The “Spitfire Makers”

The images below have been created to honour the memory of the people who helped to build The Spitfire. In many instances photos and information have been provided by their families and friends. The images are owned by The Spitfire Makers Charitable Trust but you are welcome to use them free of charge to create your own pennants. Please ensure that the images are treated with respect. if published, please ensure that the source of the image is acknowledged.

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Edward “Ted” Angel
Image by Alan Matlock

Edward “Ted” Angel is the grandfather of Spitfire Makers team member Sarah Penfold.

Sarah’s granddad Ted Angel (known by his colleagues as ‘Curly’ because of his hair) started as an apprentice at Supermarine on 26th March 1936 building Walrus and other flying boats before moving on to building Spitfires.

After the bombing of the Supermarine factories in Southampton, Ted was transferred to work in Reading where a dispersed production hub had been set up.

Image by Sarah Penfold

His apprenticeship papers were sent in this reinforced envelope to his digs and the papers themselves are kept at Solent Sky Aviation Museum.

Image courtesy of Solent Sky Museum

The indenture letter, 5 years after Ted ‘signed on’ to inform him that he had completed his apprenticeship. Ted was by this time working, possibly at the requisitioned Vincent’s Garage, near the station in the centre of Reading.

Interesting to see they were still using old headed notepaper with Woolston crossed out and Chandlers Ford inserted for the telephone and, in the address,Southampton replaced by Hursley Park.

The name, Supermarine, was adopted in early 1916 when Noel Pemberton-Billing sold his share in what was Pemberton-Billing Ltd. to Hubert Scott-Paine. It was the original telegraphic address for the company but here this is shown without the final e and is now directed to Winchester, not Southampton.

The audio below is a short snippet from an interview that Ted gave to the team at Solent Sky Museum in 2016.  Ted shares his very moving memories from being caught up in the bombing of the factory.  At the time he was in his early 20s. Three of his fellow apprentices – or ‘shop boys’ were killed in the raid including Douglas Cruikshank and Kenneth Doswell who were both 14 years old.

Audio courtesy of Solent Sky Aviation Museum. Please do not reproduce without permission

Sarah has volunteered at Solent Sky Museum since the passing of her Grandad as she told him that she would keep the Spitfire clean for him.

To read Sarah’s tribute to her grandfather Ted please click here

Click here for more information and images of Ted.


Clarence “Ben” Bennett
Image by Alan Matlock

Clarence Roy Vere “Ben” Bennett was interviewed for the Nuffield Theatre’s “Out of the Shadows” project in 2018 with his niece Maureen Prince, also joining in.

Click below to read the full transcript of the interview:

He recalled, I had two brothers, two sisters. I just grew up, went to Sholing School.

“Eventually we moved out to Titchfield where mines were dropped on us and we … the bungalow we were living in was sliced in half…Took the top of the cottage right off. We were in a garage in Titchfield Hill but we wasn’t there long and we moved back to Hamble.”

“… we got not bombed out, mined out, they dropped mines. One mine dropped one side of the thatched cottage which made a hole in the ground and you could have dropped about six double decker buses in there with no trouble. It was soft ground and the other one landed with a parachute on a fir tree and we had to walk under it because there was fence each side for fields and we had to walk under the blooming mine.

Research shows that Ben’s “garage in Titchfield Hill” was the Priory Garage (still in business under the same name on the A27 just outside Titchfield) and was clearly being used to make or, more likely, repair a variety of Spitfire parts.

Click below to read more about the Priory Garage in “Titchfield Voices”:

Ben added, “I went from school to Hamble and ‘cos of the bombing, they were frightened that if they bombed Hamble, everything would be lost so they (AST Hamble) decided to move different sections to different places. We were moved to Titchfield Hill. We wasn’t there long, I said, before the Germans dropped mines, not bombs, mines, on us.”

The bombing of Woolston

Ben also remembers witnessing the bombing of the Supermarine factories in September 1940.

Asked whether he was frightened Ben replied, “No, I was a kiddy, you don’t not really feel frightened when you’re … Not really unless something lands right alongside you, you know, you don’t realise what’s happening. I was only 14 at the time.

Did you take shelter?

Clarence: No, I just stood there and just watched it happen.

Amazingly brave at 14.

Clarence: Well you’re not brave, you just don’t realise … you’re only a nipper at the time, you think “what’s going on?” you know… I know it was a lovely sunny day. We had a lovely hot summer that year, 1940.

Ben’s work at AST

After getting bombed out of the cottage in Titchfield, Ben moved back into Southampton and his mother’s house in South East Road.

He said, “I went back to the aerodrome, to AST, Air Service Training, and then I started out learning to be a sheet metal worker. I suppose I done about two years learning, and then they approached me, the Management and they said, “We think you’re prepared to do the sheet metal working on your own.” ‘Course you’ve got a mate, so I said, “Yes” and so I went on to there and I worked on to there until 1944.

