A pleasant surprise, not a perfect book on the subject but anyway gives information on an interesting subject and with plenty of interesting black and white photos on British fighters in various stages of construction.
The beginning of the content listing is a bit inaccurate, on the page 4 there is Selected Technical Glossary, which is a good idea. On the pages 5 and 6 the author gives very short summary on the RAF expansion schemes in 1930s, the Shadow Scheme etc. So the Spitfire chapter begins on the page 7. In many chapters the information how the aircraft type in question was built came mainly from numerous photos and their captions, the text in these chapters gives a brief production history of the aircraft. Four of the six sketches are in the Seafire chapter (of the wingtip joint and locking mechanism on the front spar, the main hinge of the front spar, the main hinge of the rear spar and the arrestor hook).
Besides aircraft and aero engine production, propeller production is also explained and funnily there is the typo which according to an anecdotal information got the RAF to substitute the term propeller for airscrew, namely airscrew is typed as aircrew.
The article on a “real” cottage industry is very interesting. Volunteers, mainly half-time women, produced parts in garden huts, lounges of large houses, and usually these shops were for various hand-assembly and non-machine operations. The Ministry of Production, in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Supply Departments, extended the plan and by 1943 figures showed that there were some 20,000 outworkers in Britain, many in rural districts, but nearly half of them in the London area. De Havilland’s made particular use of this available labour force and ʽout-worked’ a lot of small components for their Mosquitoes. Long runs of light parts were the most suitable for outworking. A high degree of skill and accuracy was attained by women producing particular components in their own homes or local workrooms. Also in the London and South-Eastern region, 320 National Fire Service Station carried out productive work.
Also there is a chapter on the manufacturing of barrels of 20mm Hispano cannon. Lathes used in manufacturing 20mm Hispanos were longer than I had thought.
Supermarine Walrus, not the most modern plane in early 1940s but IMHO surprisingly it was the first British squadron-service aircraft to incorporate a fully retractable main undercarriage, completely enclosed crew accommodation, and an all-metal fuselage in one airframe.
Also pantograph routing and drilling machine is explained with a sketch.
Lastly de Havilland Hornet, which is IMHO a bit unnecessary addition. As the article itself noted, its production was much the same as that of DH Mosquito but in incorporating stressed Alclad lower-wing skins bonded to the wooden upper wing structure using the new adhesive Redux which technic was also in the fabrication of the aluminium/wood main wing spar even if this latter fact not mentioned in the article. And it was in essence post-war aircraft. The first series production Hornet F.Mk. 1 first flew on 1 February 1945 but the Pacific War was over before any could reach the combat area.
I have a few complains. There are too much clip and paste text, e.g., in the Chapter on RR Merlin there is an interesting information on testing a new engine, but it only gives the last part of that, made after the final reassembly, clipped from a contemporary report. That part of the chapter would be much more informative if the author had given a short introduction in which he would have given the amount of running hours in earlier testing so that a reader would have got information how many hours a Merlin was run before it was handed over to a customer.
On the man hours needed to produce a Hurricane and a Spitfire. The book gives only one number per type but does not mention the date, but clearly the figures are those achieved in January 1940, probably taken from Postan’s British War Production. It is known that the man hours needed dropped during the production run as the experience and knowledge increased. And by January 1940 Supermarine had produced a bit over 500 Spitfires, so it was still fairly beginning of the learning curve. And Supermarine was a fairly small manufacture, a bigger factory was usually more efficient than a smaller one, e.g., the large Castle Bromwich shadow factory, which began its production in June/July 1940, needed later on significantly less man hours to produce a Spitfire V than Supermarine which itself used 2,200 man-hours less to produce a Spitfire Mk. VC in 1942 than had used to produce a Spitfire Mk. I in January 1940.
The Beaufighter chapter doesn’t make it clear that while the intention was a maximum re-use of Bristol Beaufort components, the end product, i.e., series production Beaufighters had almost no structural commonity with Beaufort. One can see from photos and drawings that Beaufighter's fin and rudder areas have been increased on production examples and the control surfaces have been changed as the trim tabs on the Beaufighter increased in size over those fitted onto the Beaufort. Also wings changed in structure owing to weapons fit and IIRC even landing gear was changed because of the weight increase. And contrast to many other chapters most of the text of this chapter is on the operational history of the type, but at least the photos are on production phases.
The book is clearly for us amateurs and not so much for those who design aircraft structures but an interesting book well worth of having giving interesting information on the subject not too often dealt with.
ʽForties Favourites – 5’, Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 15, No. 9, September 1987.
Buttler, Tony, ʽType Analysis: Hornet and Sea Hornet: The ultimate piston twins’ International Air Power
Review, Vol. 10 (2003).
Morgan, Eric B., Shacklady, Edward, Spitfire: The History, Fifth impression (revised) (Stamford: Key
Postan, M. M., British War Production, (London: H.M. Stationery Office and Longmans, Green & Co., 1952).
Price, Alfred, The Spitfire Story (London: Cassell & Co, Revised Second Edition, 2002).
message 07-03-2011 11:15 PM by Hop