musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Spitfire

Retrospective: Northwards to Northam

As a follow up to my last retrospective post about Woolston and Weston I have decided to do the equivalent post about the other side of the Itchen bridge towards Northham, St Denys, Swanwick and Bitterne. Bear in mind that this all happened nearly 5 years ago so my memory may be wobbly when it comes to detail. To give you some idea of what I am waffling about; this is what it looks like north of the Itchen Bridge. I did a post about Northam Train Depot way back in 2013 and it is worth having a squizz there too. The pano below shows the view north of the bridge with the Griffon Hoverworks operating by the big structure on the right. (image is 1500×443)

If my memory serves me correctly whenever I did the major excursion in this direction I used the Northam Bridge by St Mary’s Stadium (on the left bank of the river). There are really 4 bridges involved in this area of the river: firstly there is the Itchen Bridge, then the Northam Road Bridge, then a railway trestle bridge and finally Cobden Bridge.  

Northam Road Bridge

Railway trestle bridge

The Cobden Bridge crosses the Itchen and joins the suburbs of St Denys and Bitterne Park. The present bridge dating from 1928, but there has been a bridge on this site since 1883.

Cobden Bridge

On the Bitterne side of the bridge is a triangle and that is where the you will find a monument in the image below that was designed by Kelway-Pope and bequeathed to Southampton by the late, Mrs Henrietta Bellenden Sayers, “In evidence of her care for both man and beast”. After 45 years in its original location in Above Bar it was then moved to its present site in 1934 when roadworks were being carried out in the city centre.  There are two plaques on the clock, as well as a small drinking fountain. The first plaque dates from when it was inaugurated way back in December 1889

Before the Itchen Bridge was built the vehicular and pedestrian traffic across the river was via the Woolston Floating Bridge, it operated from  23 November 1836 until 11 June 1977 but sadly that is now history, and although there is still a chain drawn ferry in Cowes I have still not been on one!

Moving even further back in time there used to be a village at this historic crossing point since before the middle ages, and with it being an important area because of the aircraft industry, it became a prime target for the Luftwaffe during the war and the area was heavily bombed. The end result was that the village was totally devastated and  never restored.   

(1500×869) looking south towards the Itchen Bridge

My one excursion into this area was to photograph South Stoneham Cemetery and I think I caught a train to St Denys as it was close to the cemetery.  The cemetery is very close to Southampton Airport and I had a strange encounter while I was there. One of the graves I was looking for was that of RJ Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire, I was standing at his grave when I heard an aircraft, it was unlike anything I had heard before and I looked up and flying overhead was a Fairey Swordfish of World War 2 fame. It was  a poignant thing to see while standing in front of the grave of the designer of such a successful aircraft. 

South Stoneham Cemetery also has a memorial commemorating those who were killed at the Cunliffe-Owen aircraft factory on 11 September 1940. 52 people were killed and 92 were injured in this incident. 

When war broke out the factory was used  to produce parts for the Spitfire and as such became a target for the Luftwaffe. Unfortunately the reflections from the glass really makes the Roll of Honour almost impossible to take decent photographs of.  

The cemetery has 66 CWGC identified casualties buried in it from both wars, as well as 79 casualties identified on a screen wall from the former Southampton Crematorium.

And, on a roundabout close to Southampton Airport is a large Spitfire replica on display. 

Southampton is Spitfire territory and I have documented a few of the Spitfire related references in the city. 

Heading back from South Stoneham I could walk along the cycle path that runs next to the railway line heading towards Southampton. The trains to Portsmouth and onwards trace a circuitous route to cross the river at the railway trestle bridge and then head back the way they came but on the opposite side of the river. The next station being Woolston. 

The one discovery I made in my walk was an area that was designated as Chessel Bay Local Nature Reserve, I suspect you would call it a tidal mudflat but I am no real expert. 

(1500×589)

Unfortunately there was not much to see apart from mud and slime and the opposite bank of the Itchen in the distance, although that in itself had some interesting things afloat (or on the hard). 

