(Mainly in and around Southampton)
Building Spitfires Without a Factory – the Dispersal Plan
Even before the bombing of September 1940, Supermarine was anticipating “the big chop” and had started to requisition premises to enable production to continue. After the damage to the Woolston and Itchen Works this sometimes required the backing of Lord Beaverbrook and his men from the Ministry of Aircraft Production.
In general, the requisitioned sites were in and around Southampton or the other clusters of production – Winchester, Salisbury, Trowbridge, Newbury and Reading. The main ‘shadow factory’ at Castle Bromwich, which eventually produced more than half of the total of just over 22,000 Spitfires, had its own network of suppliers – both requisitioned and subcontracted.
The Spitfire had never been wholly made by Supermarine and even at Castle Bromwich only around 50% of the plane was ever made ‘in house’. Subcontractors local to these production hubs were also taken on but, with more than 300 companies from Devon to Scotland, the supply chain was vital and extremely complex or, as it has also been called, “an unholy mess!”
The following lists give details of premises that were part of that dispersed supply chain in Southampton and, predominantly, the surrounding area. Some are definite, supported by details from Supermarine and confirmed by ‘in the field’ research and personal accounts collected by Spitfire Makers and The Supermariners. Others, particularly among the subcontractors, are still to be confirmed; these are listed separately in the hope that documentary, photographic and those all-important personal accounts will emerge to confirm the limited evidence we have so far.
For each location, existing premises and new builds, we have tried to record what was happening there before, during and after the connection with Supermarine. The address and postcode is the closest available to the original premises whether it is the original building or a later replacement.
For more information and a national list of Supermarine subcontractor companies (without addresses) go to: https://supermariners.wordpress.com/organisation/sub-contractors-1936-1939/
References to Webb’s list: “Never a Dull Moment” Denis Le P Webb, p. 177.
Please do get in touch if you have information to add to the entries.