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.
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 09/06/2016