The other discovery I made was a series of derelict boats on the mud right up against a housing complex next to where the Itchen Bridge meets land. (50.916270°  -1.383975°)  The biggest wooden boat must be quite old, and I was fascinated by her. If only there was a way to find out her history. 

There were quite a few derelict boats visible, and I have to admit I am puzzled why they have seemingly been abandoned, some appear to be in a reasonable condition too, they even have running water in them. The other odd thing I saw on my walks was bicycles that appear to have been dumped into the river. Why? Don’t ask me, but one possibility is that they had been stolen elsewhere and then dumped. Personally I think it is part of the national psyche to throw bicycles, prams, shopping trolleys and traffic cones into bodies of water. In the case below I can imagine a little girl hurling her bike into the water because it was not pink enough!

There are numerous boatyards on either bank of the Itchen and the river is very popular with leisure boaters and moorings extend for quite a distance.  Not everything was abandoned though as I did see a number of boats that appeared to be inhabited, or in regular service. This beauty is called Cymyran Bay  and she is an “Extreme Semi Swath (XSS) Offshore Support Vessel.”

One vessel that caught my eye was this small coaster that probably hasn’t been anywhere in years.

The boatyards on the river were fascinating places but they are also private property so I could not explore them properly, but could only admire them from a distance.

The Northam bridge is not the only bridge on that particular road. There is a nice railway bridge close to the train depot that affords a nice view of trains passing down the line towards to wherever they go, 

This trestle bridge has a makers plate on it from 1908, and was made by “Braithwaite & Kirk, West Bromwich”. In the years when boat trains used to run there is a good chance that this line connected to the pierside platforms. Trains also stop here when St Mary’s Stadium is in use and there is a dedicated line especially for them. 

 

My visit to this area would have been incomplete if I did not include Jesus Chapel in Pear Tree Lane.  It has the unique distinction of being the first new church to be built in England after the English Reformation, and is the oldest Anglican church anywhere in the world. 

It just goes to show how much history is all around if you really go looking for it, or bump into it by accident.  That pretty much covers a lot of my excursions north of the Itchen Bridge. I spent many a hot day up there looking for graves and of course admiring the view. The shipyards and aircraft industries on the Itchen are now history, yuppie pads have taken their place, and what were once working class areas are now the property of the rich, with access to the river rapidly closing as more and more complexes get erected. As I have said before: Southampton has changed; the war bringing about enough disruption that the character of the city was lost, and successive politicians have wreaked havoc on its ancient fibre. Its maritime heritage revolves around a ship that sank on its maiden voyage, and floating blocks of flats have replaced the ships of commerce and migration. It is still a fascinating place to visit though, and if I was able I would quite happily live there, because I consider Southampton to be my home town. 

DRW © 2013-2018 Retrospectively created 02/05/2018

Updated: 23/05/2018 — 12:19

Curse this war!

Its that time again… Wartime in the Cotswolds with the GWSR (Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway). The theme? The Battle of Britain. So grab your gas mask and tin hat and follow me….

Last year I attended a similar event and it was amazing and I was really hoping for the same on this day. The weather has been changeable this whole week, but there was the promise of sunshine for later in the day with no rain in sight. I headed out early in the morning to grab a bus to Cheltenham and another bus to Cheltenham Race Course station. On the way I spotted Captain Mainwaring on his way to the station too!

I just hope that Private Pike isn’t lurking in the bushes somewhere.

Although the Americans had set up camp outside the station and that can only mean silk stockings and chewing gum for the locals. 

ARP had set up their barricades too and were checking tickets and dishing out ID cards. Naturally they were looking out for Fifth Columnists too. 

Unfortunately our train was the class 117 diesel railcar  that I always seem to end up travelling on. http://www.gwsr.com/planning_your_visit/what_to_see_and_do/DMURailcar_1.html She is not my favourite rail vehicle. I would have preferred a steam engine, but this was wartime after all, we have to make do with what we have.

