Tag Archives: Supermarine

100 years ago this October Supermarine was born

What does the name ‘Supermarine’ mean to you? The Spitfire? Nothing? An important company in Southampton’s history and later Swindon too? If you’re a football supporter to Swindon do you know what the connection is?

It meant little to me until my parents started looking into our family history and Dad began to speak of how important Supermarine was in our family when they lived in Woolston and once my interest is stirred I have a need to go and do some research. Why?

  • to know why the company was important historically
  • to find out what impact it had on my family
  • to understand how it changed every day lives of my family, their friends and neighbours.

This satisfies the social historian in me….not an exact science of facts and figures but and exploration of real lives for real and imaginary people. So here’s the historical facts laced with my interpretation in italics:

In 1913 Pemberton Billing, often described as a maverick in political terms, approached a little known boat builders called White’s in Itchen Village on the banks of the River Itchen.

I can imagine the rumours in the village pub, The Yacht Tavern while negotiations too place with Hubert Scott Paine in his yacht moored up the river.

He wanted to use the skilled craftsmen to build flying boats and an agreement was made to begin production in October 1913.  Supermarine was not the official company name until 1916, but Billing registered the name for telegram purposes but also had the name emblazoned on the roof in November 1913. 

I believe that the people of Itchen Ferry and Woolston would have been proud of the new developments and excited to see the newly developed flying boats take off from the river near where they lived and worked.

Supermarine Works & CHANNEL on slipway

Why Supermarine? The main use of flying boats for the military at that time was to look out for submarines….sub..under the water…supermarine…over the water. 

Why did he have the name painted on the roof? To be noticed from the air of course, especially to catch the attention of the military to be taken seriously and to gain orders and build business.

(For the family in my novel ‘Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home’ living in Woolston, split from Itchen Ferry only by the Portsmouth Road, I reasoned that this could only be good news, since two of the characters in my novel Ernest and Jack already worked at White’s. It meant better job security and job prospects.)

Flying boats were important in WWI to protect convoys, search for submarines and also to bomb strategic sites, out in Turkey for example.  In WWI they also helped in rescue missions for crews of sinking ships. It was a innovative development for the navy with the newly opened RNAS station along Southampton Water at Calshot. With the first sea plane carriers also in operation during WWI technological development was moving fast.

Why were flying boats so important to us in Britain?

Firstly there was no infrastructure of runways before WWI. Planes just landed where they could on fields and park land so it was quite reassuring, us being an island, that the aircraft could land on water. This was important, not only to impress the military but commercial projects later on. In 1913 it was only 4 years since the first ever flight across the channel.

If entrepreneurs were to persuade the wealthy public to pay for air transport, it was thought that they would be happier that the craft could land safely on land or water.

Supermarine Works c1919

Supermarine Works 1919

Supermarine’s most famous engineer RJ Mitchel was responsible for the development of more famous sea planes; the Sea Lion which won The Schneider Trophy in 1922 and the S6B  which won the Schneider Trophy outright in 1931.

Mitchel’s developmental work to such a high specification led on to the timely Spitfire. In the gallery of Solent Sky, the aviation museum in Southampton , there is an exhibit of small model aircraft right from those early sea planes to the Spitfire.

Many say that, if it hadn’t been for the development of the S6B, an amazing feat of engineering by Mitchel to develop the fastest amphibian aircraft in the world at that time, the technology would not have been in place to develop the Spitfire.

And so Supermarine was born one hundred years ago. It was a major employer in the area up until the second world war when Woolston’s Supermarine Works were bombed out, after the local people had been inspired by witnessing the first ever flights of the Spitfire right over their heads, including my father.

To me the facts are important, but it is the way in which I can weave lives of ordinary people through these facts that brings history to life. 

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

Ancasta, a review of the novel by Diana Jackson

The Friends of Weston Shore, Southampton have written this review of Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home. I’ll be down at West Quay Waterstones Southampton this Saturday 12th between 11am and 1 pm. Please come and say hello and many thanks for this wonderful review!

Friends of Weston Shore

It is widely believed that when the Roman Empire ruled these lands, an area near or on what is now known as Bitterne Manor was a settlement called Clausentum.  Whilst this belief about Clausentum and its location is not universally upheld, what is clear is that there was a Roman settlement in this area. One of the priceless treasures that reveals this truth is an inscription from those times, a dedication to the goddess Ancasta, the deity associated with the River Itchen.

The derivation of the name Ancasta, it is speculated, maybe from an older word for swift.  With the name of the goddess as the title for her new novel, Diana Jackson continues chronicling the lives of some of her characters from her previous book Riduna.  With the hand of time moving on relentlessly in her narrative, she takes us along for the ride in seeing…

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Filed under Ancasta, Book reviews, Events, Southampton

Interview with guest author Diana Jackson

To mark the week up to a series of live events, the first of which being at Waterstones in Hitchin on Thursday 3rd October where I’ll be giving a talk, take part in a discussion and be available to sign copies of Ancasta (details in my last blog post) here is a post where I was interviewed online by TME Walsh earlier in the year. Thanks Tania. I enjoyed being your guest.

T. M. E. WALSH

Today I have the pleasure in posting an interview conducted recently with author Diana Jackson.

Here she talks about her book ‘Ancasta: Guide me Swiftly Home’, the sequel to ‘Riduna’, the research involved and what inspired her to write in specific time periods.

1) Please tell us about your book, Ancasta: Guide me Swiftly Home.

Ancasta takes the family from Riduna my first novel, on to the next generation. The novel begins in Woolston, Southampton in 1910 and takes us through the Great War, but it’s an unusual story. We witness first-hand the early flight of flying boats which changed the lives and economy of the local people, especially the women whose perspective of life is altered forever. Ancasta means ‘The Swift One,’ and is allegedly the Anglo Roman Goddess of the River Itchen. There is a sense of prayer through the ages as my characters, like the Roman’s before them, looked out…

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Filed under Ancasta, Blogs, Events, Schneider Trophy, Supermarine, Talks