A Simple Answer for a Tricky Problem: The Story of Beatrice Shilling

A Simple Answer for a Tricky Problem: The Story of Beatrice Shilling

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and not all of them directly go into battle. This was the case of Beatrice Shilling; a British engineer and motorcycle enthusiast, who managed to fix a perplexing flaw in one of the most iconic aeroplanes of WWII.

The Spitfire is an incredibly agile aeroplane and all who flew in one would speak of how dexterous they were. German pilots would recall how difficult it was to grab one ‘by the tail’. However, the original Rolls Royce Merlin engine couldn’t handle negative G force. The throttle valve would get flooded with fuel as the plane was pitched hard nose down. A tell-tale puff of black spoke would be seen. The engine would stall, just for a moment, but in the middle of a dog fight, this could be fatal.

Engineers began to try and work out a solution to this problem, but it was Beatrice Shilling who provided the perfect stopgap. She placed a brass ring inside the engine to restrict fuel flow to the minimum amount necessary, thus allowing quick negative G manoeuvres without any loss of engine power. This ingenious invention became known as “Miss Shilling’s orifice.”

The story of Beatrice Shilling is just one of millions of WWII stories. We’re proud to display a number of those stories in our Courage & Devotion exhibition here at The Atkinson. The exhibition remembers the lives of the Polish Airmen based at RAF Woodvale, the iconic Spitfire and some of the stories associated with the area during World War 2.


Posted on 16 September 2021 under Exhibition, General news

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