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Celebrating 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, inspired by the schoolgirl who helped us win the Battle of Britain

  • 15th July 2020

Inspired by BBCs coverage of young school girl Hazel Hill who helped design Spitfires, we take a look at WAAS collections to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

I have been incredibly inspired by the BBCs coverage of 13-year-old school girl and talented mathematician Hazel Hill who RAF acknowledge helped win the Battle of Britain.   Her story has led me to look at some gems in the WAAS collection to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

 

Having a young daughter of my own, Hazel’s story is so encouraging and hopefully it will inspire many young people especially girls to continue with STEM subjects and careers.

 

Hazel helped her father who worked in Air Ministry to hurriedly calculate that 4 guns were not enough and that 8 were crucial for Spitfires and Hurricanes. I think uncovering Hazel’s contribution at such a young age is key to keeping younger generations connected to remembrance of WW2.  For more details on the BBCs coverage of Hazel see this link:

BBC: the schoolgirl who helped design the Spitfire        

Usually this would be an opportunity to mention up-coming events at the Hive, for instance we hold science and space themed events and activities for children during school holidays throughout the year but with the Covid-19 crisis it’s not possible. Once we start to run events as normal you can keep a check on our Explore the Past events page.

With Hazel’s contribution in mind I was motivated to look more locally, at our WAAS collections.  For instance, we have a photograph of our own ‘star’ Spitfire in the form of a Mark 16, which we are using with courtesy of  Berrows Newspapers Ltd.

Perdiswell. Spitfire, Worcester City: Droitwich Road, dated 1967, copyright of Newsquest at Berrows Newspapers Ltd, WPS 37917

The Mk 16 model was released at the very end of WW2 and the plane photographed was in service with the RAF until 1949.  It was later was maintained by the 187 (Worcester) Squadron Air Training Corps and displayed in Perdiswell until it was removed in 1957 to be given luxury treatment to star in multi-million Battle of Britain film of 1969. This weekend perhaps some of our young researchers might like to see what interesting facts they can find out about the iconic Spitfire plane!

The 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain is also the perfect time to look back at a recording we have of World War II pilot Wing Commander Smith (1915-2013) who was interviewed in 1990 by BBC Hereford and Worcester about his experiences. He donated his copy of the recording to our archives and we use this interview with kind permission of BBC Hereford and Worcester. As far as we are aware Wing Commander Smith is the only Battle of Britain pilot for whom we have an interview, so it really is a treasure.

Click here to listen to Wing Commander Smith’s recollections of being shot down during the Battle of Britain.

Click here to read a transcript of Wing Commander Smith’s account.

What an amazing man he was. You might also be interested in reading Wing Commander Smith’s obituary which describes the incident on 12 Aug and includes photos of him and his squadron pre-battle:

Wing Commander Edward Smith Obituary

 

by Zoe van Well, Archivist

 

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