The important role Trowbridge played during the Second World War has not been well publicised, and except for those who lived in the town at that time, has been largely forgotten.

Trowbridge’s industrial strength came into its own as one of the major centres for Spitfire production in Southern England. The prototype (K5054) first flew on March 5, 1936.

The original Spitfire manufacture took place in Southampton, but this well-known location made it vulnerable to enemy attack.

It was decided to disperse Spitfire production to five areas, Trowbridge, Salisbury, Reading and Newbury, with some production remaining in Southampton.

In time, the dispersal meant that each of the areas developed its own self-contained Spitfire production unit. In October 1940, tooling and jigs for building the aircraft arrived in Trowbridge on low-loaders and lorries from Southampton.

To start with, production was set up at three sites; on the present Boots site in Fore Street, at Bradley Road, close to where the car wash is now situated, and at the Barnes steamroller works in Southwick. The present Bargain Box site was also soon commandeered.

These makeshift factories manufactured parts for a couple of years until a large purpose-built factory was constructed in Bradley Road. This enabled complete aircraft to be produced in Trowbridge for the first time.

Another, smaller factory was also built in Hilperton Road, where Kenton Drive now stands.

The body and wings were built in the Bradley Road factory, with other parts assembled elsewhere in the town before being taken to the main factory to be installed.

When complete, the fuselage, with its wings lying alongside, were transported on long, so-called Queen Mary low loaders to a purpose-built hangar at Keevil. There, the wings and propeller were attached and the aircraft made ready for action. From Keevil, female pilots would fly the complete planes to the airfields where they were needed for active service.

During the war, Trowbridge built the Mark V, IX, XII and XIV Spitfire, including from 1944, the Griffon-powered version, as well as parts for the Supermarine 371.

Production continued at the Bradley Road factory after the war, when as part of Vickers-Supermarine Ltd, it was involved in the production of the Spitfire Mark 24, the Spiteful and the naval Seafang.

It was not until the end of the 1950s that the factory was eventually sold to the engineering firm Hattersley Heaton. When that factory closed, the old wartime building was demolished to make way for one of the present retail parks in Bradley Road.

At least eight of the Spitfires built in Trowbridge still survive, four of which were found in India in the 1970s. One of these still appears in flying displays, some 60 years after it was built.

The Trowbridge connection with the aircraft that did so much to symbolise British determination and resistance during the Second World War is commemorated in the names of the two retail parks in Bradley Road, the Spitfire Park and the Merlin Park, Merlin being the name of the Spitfire engine.