British Experimental Combat Aircraft of World War II: Prototypes, Research Aircraft, and Failed Production Designs
We are all familiar with the success stories of British World War II aircraft. but the author of this work examines the careers of some of the types that either didn’t make it to the production line or were never intended for service use. The author has made a life study of British aviation history, having worked in the industry for many years, and he has published numerous articles and books on the subject.
Many of the aircraft covered in this publication were produced by companies that produced relatively few successful military designs, such as Blackburn, Folland, Miles, Martin-Baker, and Saunders-Roe, while other types were developments of in-service models, such as the Hawker Typhoon/Tempest series, the DeHavilland Mosquito, and the Supermarine Spitfire/Seafire. There are thirty five chapters in all, each covering a specific type. Some relatively unknown types appear, such as the Hillson “Bi-Mono” and “Slip Wing” projects, and another particularly fascinating type, to this reviewer at least, the Folland Fo. 108 and Fo. 116 engine test beds, planes that were designed exclusively to test engines of various types.
Another inclusion is a number of design studies: unbuilt projects, such as the Blackburn B.44 floatplane fighter, and the Bristol, Handley Page, Supermarine, and Short heavy bomber developments.
And at the end, there is a short section covering a few of the standard production types that were modified in some way or another for various research projects.
The chapters begin with the specifications of the aircraft, followed by a detailed description of the plane’s development and career. Following this is a description of the structure of the aircraft. Photos show the development stages, and most chapters have three-view drawings, often produced by the original factory draftsmen. Often included are photos of factory models of the design at various stages of its development. There is a lot of material here that I haven’t seen published in such detail, and the accounts make fascinating reading.
Another factor that really sets this book apart is the coverage of the flight test programs, establishing time sequences for the various programs the aircraft were involved in. The author has interviewed some of the participants in the test programs, and has had access to company historical information to complete the stories. Also, although there is no information on the flyleaf confirming this, I suspect from the author’s descriptions of the flight characteristics of the aircraft that he is a pilot or at least has some flight experience. Some of these airplanes must have been a lot of fun to fly.
For this historian, this book makes very enjoyable reading. For the modeler, there is a wealth of information on various types – in most cases, easily enough data to be able to build, for example, the various experimental models of the Typhoon/Tempest/Tornado series from currently produced kits. The same goes for such types as the Gloster E.28/39 jet prototype, the Spiteful and Seafang, and the Hawker Hotspur, all planes that could be done using parts from existing kits.
In short, this is a fascinating book that should certainly be in the library of any serious World War II history enthusiast or modeler. It is both interesting and enjoyable reading, and is a good reference work for future study. Don’t miss out on this one. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy and IPMS-USA for the review space.