DavidLegg wrote:I have pasted below my review of the book as published in The Catalina News a few weeks ago. In the first sentence, the other book referred to is Supermarine - an illustrated history by Christopher Smith. The Putnam book was Supermarine Aircraft since 1914 by Andrews & Morgan. Hope you like the review Schneiderman!
"One thing that the above book does not do is dwell on the company designs that never flew or failed to proceed beyond the drawing board. The aforementioned Putnam book did cover the Type 179 ‘Giant’ six-engined flying boat, the Types 316 to 318 ‘Bomber’, a few stillborn seaplane designs and some 1950s jet projects of very futuristic appearance. However, they are only really included by way of appendix rather than main subject matter. Now, Ralph Pegram has written Beyond the Spitfire – the unseen designs of RJ Mitchell which has recently been published by The History Press. Right from the striking colour pictures on the front and back dust jacket covers it is clear this is going to be a ‘different’ type of book about Supermarine! The front shows the Type 243 four-engined flying boat of April 1934 ploughing across the water with a Spitfire in attendance overhead. Just as fanciful is the rear cover image of the proposed six-engined flying boat known as Scheme 4, the fourth in a series of designs by Supermarine for a tender aimed at competing with the German Dornier Do X. The illustration of the latter looks particularly lifelike, having been produced using CGI techniques by Matt Painter. More of his work appears in a fascinating colour section within the body of the book showing un-built Mitchell designs.
So, it is important to emphasise what the book’s title makes clear – that this is primarily a book about Mitchell’s designs and not about the company itself. Thus the time span of the book ends shortly after his death and prior to the outbreak of war – no jets in this book! That said, context is important and there is both historical coverage of the Supermarine company and descriptions of aircraft built by them and other companies that flew during the period covered by the text. The latter help to place the various unflown and unbuilt Mitchell designs chronologically and technically alongside better-known aircraft. The bulk of the book is devoted to seaplanes and there is a great deal here to interest readers of this magazine.
The book starts with brief coverage of the Pemberton Billing and Hubert Scott-Paine period of Supermarine’s existence but quickly moves on to 1916 when RJ Mitchell joined the company and Scott-Paine’s design team. During this early period of the Supermarine history, it produced designs such as the Baby, the Channels, the Commercial, the Sea Eagle, Sea King, Sea Lion, Seal and Seagull seaplanes amongst others, all of which flew and some of which were produced for both home and export customers. But the book also looks at the designs that were not built including single and twin-engined biplane flying boats, the Type ‘D’ Dolphin three-engined triplane flying boat and the Shark twin-engine ‘boat, also a triplane. Moving into the ‘20s, Mitchell was designing commercial amphibians, single seat fighting scout and bomber flying boats, fleet gunnery amphibians and larger torpedo carriers. In the latter category, the Scylla was designed both as a monoplane and triplane and got as far as being built in the former format and may have even got as far as taxiing trials but no further.
These early sections of the book set the tone for the rest and it continues to look at Mitchell’s designs, contrasting those that saw air under their wings and those that were drawings only. When it came to a Supermarine Stranraer replacement, Mitchell looked at a number of design configurations and the section of the book that covers them will be of interest as, in the end, the Air Ministry ordered the SARO Lerwick and when that choice turned out to be an unfortunate one, it turned to the USA and ordered the Consolidated Catalina in large numbers. The author suggests that the Supermarine Type 314, if built, would have proven to be superior to the Catalina but for its one problem area – the unreliable Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. The design was abandoned and the rest is history!
Although seaplanes predominate, the sections cover landplanes too and one design that was new to me – the Type 313 designed to Spec. F.37/35 for a twin-powerplant, single-seat day and night fighter – looks not unlike an inline-engined Grumman Tigercat - advanced indeed!
I have only scratched the surface with this review and I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in Supermarine, RJ Mitchell, seaplanes and/or unbuilt designs should investigate the book further. At £25 for a 240-page hardback it strikes me as good value too. ISBN is 978-0-7509-6515-6. Incidentally, author Pegram has form – I reviewed his fantastic book on Schneider Trophy seaplanes in this column back in Issue 80….." Copyright David Legg/The Catalina News
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