A SECOND World War engineer who told the story of Salisbury's secret Spitfire production has died, aged 98.

Norman Parker, of Amesbury, died of a short illness in a nursing home surrounded by his daughters Gill and Sally on Sunday, May 5.

The avid historian had lived independently in the family home, which he built himself, following the death of his wife Joan in 2011.

Mr Parker was instrumental in telling the story of 'The Secret Spitfires', a 2016 film that brought attention to the hundreds of women, girls and a handful of men who built Spitfires in secret during WW2.

"Without his knowledge, the story would still not have gotten told," said Gill, 66.

"Many signed the official secrets act. I am sure he has taken so many stories to his grave."

Salisbury Journal: Norman Parker with a replica Spitfire which is now displayed at Salisbury Rugby Club.Norman Parker with a replica Spitfire which is now displayed at Salisbury Rugby Club. (Image: Spencer Mulholland)

Mr Parker, who set out on an uncertain life as a Barnardo's boy, shared his passion of history, particularly aviation, through the Amesbury History Society which he helped to establish in 1975.

Publishing monthly articles in the Stonehenge Trader up until the weeks before his death, Mr Parker's desire to learn never faltered.

“He could tell you about the aircraft down to the serial number on the engine. But his knowledge wasn’t just about airplanes, it was about local places as well," added Gill.

Gill’s childhood memories of her father involve him venturing into Salisbury with a camera to photograph old buildings before they were demolished.

“He was always passionate about history, especially anything to do with an airplane," she told the Journal.

In 2018, Mr Parker flew in a Spitfire thanks to a group of supporters who clubbed together and raised enough money to make it possible.

Salisbury Journal: Norman Parker took his maiden voyage in a Spitfire in 2018.Norman Parker took his maiden voyage in a Spitfire in 2018.

This came as a result of a Q&A session after a screening of The Secret Spitfires at Salisbury Rugby Club where Mr Parker explained that even though he built hundreds of Spitfires, he had never experienced a flight in one.

Read more: Secret Spitfire's star, Norman Parker, flies for first time

John Glen, MP for Salisbury, said: "Very sad news - an inspiring figure with encyclopaedic knowledge of Spitfires and aviation who did so much to ensure Salisbury’s wartime story was retold."

In a joint statement, trustees of the Amesbury History Centre said: "It was with great sadness that the trustees of Amesbury History Centre received the news of Norman Parker’s death.

"His introduction to historical research began in 1940 when he joined Vickers Armstrong at their Weybridge Works. He had worked throughout the war repairing crashed Wellington bombers and Spitfires. After working for the RAF, the Ministry of Defence at Boscombe Down, and Fairey Aviation, he retired from Pains-Wessex, where he was a quality manager.

"As president of the Amesbury History Centre charity, he whole-heartedly advocated for the building of the new centre, which re-opened last year, and he was well-known as a source of historical knowledge for visitors, volunteers, and trustees.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. 

Salisbury Journal: Norman Parker contributed to the Secret Spitfires book.Norman Parker contributed to the Secret Spitfires book. (Image: Andy Rhind-Tutt)

Andy Rhind-Tutt, former mayor of Amesbury and chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust said: “On May 5, 2024, Amesbury lost one of its real treasures with the passing of Norman Parker. From being a Barnardo’s boy Norman started his fascination and lifetime dedication to aviation engineering during WW2, becoming a founding member of the Spitfire Society, a historian, archivist, writer and speaker and in 2011 at the grand old age of 85 joined us at AMHT to help set up a new Museum for Amesbury to showcase its rich past.

"It’s fair to say what Norman didn’t know about Amesbury’s History and also the Spitfire was not worth worrying about. His monthly articles on local history and his dedication and involvement in the Secret Spitfire film and books will remain a lasting legacy to a unique man who lived life to the full. I am sure we will all miss him.”