Supermarine Reunion

A Supermarine Reunion was held at Solent Sky Aviation Museum,  Albert Road, Southampton to on 21 June,  2013 to celebrate the 100 years since Noel Pemberton Billing started his small marine aviation company, Pemberton-Billing Ltd on the east bank of the River Itchen, alongside the Woolston Floating Bridge in 1913. The telegraphic address chosen was ‘Supermarine’ referring to craft that flew above the water, rather than ‘Submarine’ which was  below the surface.

In 1916 Noel Pemberton Billing became an MP and his colleague Hubert Scott-Paine bought the factory and immediately renamed the company Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd, the same year as a young Reginald Mitchell joined the company. He very soon became the Chief Designer and started to build his famous design team, and one of the first he appointed was Joe Smith who was destined later to become Chief Designer. Reginald Mitchell sadly died in 1937 and the pressure was on to get the Spitfire into full production. Joe Smith was to set about developing the prototype Spitfire through 24 Marks to the fighter greatly feared by the Germans in World War II, including the Seafire, the naval version of the Spitfire, followed by the Jet aircraft, concluding with the Scimitar. Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd became Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Ltd when it was purchased by Vickers (Aviation) in 1928.

Many attending the reunion had contributed their own family and personal accounts of the day to day life working in the design and technical departments, as well as the shop floors of Supermarine Aviation, Southampton for the book ‘Spitfire’s Forgotten Designer: The Career of Supermarine’s Joe Smith’, published in April 2013. However, some contributors who live abroad or in various parts of the UK will also be joining the reunion celebration and meeting colleagues they have not seen for many years. A Celebration Booklet was written especially for the occasion and is still on sale at the Solent Sky Museum  or from this site.