Leading Lady of World War II

21st July 2015

A collection of Brooklands Motor Cycle Racing Club, pre-war badges, year clasps and racing trophies belonging to a lady considered to be one of the most influential women in securing victory over the Germans in World War II has been sold at Salisbury auctioneers Woolley & Wallis in the Silver, Coins & Medals sale.

Beatrice Shilling was responsible for the aircraft modification known as ‘Miss Shilling’s Orifice’, the device which countered cut-out or engine failure when Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes performed a negative G force manoeuvre.  The lives saved by this simple amendment is immeasurable.

Beatrice was born in 1909.  As a school girl she displayed a natural aptitude for engineering and by her mid-teens she had set her mind on an engineering career, almost unheard of in a time when women stayed at home whilst the men worked.  Her passion for motorbikes started at 14 when she bought an Enfield two stroke engine which she regularly stripped and rebuilt.

Her education continued, she gained a degree in engineering at Victoria University in Manchester in 1932 and her Masters a year later.  During this time she joined The British Motorcycle Racing Club, the oldest motorcycling club in the world and after her degree she upgraded her bike to a 500cc Norton with the express wish to race at the Brooklands circuit near her parents’ home.  She started racing there in 1934.

The honour of being the first woman to lap the circuit at 100mph was yet another accolade, earning her the ‘Gold Star’.  This was outdone a year later when she broke her record, doing 106mph, making her the fastest woman on the track.  In 1936 romance blossomed with another racing enthusiast, George Naylor.  Only once he had gained his Gold Star did Beatrice agree to marry him!

Her love of speed and racing led her to car racing which she and George did with great success.  Unfortunately a crash in 1962 at Goodwood resulted in multiple broken bones and she was forced to retire from competitive motor racing.

Brooklands was Beatrice’s favourite track and the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit so it seems fitting that the Gold Star will now feature in a display at Brooklands Museum, together with the other memorabilia.  Andrew Lewis, Museum Curator commented “We are delighted to be able to display Beatrice Shilling’s badges at the Museum. Her work on the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine which was fitted to many Brooklands built aircraft, combined with being the first of only three women to win a Gold Star makes her a particularly interesting character in Brooklands’ history”.

Images: The memorabilia including the Gold Star.
Beatrice Shilling on her motorbike. 

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