By Mark McConville
A NEW documentary film has revealed the incredible untold story of the secret Spitfire factories where civilians built thousands of the iconic warplane.
In 1940 the Germans managed to bomb and destroy the Spitfire factories in Southampton in the belief they had stopped any further manufacture of the plane.
Unknown to them there were already plans in place to manufacture Spitfires in complete secrecy in rural areas never associated with industry.
Young girls, women, boys, elderly men and a handful of engineers went on to build thousands of Spitfires in complete secrecy hidden in garages, bus depots, barns, woods and even a hotel.
This secret was not even known by their families until independent filmmaker Ethem Cetintas (64) from Istanbul, Turkey, stumbled upon it after speaking to 90-year-old historian Norman Parker, a Spitfire engineer during the war, who claimed that thousands of Spitfires were built right in the centre of Salisbury along with Trowbridge and Reading with many other towns and cities supporting them.
“The existence and size of operations of these factories has never been told fully,” said Mr Cetintas.
“They were mainly referred to as dispersal factories supplying small parts to main manufacturing plants but no one is aware they were building and flying out complete Spitfires.
“Girls and women were involved successfully in very high technology manufacture of warplanes along with ATA girls who flew them, on equal pay and equal terms with men for the first time.
“They enjoyed full independence for the first time, earning their own keep, real days of girl power. At a time of great sadness, they also had joyous times, especially with the arrival of the American GIs who outnumbered the population of many local towns and cities.
“With them came dances, Glenn Miller concerts, Christmas parties for children, Joe Louis boxing matches (a sergeant in the local US army), ice creams, chocolates and broken hearts. As one of our survivors said, ‘you’re only young once, you’ve got to have the fun where you can find it’.
“They did what they had to do and did their best without asking for any recognition, a selfless generation we owe huge thanks to.”
Mr Cetintas lives in Sailsbury and had never heard of the story before his chance encounter with Norman Parker.
He contacted his long time film partner Karl Howman (co-director/producer of the film) and a decision was made to research and produce this completely unknown, incredible story.
In production for two and a half years, all the claims were found to be true as well over 2000 Spitfires were built in the centre of Salisbury alone which is 10 per cent of the number ever made.
“A few remaining survivors from the factories were fortunately found who told their astonishing stories for the very first time which even amazed their present families as they were never fully aware what their grandparents did in secret during the war,” said MR Cetintas.
“These ladies and gents knew how to keep a secret. Many of us are aware of the work civilians did during the war such as home guards, land-girls, ammunition factories, parachute manufacture and many others besides.
“But a complete warplane, possibly one of the most advanced of its time, being manufactured by a mainly unqualified workforce is a tall order.
“If we add to that the fact it was mainly young girls and women doing the work guided by a handful engineers, completely in secret, makes this effort a very special one.
“It also points to the incredible work women did very successfully during the war, completely equal to men, which is something to honour and celebrate.
“As one of our present day RAF Spitfire pilots so eloquently said ‘that generation is completely and utterly selfless, they will not hear a word said in their praise, we owe such a debt to them but they often are not willing to hear that voice of thanks’.”
The 52-minute documentary is looking for broadcasters worldwide and will be at Espresso Media stand at MIPCOM Cannes in October 16-19 this year.
There are big-screen premieres planned for the main centres before Christmas where manufacturing took place in Salisbury, Southampton, Trowbridge and Reading and venues are being sought presently.
Local screenings have been done to packed houses with extended screenings as a result and DVD will be available for release as the outcome of MIPCOM is known.
For more information see www.secretspitfires.com.