IT WAS one of the biggest assaults mounted on Southampton during the Second World War.

More than 100 people were killed when Nazi bombers targeted the the Supermarine Aviation Works in Woolston twice in three days in September 1940.

It was part of Germany's attempt to disrupt production of the Spitfire - the plane that helped win the Battle of Britain.

Today members of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) will mark Battle of Britain Day by hosting the rededication of two memorials commemorating R J Mitchell, legendary designer of the Spitfire, and the Supermarine employees killed in the two raids.

The mayor of Southampton, Cllr Stephen Barnes-Andrews, will perform the ceremony at Spitfire Court in Hazel Road, Woolston, at 2pm.

The event will also mark the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force and the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Tomorrow the RAFA will hold a Battle of Britain service at St Mark's Church, Woolston, at 3pm, when Cllr Barnes-Andrews will be joined by the mayor of Eastleigh, Cllr Bruce Tennent.

The Supermarine raids occurred on September 24 and 26, when Luftwaffe pilots tried to destroy one of the main suppliers of the Spitfire.

During their first attempt 17 aircraft approached from the south and dropped 29 high explosive bombs and one incendiary.

Most of the bombs landed in the mud at the bottom of the River Itchen, resulting in little damage to the factory buildings.

But many of the workers seeking refuge in a shelter were killed when it took a direct hit. Several nearby homes were also destroyed.

The Luftwaffe launched another attack two days later, when up to 100 bombers and fighters flew up the western side of Southampton Water before diving to 5,000 or 6,000 feet to deliver their deadly cargo.

About 80 high explosive bombs were dropped on the eastern side of the river, virtually destroying the main Supermarine factory and its nearby annex.

But production was switched to 28 alternative sites around Southampton as well as other places in south including Hungerford, Newbury, and Winchester. Wings and fuselages were built at a bus depot in Salisbury.

The RAF orders placed so many orders for Spitfires that production spread to additional sites including Castle Bromwich near Birmingham.

The Hurricane shot down more enemy aircraft than the Spitfire during the Battle of Britain but it was the latter which earned a unique place in the public's affections.

All over Britain towns and businesses set up a Spitfire Fire to buy a plane in their name.

The famous fighter aircraft was designed by a man whose untimely death robbed him of the chance to see his greatest creation enjoy its finest hour.

R J Mitchell was Supermarine's chief designer and the Spitfire was the culmination of his life's work in Southampton.

He joined the staff in 1917 and rose rapidly within the company, designing a seaplane which won the Schneider Trophy in 1931 and later broke the world air speed record.

The Spitfire made its first flight at what was then Eastleigh Aerodrome on March 5 1936 but Mitchell died 15 months later, aged 42, after losing his battle with cancer.

Mitchell was buried at South Stoneham Cemetery, as was his widow Florence, who died in 1946.

In September 1990 their son, the late Dr Gordon Mitchell, marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain by unveiling a plaque at his parents former home in Russell Place, Portswood.

At the same time a statue of R J Mitchell was dedicated by the Duke of Gloucester at the Southampton Hall of Aviation - now Solent Sky Museum.