The train was full, and many of the passengers were dressed in period clothing or military uniforms, it never ceases to amaze me how the British tackle something like this with so much enthusiasm, and I would really like to thank them for paying homage to a bygone age with so much enthusiasm.

And then we were off….  Our destination: Gotherington

The view out of the window was Britain in Spring, it was really beautiful, especially the huge fields of Rapeseed.

Gotherington was like a military camp, and I expect will remain like that until tomorrow when the event finishes.

It is a very quirky place and one day I must really bail out and have a look around. 

The next stop on the line is Winchcombe, I had visited the town in May last year and I was considering doing it again today, although it really depended on train timings and my own energy levels.  At Winchcombe the train to Toddington stops and waits for the train from Toddington. It is single line working between stations and a token system is used to ensure that accidents don’t happen.

It too had been taken over by the military who were cleaning their rifles and doing what soldiers have done since the days of yore.

Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?

As an aside, there was even a military dentist in his own private rolling surgery, just ready to declare you dentally fit in 7 days!

And then we heard a whistle in the distance and the oncoming train appeared around the bend.

The loco in charge was 4270, a  “42xx” class tank locomotive. She was running bunker first to Cheltenham Race Course, and would carry on with her journey once we had departed. 

The next stop was Toddington, which is really the current endpoint of the GWSR, although they do run trains to Laverton halt further up the line, and in a few years time there will be another station on the line as they extend the rail network closer to the mainline all the time.   Toddington is also where the loco shed is and the majority of displays were being held. There were a few that I had my eye on too..

As usual there was a mixed bag of cars, military vehicles, squaddies, GI’s, airmen, sailors and all manner of uniform on display, along with the usual bag of stalls selling militaria or hobby-est items. There was even a tank just in case there was an invasion.

I had seen her last year at the Welland Steam and County Fair, and just in case I need a reminder, she is a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer.

The jaw dropper however was the reproduction Spitfire that was on display. I am struggling to find a definitive identification of the aircraft, but it appears as if she is based on the aircraft that Johnnie Johnson flew (MKIX EN398). More information on the “Spitfire Experience” may be found on their website. 

And yes, the engine did run while I was there and it was awesome. Unfortunately it did not run at full power, but it was really something to experience.

Meanwhile, back at ground level, I strolled down to the workshops to see whether there was anything there that interested me. Fortunately it was not a wasted trip because there were a number of diesels in the yard.

GWSR has a number of heritage diesels and they are quite handsome beasties, although against a steam engine they are reasonably insignificant.

Class 47376 (D1895), a Brush Type 4.

Class 37 no: 37215

Class 26043 (D5343)

Class 45/1 45149 (D135)

At the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway they too had a train at work, although I did not go for a ride this time around. They were using “Tourska” , a 1957 Chrzanow build with works number 3512.

There was still quite a lot to see so I did the rounds once again, hoping to find a few warships for my collection, but there were lots of distractions.

It was really time to head towards Winchcombe, the train at the platform was headed by the 1950 built 7820 Dinmore Manor, a Manor class light mixed traffic locomotive.

We were supposed to leave at 11.30, but somewhere along the line the timings of the trains went haywire and we sat for an additional 20 minutes. I know there is a war on but….  

Winchcombe was crowded, and our altered timing meant that we had to wait for the train from Cheltenham Spa to arrive before we could leave. 

Fortunately ENSA was at hand to provide some wartime melodies, but I think seeing Laurel and Hardy really made my day.

And then I got suspicious because I spotted Oliver Hardy on the cellphone!  It was another fine mess he got Stanley into.

I had decided to not continue into Winchcombe because the messed up times just didn’t fit in with my plans. Remember, Cheltenham Race Course is not the end of the line for me. I had to get back into Cheltenham, catch a bus to Tewkesbury and then hoof it to where I lived. It was a long stretch ahead of me and I was tired.

