Beatrice Shilling

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Beatrice Shilling
Beatrice Shilling.jpg
Beatrice Shilling and her Norton motorcycle
Born (1909-03-08)8 March 1909
Waterlooville, Hampshire
Died 18 November 1990(1990-11-18) (aged 81)
Nationality British
Education Manchester University
Spouse(s) George Naylor
Engineering career
Engineering discipline Aeronautical Engineering
Institution memberships Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Women's Engineering Society
Employer(s) Royal Aircraft Establishment
Significant projects Rolls-Royce Merlin
Significant advance Aero engines
Significant awards OBE

Beatrice (Tilly) Shilling OBE PhD MSc CEng (8 March 1909 – 18 November 1990)[1] was an aeronautical engineer who was responsible during the Second World War for correcting a defect in the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of Spitfires and Hurricanes which caused them to cut out while diving. She created a solution nicknamed Miss Shilling's orifice as it consisted of a metal disc with a small hole.

Shilling raced motorcycles in the 1930s, and was awarded the Gold Star for lapping the Brooklands circuit at 106 miles per hour (171 km/h) on her Norton M30. Post-war, she raced cars. In the 1960s, she and her husband owned and raced Elva racing cars.

Early life[edit]

Shilling was born at Waterlooville, Hampshire, the daughter of a butcher. After leaving school, she worked for an electrical engineering company for three years, installing wiring and generators.[2] Her employer, Margaret Partridge, encouraged her to take a degree in Electrical Engineering at Manchester University; she completed this in 1932 and stayed on for a year to do a MSc in Mechanical Engineering.[2] She worked as a research assistant for Professor GF Mucklow at the University of Birmingham[2] before being recruited as a scientific officer by the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

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 106 miles per hour (171 km/h) on her Norton M30.[3]

World War 2[edit]

During the Battle of France and Battle of Britain in 1940, it became apparent that the Rolls-Royce Merlin powered Royal Air Force 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, yet ingenious, solution that was officially called the R.A.E. restrictor. This was a small metal disc with a hole in the middle, fitted into the engine's 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 affectionately 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.[4]

Later life[edit]

After the war, Shilling worked on a variety of projects including the Blue Streak missile[2] and the effect of a wet runway upon braking.[1] Shilling was once described by a fellow scientist as "a flaming pathfinder of women's lib"; she always rejected any suggestion that as a woman she might be inferior to a man in technical and scientific fields. However, a brusque manner and a contempt for bureaucracy led to an uneasy relationship with management. Shilling worked for the RAE until the late-1960s, but never achieved high rank within the organization.[2]

She held a doctorate from the University of Surrey, a CEng and was a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Women's Engineering Society.

Post-war, she raced cars. In the 1960s, she and her husband owned, tuned and raced an Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite, an Elva Courier and an Elva, Formula Junior, single-seat racing car.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Shilling married George Naylor, in September 1938.[6] He also worked at the RAE. According to anecdote, she refused to marry him until he also had been awarded the Brooklands Gold Star for lapping the circuit at over 100 mph.[2] During World War 2 he was a bomber pilot with No. 625 Squadron RAF and reached the rank of Wing Commander.


In 2011, the J D Wetherspoon pub chain opened a pub, named the Tilly Shilling, in her honour in Farnborough, Hampshire.[7][8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Haines, Catharine M. C. (2001). International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. p. 288. ISBN 1576070905. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jakob Whitfield,. "Beatrice Shilling". Thrust Vector. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  3. ^ John de Kruif (24 March 2010). "Beatrice Shilling". Vintage Norton Motorcycles. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Lumsden 2003, p.32.
  5. ^ Roger Dunbar (6 October 2011). ""ELVA Jottings #2" (August 2006)". 
  6. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Application for a Premises Licence - The Tilly Shilling Victoria Road Farnborough" (PDF). Rushmoor Borough Council. 7 September 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "Cheers! Champagne pops at opening of The Tilly Shilling in Farnborough". Alex Crawford – Mayor of Rushmoor. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 


  • Lumsden, Alec. British Piston Engines and their Aircraft. Marlborough, Wiltshire: Airlife Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-85310-294-6.
  • Matthew Freudenberg (2003). Negative Gravity, the Life of Beatrice Shilling. Charlton Publications. ISBN 0-9546165-0-2. 

External links[edit]