FORTY years after the end of World War Two, a small group of co-workers were reunited at the Reading factory where they helped make one of the RAF’s most iconic fighter planes, the Spitfire.

But these were no ordinary Spitfires, three separate works were producing the photo-reconnaissance Mark IX, which was tasked with taking high-quality photographs of targets all over Nazi occupied Europe.

Reading was chosen as a production site after the Vickers Supermarine headquarters in Southampton was bombed in September 1940, it was then decided that using one factory was too tempting a target for German bombers.

Vincents of Reading (opposite the railway station), Great Western Motors (Vastern Road) and a building in Star Road, Caversham, were allocated for the construction of the Spitfire’s fuselage, wings and engines, respectively.

After the engines had been installed and all the systems had their final checks the completed aircraft were taken to Cockpole Green near Henley for test flights.

As the war escalated women were called up to work on the Reading production lines, including Rita Davis and Vera Colton, who attended a reunion in 1985, organised by Great Western Motors.

Rita told the Chronicle: “Despite the long hours morale was good, though we felt some of the men resented the girls being brought in to do the work, eventually the rib shop (an area that made the internal spars of the plane) was entirely taken over by women.”

After serving her apprenticeship at Vincents, Vera explained: “I joined with about a dozen other girls and we started doing work that had only been done by men before, it was a very friendly atmosphere. I look back on it as a very special time and I am proud of the special job we did, we sometimes had pilots visiting the works, I realise it was only a small job, but it was something wonderful.”

All kinds of skills were called for during wartime and it was soon noticed that the women workers were much better at aluminium welding, especially when making fuel tanks.

Pipe fitter, Steve Hussey from Earley, found himself working at the Caversham site where he fitted the controls and engines to the Spitfire.

He admitted that: “We worked ‘turn-about days and nights’, 12 hours a day, but it was a well-knit assembly line, with no wrangling about who did what.”

Altogether 1,600 people were engaged on Spitfire production in Reading during the war, for all of them it was a demanding and skilled task, with long hours and tight schedules.

In total, 950,000 women worked in munitions factories during the Second World War, and they even had their own ‘theme tune’ entitled “The Thing-Ummy-Bob”, sung by legendary entertainer, Gracie Fields.