Then the air raid siren went off……

and once again I could not help think of what it was like living in wartime Britain. The ever present threat of aerial bombing, rationing of food, the long lists of casualties, propaganda, soldiers, aircraft overhead, overzealous ARP members, children being evacuated, family that never returned home. This was the reality between 1939 and 1945, this small experience that I had was nothing like the real thing, and I am fortunate that I did not experience it. When I see the people dressed in their period uniforms and glad rags I cannot help but think that these were the sort of people that took it on the chin and gave it back 100 times more. I suspect the British enjoy these re-enactment events because they are reminded of what their parents and families went through in those dark hours of war. It is their way of saying: “We have not forgotten, and never will.”

And as the Home Guard peddled along the platform on his way to the NAFI, I felt a tinge of pride because I understood what Churchill meant when he said….

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

And then the train departed for Cheltenham Race Course with me on it.

The War was over, the Battle of Britain won. 

The event was great, although last years was definitely better, there was much more to see and experience than there was this time around. The delayed trains were an irritation because you do not want to be stuck in a place like Winchcombe of Toddington with no way of getting home. And of course my own stamina is not as good as it used to be. I tire very easily nowadays and that’s not a good thing at all. Still, sign me up for next year if I am still around. Now where did I leave my tin hat?  

© DRW 2017-2018 Created 22/04/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:48

RAF Museum Cosford (1)

This fine gray day saw us heading for the RAF Museum in Cosford,  It was sheer luck that I made the connection between the museum and the area where I was, and once that connection is made there is no getting away from it. Like most aircraft museums, Cosford has a lot of really large exhibits, and they do take up space in a hanger, so many of the images do not show a complete aircraft,  Quite a number of my favourites are at Cosford, although there are still a lot of aircraft that are part of the collection but which are housed elsewhere.
Without further ado, grab your camera and lets go!
 
The gate guard is the old faithful, The Hawker Hunter. Probably one of the finest looking fighter jets ever designed. This is the 3rd Hunter that I have seen, and she is a beaut.
 
I won’t waffle about the visitors centre, it is a slick operation, and the toilets are clean, those are important things to me. Unfortunately it does seem as if every munchkin in the county was visiting the museum as well, and there were crocodiles of kids everywhere.
 
I had recently been reading a book about the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, and there was one in front of me. The grey weather and grey aircraft blended in together, rendering her difficult to distinguish from the background. The Nimrod does not stand out as being one of the most attractive aircraft ever built, but it served a difficult role successfully for a number of years before being retired.  Also present in this space was a Lockheed Neptune, another very successful design that has served faithfully for many years.
Jetstream T Mk1

Jetstream T Mk1

Hawker Siddeley Dominie

Hawker Siddeley Dominie

 Having dealt with the aircraft outside the visitors centre, it was time to head across to the “Test Flight” hanger. This was a place of wonderous things, many of which I was totally unaware of. British Aviation produced many aircraft and were at the cutting edge of design, and while many designs were failures, they often ended up becoming responsible for even greater things. 
 
The first aircraft that really caught my eye was the BAC TSR-2. This aircraft was years ahead of its time and extremely controversial, as well as really over budget.  It is a very controversial aircraft, and at the end the project was shelved by politicians and the existing aircraft and tooling was destroyed. The aircraft on display is the most complete survivor of the project.  
 The TSR-2 was definitely one of those moments when you see something incredibly rare.
Other aircraft in the test flight gallery are:
British Aerospace EAP

British Aerospace EAP

Hunting H126

Hunting H126

Sepecat Jaguar GR. 1/ACT

Sepecat Jaguar GR. 1/ACT

It was time to leave the Test Flight and head across to the “War in The Air” Hanger. I was expecting great things here, considering the aircraft that had been in service with the RAF during the war years. The most iconic of them all is the Supermarine Spitfire. And the example below is a Mk1, and it is the oldest surviving in the world. 
 
Just across the path is the other iconic warbird from the Battle of Britain, The Hawker Hurricane. The display aircraft is a MK IIc. 

 However, an equally rare lady graced my field of vision, and she was swarming with munchkins intent of doing what munchkins do best (ruining my pics?). 

The Consolidated Catalina is yet another iconic aircraft that has become legendary, famous for the many roles that it worked at, this flying boat is right at the top of the list of famous flying boats. This particular one, a PBY6A is outfitted in the search and rescue role, and dos not have a front turret.

