MANY buildings, warehouses and factories spread across Southampton were used as production centres for the building of Spitfires.

The plan was to disperse the production across a wide area in an attempt to cut down on the effects of enemy bombing.

Before the dispersals had begun proper, the bulk of the production was carried out at the Supermarine factory in Woolston.

A number of years ago, Supermarine's Harry Griffiths told the Echo how he cheated death when the factory was bombed in September 1940.

"Tuesday 24th started as a normal working day, but just after lunch time the anti-aircraft guns around us opened up before any warning had been received.

Daily Echo:

"Staff in the office block rushed down the stairs to the mechanical test room which was partly below ground level, while production personnel left the works and started to disperse in all directions.

"At Itchen works people started to go across the road and through the tunnel under the railway to shelters, but the railway bridge received a direct hit and a group of employees were trapped, as also were some who had made it to one of the shelters on the works boundary.

"The result was appalling with 42 people killed many of them buried and some blown to pieces. Upwards of 150 people were injured - many seriously.

"Woolston works was not hit in this raid and only one bomb hit Itchen works. It has been said that people would have been safer by staying in the factory, than by attempting to reach the shelters. One thing is certain-the lateness of the warning saved many lives, as earlier evacuation would have enabled many more people to go straight into the path of the attack.

"Given earlier warning, I would have been in the shelter that was hit!

"Everyone who was still standing started to rescue those trapped and help the injured, but the works-trained ARP organisation would have been overwhelmed without the assistance of the police, fire and rescue services who were quickly on the scene.

Daily Echo:

"German reconnaissance would have revealed the lack of success of this raid. In fact, there was a short warning while rescue work was going on and a high-flying aircraft was observed passing over.

"Thus it was inevitable that there would be a further attempt and this happened two days later this time there was more warning, but most employees had lost faith in the shelters and made their way in all directions to get as far away as possible.

"The raid was heavier, with twice the number of aircraft and concentrated mainly on Woolston works, but another shelter was hit in the field beyond the railway.

"With a small number of others, I was in the control room, which was shaken by stacks of bombs falling we heard and felt the final group coming towards us and the last one fell on the woodmill building which was immediately alongside.

"It hit a girder at first floor level and exploded, taking away the whole of the canteen floor from over the top of us and demolishing one end of the connecting bridge across the road.

"Steel doors were blown open and debris came into the treatment area. The fuel oil tanks at the rear of the building were punctured so, with the risk of fire, it was decided to evacuate the girls from the tunnels and, forming them into small groups, we led them to public shelters along the road.

Daily Echo:

"My group landed in the cellar of a local pub we could all have done with a drink, but the all clear went so we sent the girls home and went back to the works to see if anything needed doing.

"In this raid about 35 people were killed and 60 injured the rescue services were again in full control and we were told to make our way home. I don’t think we could have done much else!

Every year, when September comes around, I give thanks for a late warning and a first floor girder which have enabled me to be telling this story."