The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer
48pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99
A century ago, as Britain emerged from the horrors of World War I, Beatrice Shilling wasn’t quite like other children. Instead of spending any pocket money on sweets, she bought tools. She could make anything. She could fix anything. And when she took a thing apart, she put it back together better than before. When Beatrice left home to study engineering, she knew that as a girl she wouldn’t be quite like the other engineers – and she wasn’t. She was better. Still, it took hard work and perseverance to persuade the Royal Aircraft Establishment to give her a chance. But when World War II broke out and British fighter pilots took to the skies in a desperate struggle for survival against Hitler’s bombers, it was clearly time for new ideas. Could Beatrice solve an engine puzzle and help Britain win the war?
This is the intriguing story of a remarkable woman whose dismissal of other’s opinions about what women should/could do, and whose ingenuity, persistence, and way with a wrench (or spanner) made her quite unlike anyone else, adding to the growing list of remarkable women whose ground-breaking stories are only just being told. For even though she changed the course of the war and was awarded an OBE , she retired 20 years later never having held a top post in the Royal Aircraft Establishment because even then in 1969, those jobs were only awarded to men. Shilling is another woman to introduce students to when they are looking for heroes to investigate and model, and because this has a clear explanation of the problem with the Hurricanes and Spitfires and how it was solved, it will appeal to those with an interest in engineering and mechanics as well.
An extended biography and selected resources for further exploration round out this amazing story.