Product Reviews

Published on September 25th, 2022 | by Mark Dwyer


Book Review – Supermarine Southampton

Supermarine Southampton – The Flying Boat that made RJ Mitchell by Jo Hillman and Colin Higgs, 226 pages HB, 240 b&w photographs, 1 map, Pen & Sword £25 ISBN 1526784947

Supermarine Southamptons visited Northern Ireland on at least three occasions between the wars. The first two times were in 1925 and 1926 by 480 Coastal Patrol Flight, the third by No 201 Squadron in 1933. The sole remaining survivor, N9899, which suffered a forced landing into the sea and was towed by the cruiser, HMS Calliope, to a Harland & Wolff slipway for repairs, is on display in the RAF Museum, Hendon. I thought, therefore, that a book specifically on this seminal type might shed further light on these important, trailblazing ‘cruises’. So, on first opening the cover, I was slightly dismayed to find that the authors declared in their Acknowledgements that ‘the photographs are the star of the book …as it is the pictures that tell the story.’ Well… up to a point they do.

The upshot is that there are no less than 240 images, some of which are excellent and of considerable interest in themselves, but sadly none were taken on Belfast Lough, Lough Neagh or the River Foyle, where there is no doubt that Southamptons alighted. Some have extended captions, which are quite informative but there are only twenty pages of text. Reference to Northern Ireland is minimal.

Leaving this all aside, the photos are arranged in chronological order, starting with some early Supermarine types, though the image on page seven is not a Supermarine Baby, as captioned. It is a Walrus. So that doesn’t really get us off to a good start. I enjoyed looking through the photos but would question why – in a picture book – would you spoil a lot of rare, images by spreading them across two pages? The photos are interspersed with short essays of between half a page and a page and a half, briefly covering development, construction (30 blow-by-blow photos), flight and squadron service, overseas cruises, foreign operators, a loan to Imperial Airways, experimental versions and the discovery and restoration of N9899. The best bits for me were the nine pages at the end devoted to a production list. A bibliography is not included. I could recommend several very informative and detailed sources for anyone seeking to learn more about the Southampton.

As readers may have gathered, this concept doesn’t really work for me, it feels to me a bit of a wasted opportunity, perhaps it would be a more useful book for model makers, particularly those talented enough to scratch build?

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About the Author

Mark is an airline pilot flying the Boeing 737 for a major European airline. In addition he is also a Type Rating Instructor, Type Rating Examiner and Base Training Captain on the B737. Outside of commercial flying Mark enjoys flying light aircraft from the smallest 3 Axis microlights up to heavier singles. He is also an instructor and EASA Examiner on single engines and a UK CAA Examiner. He flies the Chipmunk for the Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF). Mark became the Chairman of the National Microlight Association of Ireland (NMAI) in 2013 and has overseen a massive growth in the organisation. In this role he has worked at local and national levels. In 2015, Mark won ‘Upcoming Aviation Professional Award’ at the Aviation Industry Awards sponsored by the IAA. Mark launched this website back in 2002 while always managing the website, he has also been Editor and Deputy Editor of FlyingInIreland Magazine from 2005 to 2015.

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