May 2021

Alan Matlock 10th May 2021 – Posting on the Facebook page of Freemantle Local History Group.

Spitfires in Freemantle?

Thanks for letting me join. I’m chair of The Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust project, a locally based group gathering stories and information about places where Spitfire production continued after the 1940 bombing put the main factories in Woolston out of action. There were several premises with connections with Supermarine in the area and I’m hoping the group might be able to help with our research. One of these, JC Dyas, makers of shop blinds and other canvas products was based on the north side of Payne’s Rd (now occupied by Winsor House, no 149) and the original house must feature in the aerial photo which is the current cover photo for the page. Any info about or photos of the premises or the people who worked there, particularly during WW2 would be great to have. We know that JC Dyas was mayor of Southampton in 1944, dying in office. His company was a Supermarine subcontractor supplying canvas wheel and cowling covers. You can see our Spitfire Makers Facebook page here: Spitfire Makers


  • B.J. – Hi Alan, if you want to see the size and layout of the Dyas site in 1947 map then if you come down to Freemantle Lake Park on the 16-05-2021 between 1200 & 1500 hrs I will have the maps etc there for you to look at.
  • Alan Matlock to B.J. – I’ve sent you a private message.
  • L.C. – My mum worked at Dyas. She left to join the Land Army after getting special permission as the work at Dyas was an essential job.
  • Alan Matlock to L.C. – Any wartime stories passed on about making things for Supermarine?
  • L.C. to Alan Matlock – Let me chat with my sister and double check a few things and look at our photos and I will get back to you x
  • Alan Matlock to L.C. –  Thanks.

Alan Matlock 11th May 2021 – on Facebook

Spitfire Maker starts his own business?

Did Ernest Reynolds Best leave Supermarine in 1947 to set up “The Wessex Car Trimming Works” in the back streets of Southampton?

If so, did he take with him some spare parts tins from the storeroom?

Here are the tins now: still being put to good use by Mike at Wessex Car Trimming. He was told that the tins had been used to keep Spitfire rivets in so I took along my own multi-coloured collection to see if they would feel at home. There was no clear labelling on the tins other than some possible, very faint, painted lettering.

Does anyone recognise these as Supermarine storage tins?

Would they have been made ‘in house’? There would have been plenty of metal workers available to turn out tins like these!

To add to the vintage setting Mike showed me the work benches and it took me a while to realise what the frameworks were made of. Any guesses? (Clue: also WW2 vintage.)

Photos show Ernest Best’s 1947 business registration certificate; Mr Best with a well-trimmed Rolls (I wonder where it is today?); the Supermarine storage tins and one of the mystery work benches.

Thanks to Mike of Wessex Car Trimming Ltd. Henry Street, Southampton – same name, in the same premises.


  • M Y Those tables look like sort that folks would take shelter under in the case of an air raid, but happy to be corrected
  • Spitfire Makers to M Y Good spot! Morrison Shelters for indoor use. The holes for the wire mesh sides can be seen.
  • M Y I remember visiting my ex wife’s grandfather in the late 70’s he lived in Edgware and worked for De Havilland’s at their Stag Lane factory during the war, he was a toolmaker/ machinist and a bit of an inventor, and being an apprentice toolmaker myself he was happy to show me what he’d made, he had built a garage and workshop out of those steel tables ( all the walls and doors ), boy..those steel doors were so heavy to open. I guess after the war everbody wanted rid of them and he made use of them.

Alan Matlock 14th May 2021 – on Facebook

Out this week: “Spitfire Kids” by Alasdair Cross.

Based on the BBC podcast, “Spitfire: The People’s Plane” which Spitfire Makers chair Alan Matlock contributed to last year. My copy has just arrived! There are many Southampton-based stories which will be familiar to followers of our Spitfire Makers’ Facebook – eg Don Smith, one of our Honorary Presidents and The Spitfire Sweethearts, but there are also major contributions from Dave Key of The Supermariners website.

There is info about the plane and the famous “Few” but the focus of this “inspirational read” are the many young people – like Don and the Sweethearts who helped design and build it and the places where they became Spitfire Makers.…/19297855.authors…/

Book by Alasdair Cross. This image by Alan Matlock

Alan Matlock 18th May 2021 – on Facebook

Just the ticket for Spitfire Maker Don!

Hon President Don Smith went back in time to his days as a wartime Apprentice Spitfire Maker and Tram Conductor when he visited Solent Sky Museum in Southampton. Don spent the morning at the museum and presented Solent Sky director Alan Jones with some original tram tickets.

After he left school, Don worked for Supermarine subcontractor Auto Metalcraft in Emsworth Road, Shirley, Southampton and then went on to work as a conductor and trainee driver on the Southampton trams. He also served in the Home Guard and the bayonet he never handed in at the end of the war will now have a home at the Museum. In front of the Solent Sky Mark 24 Spitfire Don was able to hold a Spitfire air intake, one of the same parts he used to make, for the first time in 80 years. This was one of several items loaned to the museum, specifically for Don’s visit, by Southampton-based aircraft parts maker Mark Cole who produces airworthy replica parts for Spitfire restorations.

During his visit Don was presented with a Spitfire Makers lapel badge which reminded him of the only other Spitfire badge he had had which was made by one of the workers at Auto Metalcraft out of an old halfpenny coin.

A film of Don recounting his many stories of those far-off days will be available very soon and the Museum is now open again for visitors after the latest lockdown –

Solent Sky Museum Photos: Infinity Photography by Sarah Penfold and members of the Spitfire Makers project team.

Images by Sarah Penfold and The Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust members

Alan Matlock 20th May 2021 – On Facebook

How to make Spitfire jettison fuel tanks

Our Honorary President Don Smith, filmed at Solent Sky Museum, talking to Spitfire Makers chair Alan Matlock about his very clear memories of working for Supermarine subcontractor Auto Metalcraft in Emsworth Road, Shirley, Southampton.

The Museum is now open again for visitors Albert Rd S, Southampton SO14 3FR, 023 8063 5830 No need to book in advance.

Thanks to museum chief executive and curator, Squadron Leader Alan Jones for his kind invitation and John Beck for his excellent camera work:

Listen to the interview here or view the video on our Facebook page:

Alan Matlock talks to Don SmithAudio

Alan Matlock 21st May 2021 – On Facebook

Don’s Spitfire Makers badge.

While we were filming Honorary President Don Smith at Solent Sky Museum we presented him with a custom-made Spitfire Makers lapel badge. As so often with Don, this triggered yet another memory of his days as an apprentice metalworker making parts for Spitfires in a Southampton back street workshop.

Listen to the interview here or view the video on our Facebook page:

Presentation to DanAudio
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