Category Archives: Early Flight

Raymonde de Laroche ~25th November 1913

431px-Raymonde_de_LaRoche_HeadTo add to my recent posts about early female aviators I must mention this French lady:

Raymonde de Laroche 1886 -1919

Background and Inspiration to Fly

Raymonde always enjoyed sport and motorcycles but was inspired to learn to fly after watching Wilber Wright’s flight demonstrations in Paris in 1908. In 1909, under the instruction of Charles Voisin a personal friend, she took off for the first time. I like the story that she disobeyed his orders not to take off on that first occasion. Whatever the truth she was certainly a headstrong and determined young lady.

Her achievements

She gained her pilot’s licence in March 1910 and as many aviators of her time took part in meets and shows. Although injured in September 1912 at the Reims Air Show and a subsequent car crash, she recovered fully and won the Femina Cup after a four hour, non stop long distance flight on 25th November 1913.

In WW1 she served as a chauffeur and engineer, confidently driving officers too and from the front.

Notable Difference

Although of humble birth, the daughter of a plumber, she called herself Baroness, but after the war in 1919 she hoped to become the first female test pilot in Le Crotoy. Unfortunately the plane she was in crash landed and she was killed.

If you are interested in early female aviators I have done a series for this blog but here are some other links:

Mother Nature Network – 8 Famous Female Aviators

Women of Aviation Worldwide Week in March

NB I was interested to see Harry Harper, the Aviation reporter of the Daily Mail at that time, writing about Raymone. I was so intrigued by Harry’s name appearing so many times whilst I was researching for my novel Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home that he became a character in my novel and he is a man I intend to research in the future.

 

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Filed under Early Flight, Frivolous Flying Facts, Research, Role of Women, The Great War, WW1

John Shelton ~ Author of ‘Schneider Trophy to Spitfire’

Today I’m thrilled to have been in contact with John Shelton, the author of’Schneider Trophy to Spitfire,’ an excellent book I reviewed on an earlier post last year. In fact John got in touch with me following that post and has agreed to share with us some background information about his life and how he became interested in Supermarine. John writes:

Schneider Trophy to Spitfire by John Shelton

Schneider Trophy to Spitfire by John Shelton

‘I got as far as a Ph.D in Literature but began to tire of writing or talking about fiction. Renovating an Elizabethan manor house began to consume most of my time and energy and the solving of practical problems became more interesting – real things rather than imagined people. Like R.J., I had a

schoolboy interest in flying model aeroplanes and was soon drawing my own constructional plans (hence my 3-view drawings of Mitchell’s aircraft in my book).

On a chance visit to the Stoke Museum, I discovered that their Spitfire was to be re-housed, accompanied by a display. I volunteered to write the text for this display and was surprised to discover that Mitchell had begun designing aeroplanes for Supermarine as early as the 1920’s.

So, on retirement, I decided to write a full account of his aircraft as, again to my surprise, I found that there was only one book which related directly to his work and this was a sketchy and a rather amateur affair.

The above display activity had been given considerable help by the Solent-Sky Museum at Southampton and I was also encouraged in my later efforts by its Director, Sqn. Ldr. Alan Jones: “the book we’ve all been waiting for”.

I too felt that Mitchell deserved a dedicated account of his work, if only to show how the Spitfire came about – there are countless books about his famous fighter but no apparent interest in the man and how he had reached this design peak. There was also the surprising fact (to me as to most everyone else) that a man from the landlocked Midlands should design almost exclusively flying-boats, was virtually self-taught, and achieved success in his field at a very early age.

Being no stranger to writing extended studies, I felt I could do a reasonable job of collecting material (see my Bibliography) and of putting it together; and as I had also taught Communication as well as Industrial Archaeology, I hoped that I would be able to make a relatively technical story readable. Also, by this time, I had soloed in gliders and powered aircraft and so felt that I might have an insight into what the pioneers of flying had learned and were still learning about exploiting their new element.

Fortunately there were quite a number of books which had things to say about Mitchell’s aircraft and not a few by pilots who had flown them. These, and items scattered throughout other aviation literature, also provided many anecdotes about Mitchell which deserved collecting together as they became out of print or forgotten on dusty shelves. It was therefore very good news when Haynes Publishers accepted my MS, which – it has to be said – concentrated more on the machines than on the man: after all, they were the primary reason for an interest in the man and, as his reputation was only widely known after his death, no-one had thought beforehand to leave detailed information about  his life-story for future biographers.

Given the lack of any full accounts of Mitchell’s life, but also needing to correct his portrayal in the First of the Few film, I tried to steer a course between the known facts about his life and his designs; and, true to my early career, my book had a thesis – which was to trace the vital influence of the Schneider Trophy competitions upon the eventual production of the Spitfire.

Since the publication of Schneider Trophy to Spitfire, I have continued my interest in most things Mitchell and hope therefore that  an extended second edition might be eventually published. Meanwhile, my Blogs are a useful outlet for mature thoughts about the man and his designs as well as a device to keep his name before the general public.’

I would like to thank John for sharing the background to his writing. It’s fascinating looking back at the course of our lives and where it has taken us. John continues to write detailed and interesting posts about R.J.Mitchell and his designs on his own blog:

johnshelton.blogspot.co.uk

I wish him the best of luck with future projects. John’s book helped me enormously when researching for Ancasta and I still use it as a reference to check facts whilst researching for the next in my series.

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Filed under Early Flight, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Southampton, Supermarine, Woolston

SUPERMARINE ~ Keeping the Name Alive

Where is the name ‘Supermarine’ still used today? Do they live up to their name of speed, quality and craftmenship? I had a great deal of fun researching this post but here are several firms and groups who keep the name ‘Supermarine’ alive!

Supermarine S.6B of Schneider Trophy Fame!

Supermarine S.6B of Schneider T

SAILING:

A bit of poetic licence here but what amazing motor launches these ‘Supermarines’ are. The Supermarine Swordfish certainly looks as if it could fly, or must feel like it anyway.  The Swordfish has certainly earned the name Supermarine, like it’s predecessor, the Supermarine S.6B which  won the Schneider Trophy outright back in 1931.

SUNDRIES:

Bremont, a British firm who crafts pilot’s watches ‘to perfection’ has a Supermarine range.

http://www.bremont.com/chronometers/range/supermarine

SPORT:

Supermarine Rugby Club are recruiting now! Their website explains that the team started as a works team for Vickers Armstrong, who continued to make Spitfires when the Supermarine site in Woolston was bombed during WW2. Click on the link for a more detailed history.

Also keeping the tradition of Supermarine alive is The Swindon Supermarine Football Club suitably nicknamed The Marines, who are part of the Southern Division.

There’s The Supermarine Bowmen too, but I have not been able to find out why they took the name. Flight and skill certainly!

SPITFIRES:

Back to the famous Spitfire there is even a factory which makes spare parts especially for these well loved aircraft, also called ‘Supermarine.’ A well eared name since without them we would not see such wonderful air displays and The Battle of Britain flight passed.

I was also excited to hear in the paper a couple of years ago that an Australian firm had taken on the name ‘Supermarine Aircraft‘ to ‘keep the name alive’ and are actually building reproduction Supermarine Spitfires!

If you know any I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments box. I’d love to hear from you, or by email diana@dianamaryjackson.co.uk.

 

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Filed under Early Flight, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Schneider Trophy, Southampton, Supermarine, Woolston