Museum Treasures: Sopwith Camel propeller

19/01/201811:26Leave a Comment

The designer of the iconic Spitfire, Reginald J. Mitchell (1895 – 1937), attended Hanley High School from September 1909 to November 1911. He retained a great affection for the school and in subsequent years was a contributor to the school magazine. Mining subsidence caused the closure of Hanley High School in 1940. It was replaced by Chell Secondary Modern School later Chell High School, which was itself replaced by Mitchell High School.

It was appropriate that when the new school named after Reginald Mitchell officially opened on 23 March 1990 it had an aircraft propeller fixed within the entrance hall as a reminder of the great designer. This wooden propeller, believed to be a personal possession of Mitchell was presented to the school by his family.

The myth grew that the propeller was from a Spitfire, but in fact it was taken from a Sopwith Camel and is a type used as standard from November 1917 to the end of the First World War. It is stamped with the initials of the manufacturer Boulton & Paul who made these propellers in large numbers for the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force.

Perhaps the graceful lines of this wooden propeller influenced the young designer in his pursuit of the design of the fast, beautiful and deadly flying machine that eventually emerged as the glorious Spitfire.

We would like to thank members of the Wooden Propeller Forum for investigating the history of this propeller.

Written by Alison Nicholls (Curator, Local History)

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