As part of this year’s Salisbury History festival, you are being invited to vote on five women, all connected with Salisbury, to find your favourite. Five essays will be published to assist you in making your decision. To find out more about this years Salisbury History Festival, please visit their website – www.salisburyhistoryfestival.co.uk
THE SALISBURY FIVE – VOTES FOR WOMEN.
Welcome to the third of five essays on women who have offered a real service to Salisbury. Our thanks go to Ethem Cetintas who has provided the details for the Secret Spitfires Girls. At the conclusion of the five, we will be giving details on how you can vote for your favourite – who will capture your imagination the most?
3. SECRET SPITFIRE GIRLS
SALISBURY’S BEST KEPT SECRET – THE LADIES WHO BUILT THE SPITFIRE
It has taken 75 years for this story to come to light of how hundreds of girls, women, boys, elderly men, and a handful engineers built the iconic fighter plane the Spitfire, in secret.
Hitler was determined to destroy Spitfire production to achieve air superiority as a prelude to invasion. What Nazis did not know was that as they were destroying the main Spitfire factories in Southampton, manufacturing was being moved to secret factories in rural cities, small towns, and villages.
The City of Salisbury became one of the most important producers who built thousands of Spitfires, reaching over ten percent of total numbers ever built. Secret factories were dispersed around the city centre, hidden behind many facades of garages, bus depots, sheds in Castle Street, New Street, Devizes Road, Castle Road, along with assembly units at High Post and Chattis Hill.
One of the most important elements of the secret factories was the number of young girls and women who were over sixty-five percent of the workforce. They were a hairdresser, farmworker, shop worker one day and the next day they were building Spitfires. They became highly skilled workers building fuselages, wings, tails and assembling complete Spitfires which were then flown to RAF centres by young female ATA pilots.
They kept their secret all through their lives, even their family and friends never knew what they did and where they worked and only recently told their stories in the Secret Spitfires documentary. They sacrificed all they had to help win the war.
There will be a Secret Spitfires Memorial with a full-size Spitfire replica placed at the original factory site. Details can be seen at www.secretspitfiresmemorial.org.uk