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British Industrial History

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Reginald Joseph Mitchell

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R. J. Mitchell CBE, FRAeS, (1895-1937) was a British aeronautical engineer, best known for his design of the Supermarine Spitfire.

1895 May 20th. Born at 115 Congleton Road, Butt Lane, Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, the son of Herbert Mitchell, a Printer, and his wife Jane.

1911 Living at Victoria Cottage, 1 Meir Road, Normacot, Longton, Stoke On Trent: Herbert Mitchell (age 46 born Holmfirth, Yorkshire), a Lithographic and Letterpress Printer, Bookbinder and Stationer, Employer. With his wife (married eighteen years with five children) Eliza Jane Mitchell (age 45 born Longton, Staffs.) and their children Hilda May Mitchell (age 17 born Talk oth Hill, Staffs.), Clerk employed in the above business; Reginald Joseph Mitchell (age 15 born Talk oth Hill, Staffs.); Herbert Eric Mitchell (age 14 born Talk oth Hill, Staffs.); Evelyn Doris Mitchell (age 12 born Longton, Staffs.); and George William Mitchell (age 9 born Longton, Staffs.)

After leaving Hanley High School at the age of 16 he gained an apprenticeship at Kerr, Stuart and Co of Fenton, a locomotive engineering works.

At the end of his apprenticeship he worked in the drawing office at Kerr Stuart and studied engineering and mathematics at night school.

1917 Joined Supermarine at Southampton.

1918 Married Florence Dayson. They had a son, Dr. Gordon Mitchell (1920–2009).

1919 Appointed Chief Designer.

1920 Appointed Chief Engineer.

1927 Appointed Technical Director.

1928 When Vickers took over Supermarine, one of the conditions was that Mitchell stay on as a designer for the next five years.

Between 1920 and 1936, Mitchell designed 24 aircraft including light aircraft, fighters and bombers. As Supermarine was primarily a seaplane manufacturer, this included a number of flying boats such as the Supermarine Sea Eagle, the Supermarine Sea King, the Supermarine Walrus and Supermarine Stranraer. However, he is best remembered for his work on a series of racing aircraft, which culminated in the Supermarine S.6B, and the famous Supermarine Spitfire fighter.

The S.6B was a British racing seaplane developed by Mitchell for the Supermarine company to take part in the Schneider Trophy competition of 1931. The S.6B marked the culmination of Mitchell's quest to "perfect the design of the racing seaplane" and was the last in the line of racing seaplanes developed by Supermarine that followed the S.4, S.5 and the Supermarine S.6. The S.6B won the Trophy in 1931 and later broke the world air speed record.

1932 Awarded the CBE for his contribution to high-speed flight.

In August 1933, Mitchell underwent a colostomy to treat rectal cancer. Despite this, he continued to work, not only on the Spitfire, but also on a four-engined bomber, the Type 317.

Unusually for an aircraft designer in those days, he took flying lessons and got his pilot's licence in July 1934.

In 1936 cancer was diagnosed again, and subsequently, in early 1937, Mitchell gave up work, although he was often seen watching the Spitfire being tested. Mitchell went to the American Foundation in Vienna for a month.

1937 June 11th. Died age 42.

His ashes were interred at South Stoneham Cemetery, Hampshire four days later.

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