Pemberton Billing

From the specialised selling of steam yachts to design and manufacture of flying boats.

Pemberton Billing Limited

The spirit of adventure was at the very heart of the company formed by publisher, lawyer, property developer and inventor Noel Pemberton Billing.


Noel Pemberton Billing Noel Pemberton Billing
After running away from home aged 13, he spent time in South Africa eventually joining the Mounted Police before becoming a professional boxer.  After fighting in the second Boer War he was invalided out and returned to England in 1903 where he opened a business in Kingston upon Thames which eventually specialised in selling steam yachts.  Pemberton-Billing actually learnt to fly in September 1913 following a wager with Frederick Handley-Page who said he could not achieve controlled flight in a single day.  Needless to say, Handley-Page lost the bet and later that year saw the formation of Pemberton-Billing Limited, created by its owner to manufacture flying boats.  


Based at Woolston, a suburb of Southampton, the company’s first project was the P.B.1, a single-seat flying boat although it never managed to fly more than a few yards.  Another attempt to produce a viable design was the P.B.9 which, although the only example built was eventually sold to the Royal Naval Air Service, was actually built in 7 days earning it the nickname ‘Seven Day Bus’.


Pemberton Billing PB23 Pemberton Billing PB23

Pemberton-Billing Limited used ‘Supermarine’ as its telegraphic address, this being refuted to have been chosen by Mr Pemberton-Billing as the opposite of ‘submarine’.

The company eventually saw a small amount of success with the P.B.25, a single seat scout aircraft of which 20 were built in 1915.

Mr Pemberton-Billing meanwhile had lost interest in aviation in favour of a political life having been elected a Member of Parliament in 1916.  During his paliamentary career, Pemberton-Billing was very vocal in his opposition to the activities of the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough whom he considered as 'tinkering with science' rather than preparing to face the so-called 'Fokker scourge'.

He sold the company to his factory manager Hubert Scott-Paine in 1916 who renamed it as The Supermarine Aviation Works Limited.


1913 Pemberton-Billing Limited
1916 Supermarine Aviation Works Limited
1928 Vickers Aviation Limited
1928 Vickers-Armstrongs Limited
1954 Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Limited                                               
1960 British Aircraft Corporation
1973 British Aerospace
1999 BAE Systems


1914 P.B.1                                       1915 P.B.25                                
1914 P.B.9 1916 P.B.29
1915 P.B.23