I just wanted to give a brief update on the progress that we have been making during this challenging and sometimes difficult time.
Although the Government Restrictions have limited our meetings and also our interaction with other individuals and also Heritage Groups, we have moved forward with our project to place plaques on the locations of the Supermarine Dispersal sites. We have gained sponsorship from the Rotary Club of Southampton and have also received a personal donation for a plaque to be located at one of the sites in the Shirley area.
Our Facebook page has been invaluable for providing more information regarding the dispersal sites and also about the people who worked in them. From this information has come our new Pennants Project in which we have created pennants honouring the people who worked on the Spitfire production, from RJ Mitchell through to the women and men on the production line. The pennants have been printed for us by Peter Foley of Spectrum Signs in Shirley who is the son in law of Ronald Jeneway pictured on the right. The other pennant shown is for Edward (Ted) Angel who is the grandfather of Sarah from our Spitfire Makers team. I hope that you agree that these are very fitting tributes.
We have recently joined the Southampton Heritage Federation and took part in the Heritage Fyare that was recently held at the Mayflower Theatre. Due to the restrictions, it was a much smaller event that usual but it did give us an opportuntiy to display our projects and gain more support. As a bit of light hearted fund we ran a “Guess the number of rivets” competition with a prize of chocolate donated by our Treasurer and a family ticket to Solent Sky Museum kindly donated by them. The rivets were original Spitfire rivets which had been given to Alan Matlock some time ago and Alan was given the unenviable task of counting them to ensure fair play!
One of our most rewarding projects to date has been to assist Dave Key from the Supermariners website to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the bombing of the Supermarine factory in September 1940. Dave hoped to locate the graves of each of the women and men who died in the raids and lay a floral tribute on each one. We were very pleased to be able to help with this along with other volunteers from local heritage groups. We were able to locate most of the graves in St Mary Extra, Holybrook, South Stoneham, and Southampton Old Cemetaries. Also in some of the local churchyards. Detailed maps have been created and phots taken of the plots and these have been passed on to any relatives who have been unable to previously locate the graves. Due to the current restrictions we were unable to arrange a public commemoration ceremony but instead held small memorial services on Thursday 24th September at Peartree Green the site of the air raid shelter and the railway bridge where so many lost their lives, and on Saturday 26th September at Spitfire Court in Woolston on the site of the Supermarine factory. In each service the names of those who died were read out and flowers were laid for them. Following each service volunteers visited each cemetary to lay flowers on each grave. Eve
Everyone agreed that it was a very moving and rewarding event and our thanks go to all the volunteers and also to those who donated flowers and cards for the graves.
Yesterday (14th October) was Don Smith’s 94th birthday and three of the Spitfire Makers team visited him at his home in Southampton.
80 years ago, Don was an apprentice with Auto Metalcraft in Emsworth Road, Shirley, making Spitfire jettison fuel tanks and air filters.
His tales of life in the early years of the war in Southampton are amongst the most vivid and detailed we have heard and, in recognition of the work he did then for Supermarine and the research he continues to help us with, we had great pleasure to recognise him today as an Honorary President of the Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust.
He is pictured on his doorstep holding his Presidential certificate.
Happy Birthday Mr President!
28th October 2020 – Alan Matlock on Facebook
And the new President is…Margaret White!
Just two weeks after we appointed our first Honorary President Don Smith on his 94th birthday it was the turn today (28th October) of Margaret White to celebrate her 97th birthday and to join Don as our second Honorary President. (Happy Birthday Margaret!)
Margaret, who now lives in Romsey, was just 16 years old in September 1940 when she and others, mostly ladies, were working in the Accounts and Wages Department on the 4th floor of the newly completed Vickers Supermarine office block.
Before any siren sounded they heard aircraft engines break the silence of the afternoon and almost immediately explosions were going off all around. With no time to evacuate the building Margaret tells how she and her colleagues sheltered under their desks from where she remembers seeing bombs going past the windows!
Two days later the siren did warn of a second attack and this time she made her way up Sea Road to The Red Lion where, with many others, she felt the bombs that finally shut down Spitfire production at the Woolston and Itchen Works shaking the ground beneath her and covering them in plaster that fell from the ceiling above.
We are indeed honoured to have these two marvellous individuals who experienced first-hand the dark days of wartime Southampton as the Honorary Presidents of the Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust.