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Secret Spitfires...

Old 20th Aug 2021, 17:20
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Secret Spitfires...

Driving up to Old Sarum the other day, stumbled past a plastic Spit on a pole.

A bit of research found....

https://www.secretspitfiresmemorial.org.uk/

Interesting. Who knew?

DD
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Old 20th Aug 2021, 18:14
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Me...

As far as I recall, Spitfire production dispersal to workshops and so on in the surrounding area was planned before the Woolston works (and Eastleigh?) were bombed. Mass production also undertaken at Castle Bromwich and by Westland, I think starting with the MkV?

Recommended reading: Jeff Quill and Alex Henshaw's autobiographies if you haven't already.
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Old 20th Aug 2021, 18:34
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Yes there were dispersed sites/workshops all over wiltshire - Burlen Fuel Systems are still in business and are a handy source for old carbs etc.
High Post Airfield just up the road was a busy assembly and Flight Test site as was Chattis Hill Gallops.
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Old 20th Aug 2021, 18:47
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Originally Posted by Duchess_Driver View Post
Interesting. Who knew?
Well apart from those who saw the documentary on TV five years ago.



After the destruction of the main factories in Southampton by Luftwaffe, manufacturing of Spitfires were moved to shadow factories in small towns and villages. One such place was Salisbury in Wiltshire. Here, sheds, workshops, garages, bus depots and a local hotel were used to build parts and then assembled to complete aircraft which were then flown out by ATA girls from local fields to awaiting RAF pilots.
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Old 20th Aug 2021, 18:57
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Castle Bromwich production started with the Mk II!
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Old 20th Aug 2021, 20:11
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High Post and Chattis Hill

Originally Posted by longer ron View Post
Yes there were dispersed sites/workshops all over wiltshire - Burlen Fuel Systems are still in business and are a handy source for old carbs etc.
High Post Airfield just up the road was a busy assembly and Flight Test site as was Chattis Hill Gallops.
Both the above well worth a visit as vey little changed since their original use.
Chattis Hill now has its entrance road called Spitfire Lane so easy to find off the main road west bound out of Stockbridge. Hangar base's in the woods and hardstanding in next door field. High Post still has the original pre war small hangar. Supermarines first jets flew out of here off the grass field.
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Old 21st Aug 2021, 01:42
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Here, sheds, workshops, garages, bus depots and a local hotel were used to build parts
Visiting the Solent Sky Museum many decades ago we were shown a small wooden jig made of wood which was said to be the last remaining Spitfire jig extant, It was said that ladies would congregate at a house and sit around the kitchen table using the jig to turn out a particular fuel pipe component. A small snippet and a wonderful part of history.
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Old 21st Aug 2021, 10:15
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Mass production also undertaken at Castle Bromwich
My aunt worked there during the war fitting 'skins' which as far as I could understand, was the leading edge of the Spitfire wing.
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Old 21st Aug 2021, 11:56
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I had just unloaded a charming elderly lady from her 2-seat Spitfire "experience" , when she called over to her nephew and asked if he'd got her record book. Said book was duly found and the lady asked me what the serial of the Spitfire was. It was MJ627 and after a couple of minutes looking at her book she very firmly declared "No I didn't do this one but I did 629". Turns out she had been rivetting up fuselages at Castle Bromwich, so it was nice that we were able to complete the circle for her, so to speak.
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Old 21st Aug 2021, 20:41
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CASTLE BROMWITCH !!!!!

Originally Posted by treadigraph View Post
Castle Bromwich production started with the Mk II!
Now there is a story that that needs 'exploring'. Despite a huge investment in the latest equipment and production space where were the Spitfires when needed in 1940.
JQ and AH books broach the subject, but it seems that considering we 'could' have needed the machines in 1939 how was this facility allowed to fall so far behind in its ability to produce such an important requirement. Luckily the Luftwaffe failed to knock out the Supermarine production in Southampton when it should have done, thereby confirming that battles are frequently won by making the least mistakes.
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Old 22nd Aug 2021, 08:22
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There was a site at Trowbridge which operated from 1941 to 1958. It was mainly to manufacture wings for PR Spitfires and after assembly at Steeple Ashton, the aircraft were flown from Keevil.
In latter years it was used to make parts for the Scimitar.
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Old 22nd Aug 2021, 08:23
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" where were the Spitfires when needed in 1940."

Wikipedia is pretty correct I beleive:-


The Spitfire's stressed-skin construction required precision engineering skills and techniques outside the experience of the local labour force which took some time to train.......However, even as the first Spitfires were being built in June 1940, the factory was still incomplete and there were numerous problems with the factory management which ignored tooling and drawings provided by Supermarine in favour of tools and drawings of its own designs.[size=8333px] [/size] Meanwhile, the workforce, while not completely stopping production, continually threatened strikes or "slow downs" until their demands for higher than average pay rates were met (this was of course during the Phoney War).[size=8333px] [/size] By May 1940, Castle Bromwich had not yet built its first Spitfire in spite of promises that the factory would be producing 60 per week starting in April.

It is worth noting, however, that key players, such as Alex Henshaw, viewed the problems as primarily those of poor management during the initial phase. Workers worked twelve-hour on and twelve-hours off until bombings forced a switch to a three-shift, eight-hour system. Henshaw attended the diamond jubilee in 1996 of the founding of the CBAF, hosted by Jaguar Cars Limited in the old factory and remained fulsome in his praise for the workforce until his death.

Vickers-Armstrong: 1940–1945

After the fall of the government of Neville Chamberlain, new Prime Minister Winston Churchill appointed press tycoon Lord Beaverbrook as the Minister of Aircraft Production. On 17 May, Beaverbrook telephoned Nuffield and manoeuvered him into handing over control of the Castle Bromwich plant to Beaverbook's Ministry. Nuffield was furious and reported the incident to Churchill, but Beaverbrook countered by sending in aircraft expert Sir Richard Fairey who wrote a secret report which detailed how expensive machinery had been unused, the assembly line in chaos, and the employees not doing their work:
Labour is in a very bad state. Discipline is lacking. Men are leaving before time and coming in late, taking evenings off when they think fit. In parts of the factory I noticed that the men did not even stir themselves at the approach of the Works Manager. The labour in the Midlands is not “playing the game”. They are getting extra money and are not working in proportion for it.
Beaverbrook, who had disturbed the Air Ministry by agreeing with the vision of Air Vice Marshal Hugh Dowding that Britain at that time needed defensive fighters over attacking bombers, immediately cancelled all Castle Bromwich contracted bombers, which at that point included the Handley-Page Halifax and the Vickers Wellington. He then sent in experienced management staff and workers from Supermarine, and gave over control of the factory to Vickers-Armstrong (Supermarine's parent company). Although it would take some time to resolve the problems, CBAF achieved full production in June 1940, when 10 Spitfire Mk IIs were built; 23 in July; 37 in August; and 56 in September. No. 611 Squadron at RAF Digby the first squadron to receive the Mk II in August 1940, notably late in the Battle of Britain.

The wisdom of the shadow factory scheme was demonstrated in September 1940, when the Supermarine factory in Southampton was bombed, and production there temporarily stopped. CBAF went on to become the largest and most successful plant of its type during the 1939–45 conflict. As the largest Spitfire factory in the UK, by producing a maximum of 320 aircraft per month, it built over half of the approximately 20,000 aircraft of this type. By the time production ended at Castle Bromwich in June 1945, a total of 12,129 Spitfires (921 Mk IIs, 4,489 Mk Vs, 5,665 Mk IXs, and 1,054 Mk XVIs) had been built.
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Old 22nd Aug 2021, 11:07
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Parent Company was Vickers-Armstrongs, common error is to leave off the final 's' (as above).
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Old 22nd Aug 2021, 15:41
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II know - some of my mother's family were Armstrongs men
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Old 23rd Aug 2021, 12:30
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Castle Bromwitch and the BoB

Yes Aust55 Wiki does confirm 'some' of the issues especially the first part re the design not being 'production friendly' and the workforce element. The 'Ten in June' were in fact more like kits sent up from Southampton, and by then Beaverbrook had read the riot act and put Supermarines in charge. However it does not answer the question of why in 39 they had not grasped the serious of the situation and put an aviation company in charge even if it was not Vickers themselves. It has to be said that Hawkers had prepared very well for the forthcoming conflict by gearing up for more Hurricanes than the actual ministry order, which was just as well after the losses in France. Anyway going back to Chattis Hill (Stockbridge) I use to drive past the location for years en route to the West Country and knew nothing of its location due to the entrance road name 'Love Lane' , It has been changed now to Spitfire Lane. The original WW1 airfield was on the right hand side going 'up' the lane and the wood at the top are where the hangars were located (base's still evident) . The field on the left was used to fly out the assembled machines.
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Old 23rd Aug 2021, 18:27
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Like you Pobjoy - I used to drive past Chattis Hill regularly,it was one of my 3 alternative routes either between Old Sarum (Gliding) and home (w sussex) or B Down and home (W Sussex - in a later working life LOL),visited a few old airfields/locations over the years and checked many out from the air in my Libelle 201b which was based at O Sarum in the late 80's.
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Old 23rd Aug 2021, 19:14
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Chattis Hill

Originally Posted by longer ron View Post
Like you Pobjoy - I used to drive past Chattis Hill regularly,it was one of my 3 alternative routes either between Old Sarum (Gliding) and home (w sussex) or B Down and home (W Sussex - in a later working life LOL),visited a few old airfields/locations over the years and checked many out from the air in my Libelle 201b which was based at O Sarum in the late 80's.
Did you realise that the place existed then !!! Do not get me started on Old Sarum, another wonderful location strangled to death. First visited in the 70's by Turbulent when it was home to an ATC gliding school and the Kestrel flying group (Beagle Pup I think) Compton still ok though.
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Old 23rd Aug 2021, 19:49
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Originally Posted by POBJOY View Post
Did you realise that the place existed then !!! Do not get me started on Old Sarum, another wonderful location strangled to death. First visited in the 70's by Turbulent when it was home to an ATC gliding school and the Kestrel flying group (Beagle Pup I think) Compton still ok though.
Yes I did know about it - although I never actually walked the site for a variety of reasons,I was working weekday nights at the time and just driving between sussex and Sarum + some long x country flights left me with little spare energy for 'walkies' LOL
Yes great shame about Sarum - it was a lovely site to fly from although C Abbas would possibly have been a better thermal site if our GC had been allowed to stay/operate from there
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Old 24th Aug 2021, 06:37
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some of my mother's family were Armstrongs men
Perhaps production was delayed by your armstrong men and their sabotage. I remember reading some thing written by an individual employed as an apprentice whose job was tightening bolts in the Spitfires spar and he kept snapping the bolts through over tightening. In those days they didn't have torque wrenches and instructions were to use a spanner of a stipulated length which was meant that the average person would torque to an adequate figure, not so with the armstrong men, or ladies I guess.
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Old 24th Aug 2021, 07:00
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I used to work for Hawker Squiddeley and one of the lighthearted sayings was ...

''Hawker Born Hawker Bred - Strong in the Arm,Weak in the Head''
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