampton.”
It gives the size of the sheds as a most improbable, “120,393 square feet.”
Date opened: – “18th June 1943; Date closed: – unknown.”

I now think it likely that the sizes are 120 sq ft for one shed and 393 sq ft for the other!

The house at 16, Wilton Rd does back onto the site of the Sunlight Laundry ( X in red) and one structure is shown there (circled in blue) on the 1946 map.

Also possible is that the two sheds are the premises of the Ingalls Cycle Works – pre and post war at no 58 (circled in yellow) before being taken over by Frank Chick and eventually being the CN & V Noyce Stationer’s. (Possibly the same family of Noyces, Mr and Mrs, who were teachers at Shirley Junior School?)

A block of flats, Elm Green Court now occupies the site.

Any help with identifying one site as Spitfire connected or discounting the other would be most welcome! Photographs or documentary evidence would be a bonus.

Please email: – spitfiremakersresearch@btinternet.com

27th June 2020

The book of the film, out now.

Secret Spitfires – Britain’s Hidden Civilian Army

Image courtesy of Howman & Cetintas

Using archive materials and plenty of eyewitness testimony, it tells the story of 80 years ago when the bombing of the Supermarine factories in Woolston led to the dispersal of Spitfire production, initially into premises in and around Southampton.

The subsequent expansion of the scheme into other centres across the south: Trowbridge, Newbury, Reading is well documented. Not surprisingly, given the background of the authors, the women and men of Salisbury, and the places in the city where they became Spitfire Makers, are the mainstay of the impressively researched narrative.

Secret Spitfires – The story of hundreds of women, girls and a handful of men who built Spitfires in secret during WW2

It was the book’s list of Southampton’s dispersal sites that includes the reference to the “Two sheds” in Wilton Rd that prompted last week’s Spitfire Makers post. (More on this to come…!)

There are significant contributions from Dave Key, the locally based historian behind The Supermariners website. He contributes sections on the bombing of Woolston and the move of management and design teams to the relative safety of Hursley Park.

Dave also tells about their arrival in this week’s episode of the BBC World Service programme Spitfire: The People’s Plane. Listen via the link below:

29th June 2020

Do you know this Spitfire Maker – or any of “so many” who built the planes for “the few” of 80 years ago this year?

Images courtesy of Sue Wyett

Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust is aiming to place informative, memorial plaques at the sites of Spitfire production around Southampton and beyond and to make commemorative pennants of the workers – girls and boys, women, and men – who produced the iconic fighters.

We have heard of Annie Barter (married name Dibden) who worked “a tungsten lathe” during WW2 making parts for Spitfires and other planes in Croll’s Factory at 331, Salisbury Rd, Totton.

It became the Testwood Motors premises and is now the site of the Breeze Van Centre.

The info about Annie who died in 2010 aged 93, has been kindly sent in by her daughter, Sue Wyatt. She tells us that Annie cycled to work from West Wellow each day and, during the winter months, her twelve-hour shifts would see her going both ways with hooded lights due to the blackout.

The Croll family are evidently still in business in Totton, now running Millbrook Beds.

If you know anything about Annie at that time, the factory where she worked (Annie used to call it “a shed”), or have details of any other Spitfire production facilities in the area please get in touch:

spitfiremakersresearch@btinternet.com

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