 
I was very tempted to tarry a lot longer at this aircraft but it was becoming increasingly more crowded, so I sauntered along to the next aircraft of interest, which is a German Focke-Wulf FW190 A-B. These were formidable aircraft, and were well respected on both sides. 

 
And, very close to the FW190 was one of those odd aircraft that pushed the envelope, but wasn’t really too much of a success. The Messerschmitt Me163 “Komet”. These early rocket powered aircraft were really short mission aircraft, and often were more dangerous to the pilot than the bombers they were trying to shoot down in that brief few minutes of powered flight. 
  
It was not a very large machine, and would jettison the wheels shortly after take-off and land on the retractable skid.
 
Possibly one of the few aircraft that stood any chance of coming vaguely close to the Komet was the versatile, plywood built de Havilland Mosquito. Also known as the “Wooden Wonder”. 
 
The Mosquito was probably one of the most versatile aircraft in the air, and was extremely popular with its crews, sadly, the nature of the their construction was as such that very few of them survive to this day.
 
Sadly, one of the biggest disappointments of the day was the Avro Lincoln, the successor to the Avro Lancaster. It was placed in a very awkward position, and roped off in such a way that access to the back of it was impossible, and ironically they mention the rear gun turret in the guide book. I did not get good images of this aircraft, and she is a tad on the big side so getting even close to fitting all of her in the shot is impossible. 
 
And finally, special mention must go to the Hawker Harrier that seemed out of place in this hanger, but given how well it performed its duty in the Falklands War it really does deserve a place in history.
Not all aircraft will earn a place here, there are limitations as to how many images I can use, yet I do not really want to leave anything out either. 
FMA Pecura

FMA Pecura

Hawker Hind

Hawker Hind

Fieseler Storch

Fieseler Storch

Kawasaki K100

Kawasaki K100

Yokosuka Ohka II

Yokosuka Ohka II

Sopwith Pup

Sopwith Pup

It was time to move onto the largest hanger, or at least the strangest shaped one, and that was the “Cold War” Hanger. I was expecting great things from here, and I just hoped that photography would be not too complicated.
The Cold War era produced a lot of aircraft, and of course dictates of the era meant an increasing degree of sophistication. The museum does have a Sabre, but I could not find it, and that would have been a perfect introduction to the Korean War Era, there is however, a MIG 15. (I believe the Sabre is hanging from the ceiling).

 
And of course the old Stalwart Canberra and Meteor. Unfortunately a number of important aircraft are hanging from the roof, so it is really an underside that can be seen.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF14

Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF14

English Electric Canberra PR-9.

English Electric Canberra PR-9.

Actually the full sized aircraft hanging from the roof are quite effective in some instances, and the best example of this would be the BAC Lightning seemingly flying directly out of the roof.

It is very effective, although you do need a good lens to take a close look. There is an upper viewing deck, but it does not extend anywhere as far as it should, and that is my biggest gripe. You cannot really see some of the aircraft in their entirety, although you can get a great view of the  Hawker HunterT-7A passing by.

The MIG21 was an important aircraft in its era, and a number ended up flying in Southern Africa.  Compare the shapes of the Hunter to that of the MIG.

The bitter irony is that one of the aircraft on display is a General Dynamics F111F-CF, the same aircraft that was bought and used as an excuse to scrap the TSR-2. The F111 is a very capable aircraft, but did cost a lot more than was budgeted for and was subject to a lot of delays. 

 
The old stalwart Buccaneer is only represented by a cockpit, and that is a pity because it was a legend in service. 
 
There are three exhibits that I will deal with over the page, However, looking over the railing to the floor below there are a lot of large cargo aircraft that may seem familiar.

