SUPERMARINE

Noel Pemberton-Billing stood for Parliament in early 1916, and to avoid charge that he was a war profiteer sold his interest in Pemberton-Billing Ltd at Woolston, Southampton. Control passed to Hubert Scott-Paine, who became managing director. Since inception firm’s telegraphic address had been 'Supermarine', and accordingly company was renamed Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd. Began with series of single-pusher flying-boats and amphibians (Channel, Sea Lion, Sea Eagle, Sea King), but first important type was Southampton flying-boat (10 March 1925), 2 x 500-hp Napier Lion, 68 built for RAF, Mk II having metal hull. R.J. Mitchell, who had joined original firm 1916, showed particular talent with S.4, S.5, S.6 and S.6B seaplanes which won 3 consecutive Schneider races 1927/29/31. Seal II pusher amphibian of 1921 led to Seagull of 1922, built in increasing numbers up to Mk V, which served as prototype of Walrus (pusher 750-hp Pegasus) of which 746 built in Second World War. Successor was Sea Otter (September 1938) with tractor 855-hp Mercury, 292 built 1944-5. RAF also received 14 Scapa (2 x 525-hp Kestrel) and 23 Stranraer (2 x 875-hp Pegasus) flying-boats. An additional 40 Stranraer were built by Canadian Vickers, links between Vickers and Supermarine resulting in Vickers taking 100% of equity of Supermarine in November 1928, name simply adding (Vickers) in front of Ltd. Mitchell’s dissatisfaction with Type 224 fighter to specification F.7/30 (19 February 1934) led to his obtaining permission from chairman Sir Robert McLean to produce completely new design. This, Type 300 (5 March 1936), became Spitfire, 20,334 built plus 2,556 new-build Seafire naval fighters. Together with Vickers (Aviation), taken over by Vickers-Armstrongs October 1938, henceforth having clumsy title Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd (Aircraft Section) (Supermarine Division). Before and during war design office moved to Hursley Park, near Winchester, large factory built at South Marston, Swindon, and Spitfire production also centred at other plants including Castle Bromwich and Chattis Hill. Mitchell died 11 June 1937, being replaced 1938 by Joe Smith, whose direction was responsible for all subsequent Spitfire development. Spitfire successor, Spiteful (June 1944), was in many ways inferior, but Spiteful wing was basis of jet Attacker (RR Nene, 27 July 1946), 181 built. This indifferent aircraft led in stages to Swift fighter for RAF, which proved unacceptable and was cancelled when large numbers were in production at South Marston and by Short at Belfast. This left only a series of twin-RR Avon naval fighters which eventually led to Scimitar (1957), 76 built. Reorganization of Vickers December 1954 resulted in company becoming Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd (Supermarine Division). Final reorganization, which took VA (Aircraft) into BAC, resulted in formation of Vickers-Armstrongs (South Marston) Ltd, with little work except to build two Hovercraft.

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