Stella Meets Her Spitfire

Little did I know when I started this website a few years ago how one thing would lead to another. A series of incremental steps led to wartime draughtswoman Stella Rutter having the opportunity to visit the Boultbee, which she knew was only a few miles from her home. As one of the founding members of the Spitfire Society, Stella has on occasions been to Spitfire events but not to Boultbee. So near yet so far.

My initial chance meeting with Stella was at The Spring, Havant, This year Stephen Mosley fulfilled Stella’s wish to visit Boultbee. Go to Stella’s page to read the start of her story.

Stella Rutter at Boultbee Academy Goodwood

Stella Rutter meets a Boultbee Spitfire, Goodwood 2017. Copyright Stephen Mosley

I will leave it to Sussex aviation engineer Stephen Mosley to relate how Stella met Boultbee. Thus he fulfilled her dream, all those years after D-Day. He has also provided the first positive identification of one of the signatures on Concord Morton’s painting of the Schneider Trophy winner. (G. W. Nicholas)

Stephen is writing here under his pen name of Actuarius. He is also an artist from the Futurist school of art, his idol being C. R. W. Nevinson.

Concorde by Futurist artist Stephen Mosley

Concorde painted by Stephen Mosley in ‘Futurist’ style

My thanks to Stephen for his contribution and his kindness to Stella. Anyone wanting to contact Stephen can do so via the Contact page.

Here then is his story of how the Past met the Present with a Futurist.

An Evening with Stella – By Actuarius.

The opportunities that come about in life are not always straightforward or predictable. Thus I started with an incomplete group of autographs, personally obtained over 20 years ago, and ended recently via a convoluted process with finally completing the set.

At the start of 2017 I made a couple of fairly rash investments through a well-known auction website, both being items related to the Schneider Trophy. This was an early 20th Century air race that ended when Great Britain won it for a third time in succession, in 1931, and therefore got to keep the trophy forever. Having done the deed I thought I ought to research new purchases but both of them proved to be rather difficult to find information on.

Supermarine S6B Schneider Trophy Winner

Supermarine S6B Schneider Trophy Winner. Copyright Stephen Mosley

 Coincidentally, if anyone knows anything of 1929 commemorative “smoking stands” or the large model of the Supermarine S5 that was on display at Calshot up until the 21st Century, then I would appreciate your getting in touch.

However, it was during this exercise that I stumbled across a painting of an S6 by Concord Morton on the Solent Aviatrix website run by Anne Grant. It was chiefly notable for having a number of signatures under the image. The working hypothesis is that these were probably Supermarine staff, possibly those who had an involvement with the actual aircraft. However there was nothing to back this up.

Supermarine S0595 Schneider Trophy winning aircraft painted by Concord Morton

Supermarine S0595 Schneider Trophy winning aircraft painted by Concord Morton

The story now jumps back a couple of decades to 1997 and the presentation of a hand written book, listing the engineering staff at Supermarine who had worked on the Spitfire, to the Solent Sky museum in Southampton. My wife saw an article about it on the morning news and a rapidly arranged afternoon off ensured that I could attend. The staff at Solent Sky were very kind in allowing me to loiter for the price of a standard admission ticket whilst the purchase of a couple of copies of Chaz Bowyer’s “Spitfire” from their shop ensured I had something suitable to collect autographs in. It was an honour to meet the Supermarine staff present, and important to me that these largely unsung heroes and heroines should know the high regard they are held in. Aircrew and ground staff are rightly lauded by all but without the superlative aircraft the engineers provided their efforts would have been for nought.

Supermarine Staff signatures

Supermarine staff signatures collected by Stephen Mosley 1997

Back to the present day and this collection of signatures provided a handy reference for the painting. I contacted Anne to pass this on and it was during our conversation that she mentioned a member of Supermarine’s staff was still living nearby in Emsworth – and asked if I would like to meet her. Of course most of us would require no more than a moment’s thought before saying, “yes please!”

So it was that on 1 March 2017 I headed over and had a very pleasant evening chatting to Stella Rutter. As Stella Broughton she had become the first draughtswoman at Supermarine, transferring to their technical publications department from being a tracer at HMS Excellent on Whale Island in Portsmouth.