In that image there is an Avro York,  Douglas Dakota IV, and a Handley Page Hastings T3. These are visible from the gallery, and I was not yet at that level.
© DRW 2015-2018. Created 28/03/2015, images migrated 28/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:08

Imperial War Museum at last

One of the places I wanted to see from my bucket list is the Imperial War Museum. The irony is that when I lived in Kennington the IWM was just up the street but it was closed. All I could do was stand outside that magnificent building and grumble and mutter and take pics of those magnificent guns that stand outside it.

The building itself is an interesting one too as it was the site of the former Bethlehem Royal Hospital known as Bedlam. It is a magnificent building too, but there is very little visible that could connect it to it’s former role. 
 
 
The crowds heading in the direction of the museum was not a good sign, and the 6 coaches parked outside did not auger well either. Once past the doors my biggest fears were justified when I realised the place was packed. I had been given a 2.30 slot of the World War 1 galleries, but seeing as it was already just after 12.00 I did not think I would be able to find enough to keep me amused for 2,5 hours. The crowds made it very difficult to get anywhere close to anything.
 
 
As you enter you are confronted with the central courtyard as above, my eye was drawn to the Spitfire MK1 almost immediately. She just looked amazing, and I was determined to get as many other shots of her as I could. The World War 1 Galleries were housed on the ground floor but I was not scheduled to visit those till 2.30 so headed up the stairs. It was even more crowded here and extremely difficult to look at anything. 
 
 
I was very curious about the the blue nosed object sticking out over the landing and it turned out to be an Italian Human Torpedo, and it was fantastic. Having an open cockpit you could see the complicated controls used to operate the vehicle, and again I was left thinking about how difficult it must have been to operate one of these under wartime conditions. 
 
  
Next to the chariot was a pile of wreckage, and I was puzzled because I could not find a information card that said what it was. I eventually found out that this is part of the wreckage of the midget submarine X7 that was lost on the mission to sink the Tirpitz. I had seen the intact X24 during my visit last month to the Submarine Museum at Gosport, and this was an interesting link between the two vessels. 
 
One of the more endearing images I have of the IWM is the piece of  a Lancaster that the museum had. I recall watching the TV series The World At Warand one of the interviews was held with that Lanc fuselage behind the interviewee. That Lanc relic rested very close to this spot. Unfortunately, getting a semi-decent image of it was impossible. 
 
That aircraft was the one thing that I had on my list for the museum, everything else was really just a bonus. It is however one of those items where the interesting bits is out of reach, a platform level with the cockpit would have made this so much nicer to view, but in itself it is an awesome relic. There were other items here that were interesting, but the crowds made it very difficult to actually see anything, naturally the selfie brigade was out, as were the seemingly stalled people who stood and never moved. This museum is one to savour, not one that you need to struggle with. 
 
I headed upwards, to another level, and then another, slowly being defeated by hordes of people and vaguely hoping that I would find a toilet and quickly. The really quiet areas were the portrait galleries, and they had some magnificent works in them, but photography wasn’t allowed so I cannot boast about what I saw. At each landing I stopped and looked at that Spitfire and Harrier, looking for an all encompassing shot.
 
  
I went into the Holocaust exhibition, and it was really excellent, telling the a comprehensive story as opposed to a hodge podge of bits and pieces, there were a lot of personal items on display, and a lot of video displays expanded on the overall story within. The audience was very muted in here, and it was a very effective display. 
 
On the whole though a lot of what I saw was not really in my field of interest, as it dealt with the Korean conflict and the Gulf conflict, there was also emphasis placed on Britain and how it came through the war and the period afterwards.  It is a lot of information that has to be moved through, and I do wonder whether they are trying to cover too many bases in too small a space. 
 
I had covered the museum in an hour, and to be honest was not going to hang around for another 90 minutes for the WW1 galleries, although they are pretty much the most important part of the museum at this point in time. I had a train to catch and headed out the door.
I will be brutally honest and say that it did not meet my expectations. There were a lot fewer tangible items on display, and some items were really minor things that did not have much of a focal point. The crowds were terrible and I expect that was because it was school holidays and a Saturday, and of course the museum had been closed for so long. I do admit that there were a lot of research stations and stuff that I probably did not even get close to; I prefer seeing items as opposed to images, and there was really a shortage of those. I probably need to go back one day when it is quieter and take my time over the museum, but that won’t happen for awhile. The bookshop had some interesting titles, but quite a lot were not price marked and the shop itself was laid out badly. I expected to walk out there with heaps of books, I came out with a museum guide and that’s all.
 

