20 July 2024

Secret Spitfires ready to roll-out plaques

The Secret Spitfire Charity has announced a series of commemorative plaques to be installed across the city ahead of a memorial’s unveiling on Friday 9th July.

The plaques, designed by Norman Parker, the late Ethem Cetintas and Chris Whalley and manufactured by Leander Architectural, will take pride of place on the exteriors of buildings confirmed to have been requisitioned for Spitfire production during WWII.

Building on the spectacle of the Secret Spitfires Memorial, they will provide further recognition of the efforts of hundreds of young women, boys, elderly men and engineers who constructed approximately 2,500 Spitfires in total secrecy in Salisbury between 1940-1945 after the bombing of the Southampton Supermarine Factory.

Full list of memorial plaque sites:

  1. Anna Valley Motors Garage, now McCarthy and Stone retirement homes, Castle St: Fuselage assembly, construction of tail units and component parts
  2. Wilts and Dorset Bus Garage, 141 Castle St, Salisbury: Wing production
  3. Wilts and Dorset Bus Depot (Entrance), now Salisbury Reds, 152 Castle St, Salisbury: Fuselage assembly and engine fitting
  4. Wessex Motors Garage, now Old George Mall Car Park: Building of fuselages and tail units
  5. “Factory No. 1”, now the Car Park, Salisbury RFC, Castle Rd: Built by Supermarine, used for fitting out fuselages and engine installation
  6. “Factory No. 2”, now Janspeed, Castle Rd: Built by Supermarine, where component assemblies and wings were built
  7. Watt & Vincent, now A.J. Waters Garage, Devizes Rd: Building of fuel tanks
  8. Highpost Hotel, now The Stones Hotel, Highpost, Old Sarum: Air Traffic Control, accommodation for High Post Airfield
  9. Chattis Hill Aerodrome, now in private ownership: Where two hangars were built and used for final assembly, an experimental unit and test and flight
  10. Wiltshire Flying Club, now Chemring, Highpost: Final assembly and flight test
  11. Final Assembly Area, now Highpost Business Park: Final assembly and flight test

Nicki Beswarick, Divisional Marketing Manager for McCarthy Stone Southern, whose Monument Place development stands on the site of the former Wilts and Dorset Bus Garage, commented, “Ensuring that we retain as much of the history of the Spitfire is very important to us and with the unveiling of this plaque, we hope to keep that history alive for our homeowners and the people of Salisbury for many years to come.”

Fundraising for the Secret Spitfire Charity has resumed in earnest, with the Charity setting a new target of £30,000 on top of the £85,000 (approx.) already raised, in order to ensure that the Memorial will be maintained and protected in the future.

The charity also plans legacy activity to celebrate and commemorate the remarkable achievement of all those involved in this most special part of the war effort.

To kickstart the fundraising, Secret Spitfire Charity Chairman Chris Whalley will be walking from Dover to Salisbury, departing on the 14th June and arriving on Sunday 27th June.

Accompanied for the duration by his wife Lindsey, the route will be done in three phases; Dover to Hythe, South Downs Way and Clarendon Way. Dubbed “Whal’s Walk 2,” it is a sequel to the hugely successful “Whal’s Walk” of 2015 which raised over £10,000 for two local former rugby players whose lives were affected by tragedy. Further details and fundraising will be revealed in due course.

Chris said, “It has been a long, hard winter for everyone – but the light is at the end of the tunnel! This isn’t the beginning of the end – we are simply another step closer to the end of the beginning.”

The Secret Spitfires Memorial site has also undergone a huge transformation over the winter and spring, thanks to the green fingers of Susan Hampton Garden Plans and Hewlett Turf and Landscape Ltd.

An experienced local landscape designer and long-term Salisbury resident, Susan has designed many local private gardens and has also worked with schools and businesses including Bishop Wordsworth’s.
Her design for the area surrounding the Memorial site is based on the South Coast of England, with different levels of planting and materials representing forests, cliffs, beaches, roads and the sea itself.

Hardy plants including sedum and mini box hedging will grow to cover the gravel over the years, and be cloud pruned to ensure a stunning backdrop to the Spitfire.

Susan said, “It’s a privilege to be involved in bringing this intriguing chapter in Salisbury’s history to a wider public in such a significant way. On a personal note, it also brings things together rather neatly for me as I originally came to the city to work at the museum and am now in garden design.”

The site is now almost ready to receive the Spitfire – and plans for the unveiling will be shared in the coming weeks.

Those wishing to donate are encouraged to do so via JustGiving or by sending a cheque, ideally along with a GiftAid form, to the charity’s registered address.

Read more here:

Written by
David Harber
View all articles
Written by David Harber