The statue to RJ Mitchell on display
at the Science Museum, London
A spitfire in the distinguishing
black and white stripes used
for identification on D-Day
The word ‘genius’, like many in the English language,
has become much over used in recent years and in
consequence greatly devalued. There are, however,
few men who more richly deserve this description
than the ‘Forgotten Hero’ Reginald Joseph Mitchell.
In so far as the general public recognises his name,
Reginald (RJ) Mitchell is forever linked as the
designer of the iconoclastic Spitfire fighter plane.
His achievements, however, were so much more.
Within Freesasonry, even fewer will know of
his membership of the Craft from aged 26 until his
tragically early death aged 42.
Mitchell was born in 1895 at Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, one of five children. His father was a Yorkshire
teacher who later owned a significant printing
company in the area. Mitchell senior was himself a
Freemason and the founding organist and later Master
in 1923 of Jasper Lodge No. 3934 meeting (as it still
does) at Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. It was into this
Lodge, on Friday, 13th May 1921, that R J Mitchell
was initiated as a Lewis.
Mitchell’s education and early years gave little
indication of what was to come. There is anecdotal
evidence that as a youngster he was already fascinated
by the new invention called the airplane (it should be
remembered that it was only in 1903 that the Wright
Brothers achieved powered flight and several more
years before any working airplane flew over Britain).
Otherwise his education was unremarkable. He
was clearly bright, and a competent athlete but, as is
so often the case, little to mark him out at that stage
of his life. Indeed, at his father’s insistence, Mitchell
was apprenticed at 16 to a local electrical engineering
company, a job he apparently hated. He also attended
night school, where he later taught for a time.
It must have come as a bolt from the blue when,
having applied for and secured a job in faraway
Southampton with the small Supermarine company,
he told his family of his immediate move to take up
The company he joined was a modest part of the
newly-created British aviation industry, and at the
time Supermarine specialised in building seaplanes.
Such planes had many advantages during this period,
not least the ease of finding somewhere to land!
It was at Supermarine that R J Mitchell did all his
work as an aircraft designer. When the company was
absorbed into the Vickers industrial empire in 1928,
Mitchell was made a director, and his financial was
situation enhanced considerably.