Gavin Clarke

How do you translate a gripping documentary on the untold story of an army of civilians – mostly women – building Spitfires in secret factories during WWII into a compelling book? That was the challenge of my two-year collaboration with documentary duo Howman and Cetintas on Secret Spitfires.

Howman and Cetintas’ 90-minute cinema-released and DVD film is a powerful and personal exploration of a group who built around half of the RAF’s Spitfires during WWII working in a unique network of covert factories. It’s been recognised by the Royal Air Force Museum and covered in the national media.

We had three objectives with a book: to successfully take Secret Spitfires beyond the production requirements of film by exploiting the creative potential of print. Second, deliver a treatment capable of satisfying those who’d experienced the film plus those new to the story. And finally, to be sufficiently technical for experts while accessible to a general audience.

By collaborating closely with Howman and Cetintas, working with an expert Spitfire and Supermarine historian and digging through interviews and additional research, I helped make this leap. As writer I helped build out the core drama of the factories with additional space for the wartime stories of the people and the remarkable engineering. Our book went deeper and broader, while retaining the focus, clarity and tone of Howman and Cetintas’ original work. Collaborating with the design team of the History Press, the UK’s largest publisher dedicated to history, we delivered a rich and inviting layout.

Released for the Battle of Britain’s 80th anniversary, Secret Spitfires has enjoyed successful print runs with The History Press in hardback and paperback.


    Howman and Cetinas


    Content strategy, idea development, source research, copy development and writing, design and production consultation.



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    Photo Credits: NOAA, Alex Iby, Daniel Eledut, Austrian National Library, Secret Spitfires & Joyce Kolk.