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R.J. Mitchell

The Spitfire man

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.


1895Born 20th May
1911Left school and apprenticed to Kerr Stuart & Co
1917Moved to Southampton and joined Supermarine
1919Made Chief Designer
1920Made Chief Engineer alongside his role of Chief Designer aged only 25
1922Sea Lion II won the Schneider Trophy
1925S4 Schneider Trophy entrant crashed during the race
1927S5 Schneider Trophy entrant won at Venice
1928Supermarine is taken over by Vickers and it’s written into the contract that Mitchell should stay with the company for at least 5 years.
1929S6 Schneider Trophy entrant won at Calshot 
1931  S6b Schneider Trophy entrant won at Calshot, winning the race outright for Britain.  Shortly after the S6b recorded a new World’s airspeed record of 407.5 mph
1934RJ designed his last flying boat the ‘Stranraer’
1935Contract is signed to develop a prototype for the RAF. With the success of the high speed floatplanes it was a natural progression to develop a plane for the RAF, speed being a consideration for any fighter plane
1936First flight of prototype Spitfire K5054.
1937RJ dies from Cancer
Schneider Trophy winners:    Sea Lion II (1922), S5 (1927), S6 (1929), S6B (1931) 

Most remembered for:     Designing the fighter plane the Spitfire


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