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The men and women who made the Spitfire the aviation icon
By Paul Beaver
Foreword by Captain Eric Brown CBE DSC AFC
Published to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, this book presents a fresh angle on the Spitfire by examining the contribution to its development and achievements by over 50 people, some famous, others not. Without the courage and tenacity of some leading political and military figures and the hard work of lesser-known mortals, there would have been no Spitfire, no Battle of Britain and no ultimate victory in 1945. Many people in positions of power played their part in the ultimate success of the Spitfire, and more than a few staked their reputations on a radical concept that brought together the best in British design, technology and ingenuity. This book identifies those people and tells many significant individual stories, exposing some myths and adding to knowledge of this iconic aeroplane through research on previously unpublished papers.
- Great minds include Sir Winston Churchill (voice in the wilderness and wartime leader), Reginald Mitchell (Supermarine chief designer, 1924–36), Joe Smith (Supermarine chief designer, 1936–47) and Alf Faddy (Supermarine design engineer, 1930–55).
- Politicians include Neville Chamberlain (Prime Minster, 1937–40), Sir Henry Tizard (government scientific advisor, 1934–40) and Sir Kingsley Wood (Secretary of State for Air, 1938–40).
- Pioneers include Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers (first Spitfire pilot, 1936), Sir Stanley Hooker (Merlin engine developer, 1938–45) and Jeffrey Quill (Supermarine chief test pilot, 1938 onwards).
- Producers include Lord Beaverbrook (Minister for Aircraft Production, 1941–42) and Alex Henshaw (chief test pilot, Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory).
- Commanders include Air Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman (senior champion of the Spitfire in the Air Ministry), Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding (Fighter Command, 1936–40) and Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park (Senior Air Staff Officer to Dowding, 1938–40).
- Pilots include Douglas Bader (Spitfire wing leader and inspirational disabled pilot), Eric Stanley Lock (highest-scoring Battle of Britain Spitfire ace), Bob Stanford Tuck (first Spitfire ace) and Tony Martindale (test pilot and speed record holder).
- Women include Pauline Gower (Air Transport Auxiliary head), Margaret Fairweather (first female Spitfire pilot) and Beatrice Shilling (aeronautical engineer).
- Publication date: 25 June 2015
- ISBN: 978-1-910505-05-2
- Format: 233x169mm
- Page extent: 256pp
- Illustration: 120 black and white photographs
- Word count: 70,000
Paul Beaver is a historian, broadcaster and commentator as well as an historic aeroplane pilot who has been flying the Spitfire since 2011. Although he has over 40 books to his credit, this is his first for 20 years. He lives near Salisbury, where he is chairman of Salisbury Wings Week. This book is based on research for his sell-out talk at the Chalke Valley History Festival.
“Readers might consider there is very little new to write about the Spitfire, but author and broadcaster Paul Beaver has chosen a fascinating, different angle from which to approach the aircraft… Beaver’s fine text examines the key personalities in the Spitfire story, person by person… The result is a fascinating book that places the Spitfire in a new context… adds immeasurably to our understanding of ‘the aviation icon’.”
“Making up the body of the book are essays on significant figures in the Spitfire story… Each entry is comparatively short, but pertinent, well-written and generally even-handed… ‘Spitfire People’ is a book that will have widespread appeal.”
“…goes a great way in adding another chapter to the story of Britain’s most famous fighter.”
Best of British
“If you thought there was nothing more to say about R J Mitchell’s finest creation after countless books concerning the Supermarine icon, then you should find the time to read Paul Beaver’s ‘Spitfire People’…”