Category Archives: Supermarine

Diana Jackson’s World War One @Home Series ~ Industry of Woolston in WW1

In recognition of the BBC World War One at Home Series and in parallel to it, I aim to write posts of significant places and themes related to my writing and their impact on local people. These will include:

Industry of Woolston Southampton in WW1

Flying Boat Stations of the UK in WW1

The Hampshire Regiment

The Channel Islands and WW1

INDUSTRY OF WOOLSTON, SOUTHAMPTON DURING WORLD WAR ONE

There were two main employers in Woolston during both world wars, Thornycroft and Company, later to become Thosper Thornycroft and also Supermarine.

The Thornycroft shipbuilders occupied a large site on the banks of the River Itchen for 100 years from 1904 to 2004, when Thosper Thornycroft relocated to Portsmouth. This left a gaping hole in the heart of the area both in terms of employment but also in the scar on the landscape, which has only recently been reclaimed and redeveloped.

The first ship to be built and launched from the Woolston site was HMS Tartar in 1907 which served in the English Channel and the North Sea during World War One. For one hundred years generations of Southampton families worked there, called by the siren to herald the start of the day. I still remember hearing this during my visits to grandparents as a child.

I cannot better the tribute written by Keith Hamilton on February 2009 to Vosper Thornycroft telling of the importance of company for the well being and lives of Southampton’s and especially Woolston’s people, stressing the pride in their work to  serve the nation:

The End of an Era for Thornycroft by Keith Hamilton

The second major industry in Woolston since before World War One was Supermarine, of which I have written numerous posts, since it features in my novel

‘Ancasta ~ Guide me Swiftly Home.’

Just a little up the River Itchen, the other side of The Floating Bridge on Hazel Road, White’s boat builders was taken over by Pemberton Billing and began to develop flying boats in 1913. Although registered with the telegraphic name of Supermarine from its conception, Supermarine was the official name of the company in 1916, during the war.

Initially the skills of the boat builders would have been put to good use as the company diversified into developing flying boats, until the latter became their major focus. These must have been exciting times for local people in the early days of flight, not only to be involved in working at Supermarine but for families and friends to witness the unusual craft being launched on to the River Itchen and taking off and landing on Southampton Water. Like Vosper Thornycroft, Supermarine was a business of families, where many generations worked there, including the women during both WW1 and WW2. Both companies contributed to the prosperity of the local area of Woolston and its businesses and would have provided reserved occupations for workers in their contribution to the war effort.

Although better known later for The Schneider Trophy wins in the 1920’s and 1930’s and then the development of the Spitfire in the mid 1930’s I believe the seed for success was sown during World War One when a young, nineteen year old designer, RJ Mitchell joined the firm. My opinion is that it was Mitchell’s vision which turned the company into an international success story of which Southampton is understandably very proud.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancasta, Early Flight, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Southampton, Supermarine, The Great War, Woolston, 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.

Leave a comment

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.

 

2 Comments

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