Stella told me how, when she joined, Supermarine’s design office was located in a hanger in the field at the back of Hursley Park House. The weekday commute was from digs near Winchester and then walking through the formal gardens. Weekends were spent back with her parents in Bedhampton near Portsmouth so Mondays were more trying with a cycle commute to a friend’s at the bottom of Portsdown Hill and then a walk up to the top for the bus. Week in, week out despite blackout regulations, snow or “tip and run” raids by the Luftwaffe – and repeated in the reverse direction every Friday. The dangers and corruption of the everyday under wartime conditions were brought home when she told me how, whilst at Bedhampton, a bomb had exploded just past the end of their garden and the night’s sleep would invariably be interrupted by the sound of mobile anti-aircraft guns being moved up and down the coast.

Stella Rutter at Supermarine Drawing Office Hursley

Stella Rutter in the Supermarine Drawing Office 1943

Her move to Supermarine came about due to her father meeting Gerald Gingall, the head of the Technical Publications Department, and suggesting her for a vacant position. She believes her success was down to having inherited a notable ability for drawing from her parents (her father being the Vice Principle of the College of Art in Portsmouth), and from having older brothers meaning she was unperturbed by working in an entirely male environment. In her opinion she gained a mutual respect with the rest of the staff because in attitude she was “as much a man as any of the others”. When other women joined the staff later she found she had to be careful of her approach and activities because she “didn’t wish to end up being ostracised or the subject of malicious gossip.” Such considerations may seem almost unbelievably unenlightened to our modern sensibilities but these were different, and difficult times.

Stella worked as part of a small team under Gingall, “ a very stocky man”, virtually exclusively on the Spitfire; and covered all aspects of the aircraft. Their area in the hanger was located next to the obscured “secret section” and because theirs was a small section, and possibly because Stella was something of a novelty, the frequent visitors tended to stop off for a word.

Thus Jeffrey Quill, chief test pilot and Joseph Smith, Mitchell’s successor, were known to her. She got on well with her boss and was even chosen to join him at home one evening to work overnight on a drawing that needed to be completed urgently.

I asked what it was like to work at Supermarine given the legacy of the S6, after all this was the catalyst for our meeting. She was sure that she’d worked with people who had been involved with the Schneider Trophy aircraft and this was part of what gave them a sense of being the “crème de la creme”.

Spitfire taken by Stephen Mosley

Spitfire flypast. Copyright Stephen Mosley

Let me put it this way”, she confided, “We were the company of the year.” There are further tales of pouring tea for Monty and being involved in a special party before D-Day, but that can wait for another time. As I was leaving she suddenly remembered how, when she was about 8 years old, she had climbed out onto the valley between the two pitches of the roof at her home to watch an aircraft fly up from the Southampton end of the Solent, turn and fly back. Conjecture I know, but the dates match so surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility that I was hearing the first hand account from a witness to that final Schneider Trophy win?

Today Stella is bright and articulate but has trouble accessing detailed memories, I suspect this being attributable to the ME she mentions in her excellent autobiography, “Tomorrow is D-Day.” There was so much I wanted to find out about her work and the people she knew but, frustratingly, a lot of these memories remained locked out of reach. Thankfully there is her autobiography, only written a few years ago, and enough still accessible to provide unique insights into her career and her life. Such considerations matter little though when you reflect on the singular honour of sitting and listening to these memories being related in person.

For some reason, although she was present, I’d missed the chance of getting Stella to sign my book in 1997 but her autograph now sits on the page surrounded by those of her colleagues – which is exactly how it should be.

As a postscript, Stella had mentioned how she knew of the Spitfires at the Boultbee Academy just down the road at Goodwood, but that she hadn’t had the chance to go and see them. Well, Boultbee are always keen to help reunite veterans with the aircraft, so a month and a half later my wife picked her up and we had a very pleasant hour in the hanger. Our sincere thanks to those who made this possible and who gave up their time for it.

Stella Rutter and Stephen Mosley ay Boultbee Academy Spitfires

Stella Rutter with ‘Actuarias’ and Boultbee Spitfire. Copyright Stephen Mosley

Advertisements

Gee Whiz This is Great – D-Day 70 Daedalus and Lee on the Solent

1st Dakota lands at Daedalus Airfield for D-Day 70 Commemorations.

1st Dakota lands at Daedalus Airfield on 2nd June 2014 at Lee Flying Association Hanger. Copyright Anne Grant.

American, Canadian and British visitors to Lee-on-the-Solent, over the D-Day 70 Commemorations, were bowled over by the show put on by the townspeople. One American was heard to say, ‘Gee Whiz this is great’, and he was right. What an atmosphere the town had all week.

Daedalus Airfield, Lee-on-the-Solent, D-Day 70, USA Army Vehicles

USA Army vehicles and Red Cross Tent on Daedalus Airfield for D-Day 70 Commemorations. Copyright Anne Grant.