“To Hamble, we had to cycle there and back. You know, push bike, you know. I can’t remember the time we started, I suppose about 7 o’clock or half past seven I should imagine and worked up to 5 o’clock.

“I was skinning, what we called skinning. A sheet metal worker, Spitfire wings. Now, Spitfire wings, if you want to know, were riveted on top and the plates underneath was pop riveted ‘cos they couldn’t get to hold her up see? The bottom of the Spitfire wings were pop riveted. At the first part, they had four machine guns and the machine guns, when they went into action, had a cover on them, a felt was the name. So that when they fired, they slowed up a bit because they broke the felt for the air. They eventually went on to have two cannons, one on each wing so therefore we had to then make domes because the cannon protruded below the wing, so we had to make a dome to cover that up.

Images – Spitfire Mk1 showing red felt covering guns on wing and Spitfire wing with cannons and blister

Asked if he was working from drawings her replied, “No, there were no drawings as far as we was concerned. The Spitfire wings … one end in the hanger they fitted, they renewed the ribs, for that was nothing to do with me, and then they shifted to us and we what you called skinned them.

“I learnt the trade through … I think he was Welsh. He was a Communist and he learnt me with the trade and he presented me with a hammer and sickle badge, and I took it home and my mother created bloomin’ hell ‘cos I took this badge home [laughs]…. mother wouldn’t let me keep it [laughs].

“…, but he taught me well and then I was asked to go sheet metal working myself, which I did. ‘Course I was supplied with a Mate, as you drill. I drilled a hole right through me finger down there once [laughs].

“Some metal was already on there and sometimes there was none at all and you had to do its plates, and you’d drill ’em in and fold them up and ’course you got to mark off for the doors to fit in for the machine guns. Then you’d take that off and then you’d do the other side which was under the plane. Then you would take that off when you had finished it and, put it one side and then put the top of the wing back on and then it was riveted up. That was the Riveter’s, a hold it up job, so they put the little rivets in and ‘brrrrr’, ‘brrrrr’ and when they’d finished that, then we would put back the bottom of the wings and they were pop riveted. And they went on for four machine guns and then afterwards they used cannon and of course you had to make domes because the cannon protruded lower than the wing, so you had to have to a dome over the bottom of the cannon.

The hangar, one side of it was all women working on spares, cleaning them or I suppose repairing them or anything. This sort of factory was the wings. They were brought in and if the ribs were damaged they were repaired and then they were brought to us and then, what we called skinned them, sheet metal work. And that was ‘B’ hanger.

“Ginger Alford was the foreman, my brother-in-law, he was in another part on top of the aerodrome and I think what happened, all the damaged planes come in by lorry, repaired, and I think women flew them from Hamble Aerodrome to where they had to go. I think they were women (ATA) pilots who used to come and collect them up and take them to the aerodromes where they had to go.

Zeppelins over Southampton

There are well documented accounts of German airships overflying Southampton and Portsmouth in the years before the war. Ben remembers one such occasion and also the visits by German flying boats catapulted from German transatlantic liners while still in the Western Approaches and bringing the mail to their post room which was on the ground floor of the Supermarine building.

German seaplane crew rowing the mail ashore. File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki

“I wouldn’t like to say what year it was, could have been 1937, I wouldn’t swear on the dates, but I was on Weston Shore because my brother had a business down there and I saw a Zeppelin come over Southampton Docks, fly down towards the Isle of Wight and away. Now, it was obvious that that Zeppelin must have taken photos in any case, and that was it. It just seemed to fly over and away, so where he flew or where he come from … well, I expect he came from Germany, he may have flown over Portsmouth, I don’t know, but I know he flew over Southampton. He flew over the Dock area and that was that. I would say that was about 1937 I should think.

The Hindenburg over Bournemouth, Hampshire, England. Image by Bournemouth Daily Echo

“…and the German mail used to come in there and …They knew exactly where the factory was. There was no …they knew where the factory was.”

The flights of the airships were raised in the Commons as a national security threat. Photos taken from the airships were referred to as ‘Hitler’s holiday snaps’ and it is quite likely that the German mail pilots who anchored their seaplanes in the Itchen returned a few years later … in Luftwaffe bombers.

Ben shortly after his 95th birthday

Ben spoke with Spitfire Makers chair, Alan Matlock, when he came to our Spitfire Makers launch event in the Shirley Parish Hall in February 2020.

Image by Spitfire Makers

“I showed Ben the jar of mixed Spitfire rivets that I had been given by George Fuller, a young lad growing up in Hook near Warsash during WW2 who would be allowed to pick up the dropped rivets from the floor of Solent Court Barns, Chilling Lane, where Spitfire wings were being repaired. Like the Priory Garage in Titchfield where Ben went to work, the Barns were most probably an outpost of AST in Hamble.

