Cheers! Champagne pops at opening of The Tilly Shilling in Farnborough

The sun shone yesterday as I cut the ribbon to open The Tilly Shilling in Victoria Road, Farnborough, a JD Wetherspoon pub, which promises good food and drinks, in an environment celebrating the history of the town, particularly by featuring Beatrice “Tilly” Shilling, the famous aircraft engineer, who made a crucial contribution to the Second World War effort.

From Wikipedia, I learned that Shilling was born at Waterlooville, Hampshire, the daughter of a butcher. After leaving school, she worked for an electrical engineering company for three years, installed wiring and generators.Her employer, Margaret Partridge, encouraged her to take a degree in Electrical Engineering at Manchester University, which she completed in 1932 and stayed on for a year to do a MSc in Mechanical Engineering.  She was later recruited as a scientific officer by the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.

In the 1930s, Shilling raced motorcycles. She beat professional riders, such as Noel Pope, and was awarded the Gold Star for lapping the Brooklands circuit at a speed of 106 miles per hour (171 km/h) on her Norton M30.

Beatrice "Tilly" Shilling on her Norton M30

In the Second World War, during the Battle of Britain in 1940, the Rolls-Royce Merlin  engines that powered Spitfire and Hurricane fighters had a serious problem with their carburettors while manoeuvring in combat. The negative g created by suddenly lowering the nose of the aircraft resulted in the engine being flooded with excess fuel, causing it to lose power or shut down completely. German fighters used fuel-injection engines and did not have this problem so, during combat, they could evade RAF fighters by flying negative-g manoeuvres that could not be easily followed.

Shilling devised a simple solution that was officially called the “RAE restrictor”. This was a small metal disc with a hole in the middle, fitted into the engine carburettor. Although not a complete solution, it allowed RAF pilots to perform quick, negative-g manoeuvres without loss of engine power. By March 1941, she had led a small team on a tour of RAF fighter bases, installing the devices in their Merlin engines. The restrictor was immensely popular with pilots, who named it “Miss Shilling’s orifice” or simply the “Tilly orifice”. It continued in use as a stop-gap until the introduction of the pressure carburettor in 1943.

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