From the Dakotas and other aircraft arriving on Monday, (you can see more aircraft by using this link) to the Lee High Street Festivities in the afternoon and the Lancaster and Spitfire Flypast on Tuesday evening, the people of Lee did the town proud.

Lee High Street crowds enjoying the D-Day 70 festivities, Lee on the Solent

Lee High Street crowds enjoying the D-Day 70 festivities. Copyright Anne Grant.

Families from all around Gosport, Fareham and Southampton area arrived by the thousands. They came into Lee to view the flypast and soak up the atmosphere. They took up their positions on Lee and Stokes Bay beaches and waited for the aircraft. On cue, the sun shone.

Lee High Street shop window of Navy Uniforms dressed for D-Day 70 Commemorations

Lee High Street shop window of Navy Uniforms dressed for D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

It is said an army marches on it’s stomach. Well there was an army of customers sampling the food on offer in Lee.

Teashops were full. Coffee and ice cream sales must have gone through the roof.

I haven’t seen queues that long outside the Fish and Chip shops for many a year. We British know how to queue!

Cafes were doing a roaring trade.

The Wine Bar was overflowing into Pier Street, thronged with uniformed service men and admiring young women. Forging new Special Relationships?

Families dressed up in 1940s clothes. Shop windows were filled with posters and memorabilia to represent the same era. Shopkeepers wore clothes depicting ‘doing their bit’ for the wartime effort.

A 1947 Chevriot caused a stir among car enthusiasts.

A 1947 Chevrolet PFF 437 in Lee on the Solent High Street.

Chevrolet PFF 437 in Lee on the Solent High Street, 3rd June 2014. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

Even the High Street flower troughs were used to depict D-Day events, such as Gold Beach and Omaha Beach.

Lee High Street Flower Troughs dressed for D-Day 70 as Gold Beach.

Lee High Street Flower Troughs dressed for D-Day 70 as Gold Beach. Copyright Anne Grant.

To keep everyone’s spirits up, there was dancing in the streets by the Jitterbug Jivers. Wartime swing singers performed live for the jivers.

Rule Britannia in Lee High Street D-Day 70

Rule Britannia. Copyright Anne Grant.

Britannia ruled draped in her Union Jack.

Churchill was fund raising for the British Legion.

Dad’s Army Home Guard kept order, but nobody panicked. Everyone kept calm and carried on.

Home Guard and his wife, D-Day 70 Lee High Street, Lee on the Solent

Home Guard and his wife, D-Day 70 Lee High Street. Copyright Anne Grant.

Sweet Lee somehow managed to get around the wartime rashioning of sweets, and children from 9 to 90 were able to buy their favourite ‘olde tyme’ sweets.

Solent Mobility Centre came to the rescue of anyone who suffered a fit of the vapours, by having a Red Cross Nurse on hand and provided a Morrison Shelter and a WRAF incase of aerial attack.

Green Grocers ‘All Seasons’ kept the Home Front healthy with fresh fruit and Veg. Dig For Victory!

Soldier and Working Girl, Fish Deli, Lee High Street, Lee on the Solent, D-Day 70

Soldier and Working Girl, Fish Deli, Lee High Street. Copyright Anne Grant.

Land Girl Maddy from the Fish Deli wished them luck as she waved them goodbye (Soldier and WRAC)

WRAC and Working Girl, Fish Deli, Lee High Street, Lee on the Solent

WRAC and Working Girl, Fish Deli, Lee High Street. Copyright Anne Grant.

‘Allo, ‘Allo, Rene and his Land Girl were ‘iding ze French Resistance, though not very well it ‘ast to be said, at ze Tea Party Cafe. Herr Flick was not fooled by it!

Al and Lisa at the Art Pod (Gallery 77), posed for the occasion as Land Girl and wartime Shop Keeper. They created special commemorative D-Day mugs for that essential cup of Rosie Lee.

The good-natured crowd enjoyed it all.

Then they converged on the shore to await the flypast ot the Lancaster and two Spitfires, also the Dakotas.

Lee High Street Flower Troughs dressed as OMAHA Beach for D-Day 70

Lee High Street Flower Troughs dressed as OMAHA Beach for D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some older citizens, living witnesses to the 1940s era, enjoyed looking in the shop windows and reminiscing about wartime rationing.
Wartime fashion hung on the washing line.
People could sample food using wartime recipes.

