We have had many varied and interesting aeroplanes on display at Parham, but I doubt whether any created more excitement than this Supermarine Spitfire in 1993. Despite the fact that the Hawker Hurricane bore the brunt of those fighting during the Battle of Britain, it was the Spitfire that captured the hearts and minds of the general public. During the Blitz of 1940 there were very few atheists taking to the air raid shelters. It was common practise for parents to disperse their children among several shelters, in order to decrease the chances of losing everyone. A common prayer for children was: "God bless mummy and daddy, and God bless the Spitfire pilots." Somehow the very word Spitfire had that element of passionate resistance so necessary when an invasion was imminent. Yet R.J.Mitchell wanted to name his masterpiece, " The Shrew".
A girl with a fiery temper was commonly known as a proper little Spitfire at that time, and it was one of the Supermarine bosses who persuaded the company to use the expression for the company's new fighter plane.
More than 20,000 Spitfires were built between 1938 and 1948 but that is by no means the end of the story. Airframe Assemblies Ltd., at Sandown I.O.W. can supply you with a restored air worthy Spitfire for around 1.3 million pounds, if you are prepared to wait for three or four years. The enthusiasm of Steve Vizzard and his team of around twenty engineers and technicians is on a par with those who actually flew them. Check with Steve in advance for a convenient time to pay them a visit.
In the public relations world names are terribly important, hence celebrities nearly always re
invent themselves after taking expensive advice. Mitchell was a determined and uncompromising genius by all accounts, a kind of engineering Geoffrey Boycott. But he was an employee of Supermarine and had to accept the majority opinion. Is it too much to claim that on this occasion the board at Supermarine got it right, and that the name Spitfire was an inspired
choice, one that still brings a smile to the faces of people of all ages?
What’s in a name?
By Peter Holloway