Beatrice Shilling and the battle of Britain: Great War Time Women

By R.M. Dunn

Beatrice Shilling was Britain’s secret weapons; she was an engineer, a university graduate, an amateur racing driver and an OBE: not one of these was impeded by Dr Shilling being a woman.

Beatrice “Tilly” Shilling is best known for her work and revolutionary ideas on the Rolls Royce Merlin engine (early 1940’s), she greatly impacted the inner working of the WW2 spitfire and hurricane planes. She received her OBE in the year 1948 honouring her as an integral part of Britain’s victory! A personal victory for her, a victory for Britain and a victory for female engineers everywhere finally getting the respect they deserve.

Shilling was part of the royal aircraft establishment during the 40’s and mostly focused her work on carburettors and improving the engines of planes, she already knew she wanted to be an engineer in 1924: her mid-teens. Shilling was always driven and sure of what she wanted to do and achieve, on her university course at Manchester University (electrical engineering) she was one of two female undergraduates. After she got her degree, she became the leading specialist for the RAE in aircraft carburettors.

Shilling raced motorbikes at Brooklands during the 1930’s in addition she is also one of only three women who have ever been awarded a British motorcycle racing club gold star for the circuit at just over one hundred miles an hour.

She is a true inspiration to young women everywhere and I hope in future that more women have the opportunity to be engineers and break into the STEM careers market.


Beatrice Shilling


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