Reginald (RJ) Mitchell. Source BBC.
It’s said that World War Two was won in the skies – thanks to a little plane called the Spitfire. RJ Mitchell, its inventor and a Potteries lad, died before he could see its final success.
Relatively little is known about RJ Mitchell, a shy man who, with no formal training in aerodynamics, created revolutionary aircraft throughout the Twenties, breaking several world speed records and winning the coveted Schneider Trophy a record three times in a row.
Despite such success, Mitchell preferred to remain in the background, always giving credit to others. As he began work on what was set to become his greatest creation, he was diagnosed with rectal cancer. He was just 38 years old.
Working on in spite of his illness, Mitchell struggled to produce an aircraft which played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain and helped to assure the nation’s freedom.
Mitchell died in 1937 – just over 12 months after Spitfire took to the skies – as he worked on a revolutionary bomber to go alongside his graceful fighter. More than 23,000 Spitfires were produced in the ensuing years, but their creator’s name faded into relative obscurity.
His son, Gordon Mitchell, is currently campaigning for his father’s work to be rewarded posthumously.