Pier Street Shop dressed with Wartime Memorabilia in Lee on the Solent

Pier Street Shop dressed with Wartime Memorabilia. Copyright Anne Grant.

Lee Flying Association deserve special praise for their remarkable organisation and smooth running of the D-Day Re-Enactment Parachutists event. They also arranged for local school groups to meet some of the D-Day Veterans, such as Arthur Bailey, which it should be remembered is who and what it was all about. This modest man from Portsmouth went right through the war. Then when it was all over, he volunteered for the Parachute Regiment.

This was a moment to pause and reflect on the beach scene today, full of spectators awaiting the flypast. So very different to 70 years ago. In 1944 the shoreline was full of over 160,000 servicemen awaiting embarkation for France. Among them was my uncle and his cousin. What were they thinking at that time? Arthur Bailey gave me some insight. He says he was one of the lucky ones. He went to Normandy on D-Day plus 1 and he believes that is what spared him.

Arthur Bailey, D-Day Veteran, at Lee Flying Association Hanger for D-Day 70 Commemorations

D-Day Veteran Arthur Bailey from Portsmouth at Daedalus. Lest we forget, Arthur spoke to school groups.
Copyright Anne Grant.

“The first wave of troops who went on D-Day took the first attack from the Germans who were waiting for them. There was so many of us they couldn’t get us all across in one day. When I went the next morning and we got as far as The Needles, Isle of Wight, and we were all asked if we wanted to write a will. Then I knew we were in for something big.”
Humbling words.

Below is a selection of the images that try to convey some of the atmosphere of a special week. You had to be there to really appreciate it.

Winners of Best Dressed Family for D-Day 70 competition, Lee on the Solent. Contributed by Solent Mobility Centre.

Winners of Best Dressed Family for D-Day 70 competition, Lee on the Solent. Contributed by Solent Mobility Centre.

Yes, gee whiz, it was great!

(Just a thought, but next year will be 70 years on from the end of WW11 and the anniversary of V-E Day in May 2015.

Can we hope there will V-E Day 70 Street Parties?)

 

All Seasons Green Grocers, Lee on the Solent High Street

All Seasons Green Grocers, Lee High Street. Copyright Anne Grant.

Plane spotter Anorak Super Constellation Staff

Plane spotter Anorak Super Constellation. Copyright Anne Grant.

Food cooked using war time recipes

Food cooked using war time recipes. Copyright Anne Grant.

Plane spotter anoraks.

Plane spotter anoraks. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

Dig For Victory at Lee Florist, Lee High Street, D-Day 70

Dig For Victory at Lee Florist. Copyright Anne Grant.

Flypast of Lancaster and Two Spitfires at D-Day 70, Lee on the Solent

Flypast of Lancaster and Two Spitfires at D-Day 70, Lee on the Solent. Copyright Anne Grant.

Lancaster and two spitfires over the Solent, D-Day 70, Lee-on-the-Solent

Lancaster and two spitfires over the Solent, D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

Lee Shop Window Make Do and mend, Keep Calm and Carry On

Lee Shop Window Make Do and Mend. Copyright Anne Grant.

Dakota overhead of crowds at Lee on the Solent for D-Day 70

Dakota overhead of crowds at Lee on the Solent for D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

Bloomers WW2 Fashion, Lee High Street, Lee on the Solent

Bloomers WW2 Fashion. Copyright Anne Grant.

Wartime swing singers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70, Lee on the Solent

Wartime swing singers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

Jitterbug Jivers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70, Lee on the Solent

Jitterbug Jivers, Lee High Street, D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

Sweet Lee sweet shop, Pier Street, D-Day Commemorations, Lee-on-the-Solent

Sweet Lee sweet shop, Pier Street, D-Day Commemorations. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

Christine from the Lee Players dressed as a Land Army Girl.

Christine from the Lee Players dressed as a Land Army Girl. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

Lisa and Al Warner of Gallery 77 Lee High Street dressed for D-Day 70

Lisa and Al Warner of Gallery 77, Lee High Street dressed for D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

Nurse and WRAF from Solent Mobility, Lee High Street

Nurse and WRAF from Solent Mobility, Lee High Street. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

 

 

 

 

Churchill and Lee Players, Lee High Street, D-Day 70, Lee on the Solent

Churchill and Lee Players, Lee High Street, D-Day 70. Copyright Anne Grant.

 

French Resistance and Land Girl, Tea Party, Lee High Street, Lee on the Solent

French Resistance and Land Girl, Tea Party, Lee High Street. Copyright Anne Grant.