Reginald Joseph Mitchell born on 20 May 1895 and pasted away on 11 June 1937, was an English aeronautical engineer who worked for Supermarine Aviation. Between 1920 and 1936 he designed many aircraft. He is best remembered for his racing seaplanes, which culminated in the Supermarine S.6B, and the iconic Second World War fighter, the Supermarine Spitfire.

R. J. Mitchell

20th May 1895 – 11th June 1937

 

The first Spitfire prototype K5054, unpainted form during early 1936

Supermarine Walrus (1935)

R.J. Mitchell was born at 115 Congleton Road, Butt Lane, Kidsgrove, and Staffordshire, England. After leaving Hanley High School, a co-educational grammar school in Stoke-on-Trent, at the age of 16, he gained an apprenticeship at Kerr Stuart & Co. of Fenton, a locomotive engineering works. At the end of his apprenticeship he worked in the drawing office at Kerr Stuart and studied engineering and mathematics at night school.

In 1917 he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works at Southampton. Advancing quickly within the company, Mitchell was appointed Chief Designer in 1919. He was made Chief Engineer in 1920 and Technical Director in 1927. He was so highly regarded that when Vickers took over Supermarine in 1928, one of the conditions was that Mitchell stay as a designer for the next five years.

Between 1920 and 1936, Mitchell designed 24 aircraft. As Supermarine was primarily a seaplane manufacturer, this included several flying boats such as the Supermarine Sea Eagle, the Supermarine Sea King, the Supermarine Walrus, and Supermarine Stranraer, and racing seaplanes. Mitchell also designed light aircraft, fighters, and bombers.

He was first noted in this period for his work on a series of racing seaplanes, built by Supermarine to compete in the Schneider Trophy competition. The Supermarine S.4 was entered in 1925, but crashed before the race. Two Supermarine S.5 aircraft were entered in 1927, and finished first and second. The Supermarine S.6 won in 1929. The final entry in the series, the Supermarine S.6B, marked the culmination of Mitchell's quest to "perfect the design of the racing seaplane". The S.6B won the Trophy in 1931 and broke the world air speed record 17 days later.

Statue of R. J. Mitchell in Hanley town centre against the Potteries Museum