Beatrice Shilling was a pioneering engineer in Britain’s race to dominate the skies at the start of WWII. Obsessed with speed, she raced motorbikes and gained an MSc in Electrical Engineering, marking her out as an unusual woman from the start. Working at RAE, she invented the solution to the design flaw that caused the deaths of British pilots when their Spitfires lost engine power and spiralled out of control during dogfights with the Luftwaffe.
Her simple gadget was cheekily known as ‘'Miss Shilling’s Orifice’. This small object was fitted to the Merlin engine, allowing the Spitfire to engage on equal terms with German planes thereby helping the RAF to gain dominance in the crucial aerial conflicts of the war.
Rachel O'Neill, writer, said: "This is a one-act play which was first staged at Nuffield City Space Studio as a 'work in progress' as part of the Make It SO Season, featuring emerging writers and artists from Hampshire. This is the next iteration of the play and features professional Hampshire actors, Stacy Hart and Francesca McCrohon. It’s directed by Dan O’Neill, whose work was most recently seen as the movement director for the Channel 4 series, Humans. and upcoming TV shows Alex Rider and Worzel Gummidge. This play is in stark contrast to my previous play, Sir Walter's Women, but both deal with the unseen and personal lives of their protagonists."
Tilly and The Spitfires aims to tell the story of Tilly’s groundbreaking discovery, of her intimate relationship with her friend Muriel, and her frequent clashes with those in authority as she strives to make her voice heard in a war run by men.
The performance takes place at Winchester Discovery Centre, 21 September, 8pm. Admission is free but booking in advance is advised.