RJ Mitchell. A life in aviation.
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RJ Mitchell at the Science Museum

RJ Mitchell on show to mark the 65th anniversary of
the Battle of Britain

RJ Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire, is being featured in a major exhibition, Inside the Spitfire - Personal Stories of Britain's Most Famous Plane, which opened to the public at London's Science Museum (www.sciencemuseum.org.uk) on Tuesday 16 August. The exhibition, which is free, is located on the second floor in the Ingenious Gallery and will be open from 1000-1800 hours daily (excluding 24-26 December).

A 'deconstructed' Spitfire (generously made available, on loan, by the Royal Air Force Museum), displayed in pieces and stripped down to its original structure, offers a spectacular view of this icon of design and engineering which will show the complexity inside the apparently simple elegant Spitfire shape, revealing the celebrated Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon engines alongside enlargements of original blueprints and cutaway drawings.

A statue of RJ Mitchell, made of approximately 400,000 individual pieces of stacked Welsh slate, was unveiled by Sidney Frank on 15 September as the centerpiece of the exhibition.

Photo of Spitfire with wings removed - Click to enlarge Photo of paint being stripped from the metal - Click to enlarge
Close-up photo of metalwork - Click to enlarge
Photographs showing the restoration of the donated aircraft in progress (click photos to enlarge)

Andrew Nahum, the Science Museum aeronautics curator, said: "The Spitfire exhibition will examine R J Mitchell's legendary creation, showing the human, industrial and social stories behind the design, manufacture and success of the Spitfire. The inspired engineering design and mass production of the Spitfire were critical to national survival in the Second World War, and the exhibition will also feature the large number of women who came into aircraft production to cope with the huge wartime demand."

Personal stories will be on display from the people who built, maintained, and flew the aircraft - charting the rise of the Spitfire from design marvel to international symbol of hope and resilience. Letters, mementos, papers, security passes, medals, models and rare photographs from the immense Castle Bromwich Spitfire factory will be exhibited, as well as transcriptions of personal accounts from a number of nationalities.

The exhibition will also give context and a setting to a specially commissioned statue of R J Mitchell, and trace Mitchell's career at the Supermarine aircraft company in Southampton from 1917 to his death in 1937.

Inside the Spitfire will coincide with the 65th anniversary of the turning point of the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire continues to conjure up images of incredible sacrifice and triumph, testament to the enduring power of the most famous British fighter plane of World War Two. The Spitfire was a design that carried the hopes of a nation, and this exhibition will argue that this type of design creativity is still essential to national life today.

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