The most popular parts of the museum are really the areas devoted to the two World Wars, and that’s where the huge crowds were. The other areas did not attract as much attention, the portrait galleries were really very quiet, although the Holocaust display was packed.  Maybe one day when it is quieter? I don’t know but I really felt let down by the whole experience. I really felt that the expectation exceeded the the reality. Maybe it is because I have been to other museums that just seemed so much better. Highlights were definitely that Lancaster and the Spitfire, the rest were just so-so. The War Museum in Johannesburg was infinitely better from the perspective of exhibits. 

*Update June 2016.*

I revisited the Museum in early June 2016 and my impressions as before still stand. I did get to see the Jack Cornwell gun which is what I was after, as well as the Ashcroft and WW1 galleries, and they did add a lot to the experience. But, I still came away unimpressed. I cannot put a finger on why though, but I suspect it has to do with the lack of tangible exhibits. 

Random images.

 

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 19/04/2016. 9 more images added from 2016 trip 26/06/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:32

The Spitfire Legacy

Southampton is Supermarine territory. That most famous of World War 2 fighters was born in this town and there are a number of references to it. I believe that the Supermarine assembly plant used to be on the one bank of the Itchen River where the Itchen Bridge currently is and  and it is possible that some of the original factory buildings are still there. Further up towards Southampton Airport is the South Stoneham Cemetery, and within its walls/hedges/fences is buried RJ Mitchel, the man who designed this iconic aircraft. 
 
There are a number of interesting references to the aircraft in and around Southampton, and I have not found all of them yet.  The most obvious one of course is the sculpture of the original K5054 that may be found on a roundabout at Southampton Airport. Formerly Eastleigh Aerodrome, it was the site of the first flight of the aircraft in March 1936.
 
 
Reginald Mitchell is buried in South Stoneham Cemetery, which is on the approach path to Southampton airport, and while he died in 1937, he never lived to see the formidable aircraft that it turned out to be.
A bit further away, near Hamble-Le-Rice, is the Air Transport Auxiliary Memorial, and its main artwork is yet another Spitfire in all its glory. 
 
Oddly enough, there is only one example of the real aircraft in Southampton, and that is at Solent Sky Museum close to the harbour. 
 
 
This particular aircraft, a MK24 (PK683), was one of twenty seven converted from MK22’s. It would have been powered by a Rolls Royce Griffon engine. Interestingly enough, the museum also houses Supermarine S6A.
Finally, the Spitfire is also remembered at a complex called “Spitfire Close” which is almost on top of where where the original Supermarine factory used to be on the Itchen River. A Spitfire has been laid out in paving bricks, and at ground level may not be too noticeable, but from the bridge that towers above it you can plainly see the iconic wing shape of the legendary aircraft. 
 
There is a Memorial Plaque in front of the paving.

The whole complex has a Supermarine motief.

Although the real cherry on the cake is outside the complex, and I would have missed it if I had not known it was there.

The plaque is not easy to read, but in essence it reads:

In Memory of the Designer of the Legandary Spitfire Aircraft
REGINALD JOSEPH MITCHELL 1895-1937
On this site the first Spitfire was built by The Supermarine Aviation
Works (Vickers) Limited. Spitfires and their pilots played a decisive 
Part in the Battle of Britain 1940. This plaque was unveiled by
Mr Alan Clifton M.B.E.  BSr  FRAES

I do know there is a Spitfire House somewhere in Southampton, as well as a harbour launch called Spitfire, although I suspect Seafire would have been more appropriate.
And there is this strange mural on a subway wall near the stadium.

But I wonder what it was like all those years ago when the first Spitfire took off from Eastleigh and soared in the sky above, I am sure nobody recognised that a legend had been born.  

 
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