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Supermarine


World War One

Military orders

The outbreak of war provided an enormous boost to the marine aviation industry in the South. The government was awarding contracts for military planes and seaplanes and the Admiralty had already established an air base at Calshot, Hampshire in 1913 to support the fleet there. The base tested locally built seaplanes to check they were ready for service and ran a training programme for pilots. Attracted by the prospect of military contracts new companies began to set up in the area, some even relocating from other parts of Britain. 

At Supermarine Noel Pemberton-Billing stopped developing his own plans and concentrated on repairing aircraft that came back from Le Havre and building land and marine planes to government specification. Supermarine was effectively taken over by the government for the duration of the war. The company built three types of marine aircraft that were designed by the Admiralty. It was these Admiralty designed (AD) aircraft that gave the factory the most work.  The design of the third and last aircraft was a prototype called N59 in 1918. A contract to build didn’t follow but the design provided the basis for the award winning ‘Sea Lion II’ Schneider Trophy aircraft. 

Saunders on the Isle of Wight also saw success with the construction of a two-seater floatplane for the Royal Navy.  It was a combat plane that could carry both bombs and a torpedo. As well as providing complete aircraft, Saunders  specialised in the waterproofing of flying boat hulls using a technique they had developed in boat building. The aircraft department of J. S. White's improved their Navyplane design and orders were placed for a fair number. The company also produced the Type 840, a two-seat torpedo bomber/reconnaissance seaplane that was ordered by the military.  

During the final stages of the war White's were only producing prototypes and in 1919 the aircraft department closed down.  Once the war had ended the government contracts for aircraft dried up and many companies were forced to close.  Saunders carried on, Vickers had bought an interest in the company during the war and the company built a number of hulls for Vickers designed flying boats. Finally, in 1928 A.V Roe bought controlling interest in the firm and it became Saunders-Roe.  At Supermarine Hubert Scott-Paine turned his eyes towards the civilian market and saw a way to use the AD aircraft to secure the company’s future.

 

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