WATERLOOVILLE’S most famous daughter was commemorated on Friday as a plaque in the town was unveiled to mark her achievements.
Inventor and World War Two pioneer Beatrice Shilling OBE, more commonly known as ‘Tilly’, was remembered at a ceremony led by the mayor of Havant, Peter Wade, on International Women's Day.
The remarkable female engineer, who was born and raised in the town, played an instrumental role in defeating the Nazis during the Second World War after she invented a safety device for aircraft Hurricanes and Spitfires.
It marked a significant breakthrough after the Allies were lagging behind their German counterparts with engines suffering potentially devastating cut-outs in mid-air
Her invention while working as an engineer for the Royal Aircraft Establishment, known as Shilling’s Penny, or Miss Shilling’s Orifice, was vital for steadying the supply of fuel to the engines of the iconic British fighters.
Tilly’s passion for engineering also showed itself in her love of motorbike racing where she was a fierce competitor who managed to get up to speeds of 106mph – an incredible effort in that era. Tilly was even said to have snubbed an offer of hand ain marriage from a man unless he could reach the same speed on a motorbike.
The unveiling at Waterlooville Library coincided with what would have been Tilly’s 110th birthday. She died aged 81 on November 18, 1990.
Mayor Mr Wade told the assembled people: ‘I’m delighted to say this is the 110th anniversary of Beatrice’s birth. We are able to recognise her work as an aeronautical engineer who carried out critical work on World War Two fighter planes at the Royal Aircraft Establishment.
‘Beatrice was responsible for correcting a serious defect in the Merlin engine fighter plane. It gives me great pleasure to unveil this commemorative plaque.’
Adele Mallows, who suggested the idea to the council, said: ‘I thought it would be a good idea so put it forward to the council who came up trumps. To have someone achieve so much who was from Waterlooville is incredible.
‘During the Second World War, how many women would have been aeronautical engineers or racing drivers?’
Havant councillor Laura Bevis, who took up the request from Ms Mallows, said: ‘Initially we wanted to put the plaque on the flower bed outside the library but this was difficult to arrange because the landowners were in London. Once we got in touch with the library they were delighted to have it.’
Following the unveiling, Geoff Smith from Havant University of the Third Age gave a talk about her life inside the library where there were also displays, photos and books.
Tilly received various achievements – with her top accolade being given an OBE in 1947 for her wartime efforts. Among her less notable commemorations was having a pub in Farnborough named after her.