“With great enthusiasm, Ben told me all about the different rivets that were used in the production of the Spitfire: the ones of different lengths for attaching the wing and fuselage panels, the heat-resistant ones that were used closer to the engine.”

Sadly, both Ben and George died in 2020.


Bernard “Bernie” Byrne
Image by Alan Matlock

For more information on Bernard Byrne click here to go to The Supermariners website.

Photographs and information kindly provided by Bernard’s family.

If you have any information that could help our research please get in touch!


Annie Dibden (Barter)
Image by Alan Matlock

We heard of Annie Barter, from her daughter, Sue, who told us about her in June 2020.

“My Mother, whose maiden name was Annie Barter at the time (Annie Dibden was her married name) worked in the factory at Testwood, Totton during WW2 making parts for Spitfires on a tungsten lathe (and 1 other war aircraft).

It was something that always meant so much to her in doing her bit.

The premises were owned by the local Croll Family – and later became Testwood Motors owned by Bill Street. It is now a Van Sales.

She cycled in each day from West Wellow, with minimum lights because of the black-out.

Last year my son gave me a flight in a Spitfire as a birthday present, an emotional and incredible experience because of mum.

Mum passed away ten years ago at the age of 93, and it would mean a lot to her, as it also would to me, (for her) to be remembered in this way.”

“She frequently spoke of working at Croll’s making the Spitfire parts. I am fairly sure that must be the same Croll’s as Millbrook Healthcare. I have tried to look up the history but have been unable find any. I have asked younger members of the Croll family if they were aware of it but not heard anything in reply. Probably Mark Croll would be the best person to ask. I think it was where the Breeze Van Centre is now along Salisbury Rd (formerly Testwood Motors) Maybe others here that live or lived in Totton may know more.”

“The two photos show Mum as she was as a young lady in her early 20’s which would have been about the time (when she worked at Croll’s) and Mum on her 90th birthday.

Annie Dibden (nee Barter) born 12th September, 1917 and died 13th September, 2010

Others have written to let us know of their involvement with Croll’s and, although memories may have faded, it would seem that there may well have been more than one building along Salisbury Road, Totton, which was owned by them.

“My Mum used to work there sewing the leather Spitfire seats.”

“… there were some lathes and other machines turning out precision parts but I worked on making toys… water pistols, potato guns, little cannons that when you turned a handle they would fire half inch wooden balls with a magazine on top holding 6 balls.”

“Crolls was in a big building behind South Hants Builders next to the Baptist Church. I worked there April to December 1946 when they transferred to New Milton as SHB wanted the building.”  Philip Arnold, Old Totton Facebook.

Local information has led to identifying three possible sites. Most refer to the one where the flats of Old Dairy Close, off Salisbury Road, now stand: 

  1. “ ‘The shed’ was on the site of what became the Unigate Dairy, now flats in Old Dairy Close”, Totton, Southampton, next to 263 Salisbury Rd, Totton, Southampton. SO40 3GH
  2.  Site of Testwood Baptist Church: 283A Salisbury Rd, Totton, Southampton. SO40 3LZ
  3.  “It became the Testwood Motors premises and is now the site of the Breeze Van Centre”, 331 Salisbury Rd, Totton, Southampton. SO40 3ZU

Stanley Gurd
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

If you have any information that could help our research please get in touch!


Hants & Dorset Bus Depot
Image by Alan Matlock

For more information click here to visit the Dispersals page.

For more information on the Dispersal (1940 – 1941) click here to go to The Supermariners website.

If you have any information that could help our research please get in touch!


Hazel Hill
Image by Alan Matlock

For more information click here for Wikipedia or here for BBC Newsround

If you have any information that could help our research please get in touch!


Bob and Kathleen Hindle
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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John and Ivor Hughes
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Roy Jackman and Florrie Snelling
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Ronald Jeneway
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Ray and Gwendoline Kitchener
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Florence (Flossie) Lee
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Lowther’s Garage
Image by Alan Matlock

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RJ Mitchell
Image by Alan Matlock

Click here to find our more about R J Mitchell

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Doris Cutter and Arthur ‘Joker’ Newland
Image by Alan Matlock

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Women of the Wickham WVS – Park Place
Image by Alan Matlock

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Leslie F Pearce
Image by Alan Matlock

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Douglas Bryant Philip and Lilian Ruth New
Image by Alan Matlock

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Daisy Snelling and Reginald Ralph
Image by Alan Matlock

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Stella Rutter (Broughton)
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Don Smith
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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The Sunlight Laundry
Image by Alan Matlock

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Frederick Turner
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Denis Webb
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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Bert Wells
Image by Alan Matlock

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Margaret White (Cox)
Image by Alan Matlock

To be updated soon…..!

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