Saturday, 21 April 2007

Reginald Joseph Mitchell CBE 1895-1937

Reginald Joseph Mitchell, known as R. J. Mitchell, was born 20th May 1895 and grew up in Longton in Stoke-on-Trent. His father was a headmaster before he resigned to set up a printing firm. At an early age R.J. was making things with his hands and showing an interest in flying machines. At school his intelligence and talent for maths was noted. He left school at 16 in 1911 and began work for Kerr-Stewart (a locomotive engineering company in Stoke-on-Trent) where he quickly became a skilled mechanic. Although he didn’t like the company, he progressed from the shop floor to the drawing office whilst also attended evening classes in advanced mathematics and engineering drawing. In 1917 he applied for and got the post of personal assistant to Hubert Scott-Paine at Supermarine and moved to Southampton.His rise in the company was swift, moving from Assistant to the Works Manager to Chief Designer in 1919 and then Chief Engineer in 1920. It was then that he began to design innovative seaplanes and flying boats including the Walrus, a rescue plane that was of enormous importance during the Second World War in rescuing downed RAF pilots. His designs for the Schneider Trophy contest were to win the trophy outright for Britain and lead to the crucial design for the fighter aircraft the Spitfire. Sadly R.J. Mitchell died from cancer before he could see the tremendous sucess of the Spitfire during the War.