Trophy discovery reveals Spitfire designer was a champion pilot
R J Mitchell, the man who masterminded the design of the Spitfire, was also an extremely accomplished pilot according to a trophy that has recently been discovered.
The trophy in question was awarded by The Hampshire Aeroplane Club for ‘Landing Competitions’ and was won by R J Mitchell in 1936. The trophy itself features a replica De Havilland D60 Moth and belonged to a former part owner of the Aeroplane club – Owen Hill. It was donated to the Solent Sky Museum on the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain as acknowledgement of the Spitfire’s role in helping Britain win the Second World War.
It has always been known that R J Mitchell was a very skilled aeronautical engineer and also held a private pilot’s licence. But the discovery of this trophy shows that he was very good at flying and would have been able to use that perspective to help his designs.
R J Mitchell won the trophy only 7 months after the Spitfire first took to the skies. This personal achievement was all the more remarkable considering he had been diagnosed with cancer three years earlier and was still gripped by the illness despite having undergone surgery.
He died one year later, aged 42, before he could see his most famous creation enter service in defence of Britain’s freedom.
In recognition of his contribution, his name has been given to a trophy as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Grand Challenge for best ideas in defence innovation. The R J Mitchell Trophy for Innovation is fittingly made out of metal from the wing of a Spitfire.