Vickers Supermarine

Manufacturers of probably the most famous fighter aircraft in the world.
Supermarine actually has its origins in Pemberton-Billing Limited, a company based at Woolston, Southampton in 1913. Pemberton-Billing used the term ‘Supermarine Southampton’ as their telegram and cable address.
 
Supermarine Logo
In 1916, Pemberton-Billing's Sales Manager Hubert Scott-Paine purchased Pemberton Billing Ltd and changed its trading name what was previously their telegraphic and telegram address: Supermarine Aviation Works Limited.
 
The first true ‘Supermarine’ design was a bit of a disaster really. Named the Nighthawk, the anti-Zepplin fighter aircraft never progressed past the prototype stage as it proved totally inadequate for the role. It was too slow in the climb (taking an hour to climb to 10,000 ft!) and it was abandoned soon after its first flight in 1917.  
 
Supermarine entry for the Admiralty Amphibian Competition in 1920 Supermarine entry for the Admiralty Amphibian Competition in 1920
 
A number of seaplane projects followed under new Chief Designer Reginald J Mitchell, who had joined the company in 1919 and within a year had entered the Supermarine Commercial Amphibian for the Admiralty Competition held at Martlesham Heath - this is said to be Mitchell's first true design for the company. 
 
Gradually, the company turned its attention to the design and production of racing aircraft and in particular the Sea Lion with which it competed for the 1919 Schneider Trophy at Bournemouth.  Sadly, the race ended in utter chaos after it was abandoned due to fog and with many of the aircraft being damaged by flotsam.
 
In 1922, Supermarine finally scored their first Schneider Trophy win with a Sea Lion Mk2 and thereafter, a number of various radical designs followed, mainly created to contest government held competitions.   This became a great source of publicity and opened the door to valuable government funded work.
 
In 1928, Supermarine were taken over by Vickers-Armstrongs and in a move to try and maintain the racing pedigree, the company operated under the name Vicker Supermarine thereafter.
 
As a direct result of their racing activities, Supermarine secured orders from the newly-formed Fleet Air Arm for the Southampton Flying Boat. The Southampton proved to be one of their most successful aircraft between the wars and 83 were built in between 1924 and 1934.
 
Mitchell meanwhile, still held a passion for speed and the sleek lines of the S.6B design, built for the Schneider Trophy Race of 1931, showed echoes of what was to be his most famous design of all – The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire.
 
Less glamorous but almost as significant in operational terms was Mitchell’s Supermarine Walrus, a catapult-launched amphibian fleet spotter of which 740 aircraft were built from 1933.
 
Vickers Supermarine Experimental Aircraft Hangar at Hursley Park Vickers Supermarine Experimental Aircraft Hangar at Hursley Park
 
The story of Vickers Supermarine is rarely told without reference to the Spitfire however, an aircraft which achieved iconic status around the world and is still so beloved today.
 
Designed at Hursley Park near Winchester, over 20,000 aircraft were built in distinct marks with many featuring variations of engine, wing and propeller profiles.
 
The jet age saw Vickers Supermarine Aviation struggle with little success with a number of unfulfilled projects. They failed to find real acclaim in the military jet-era and their last true aircraft was the Scimitar in 1956.
 
Eventually, the Supermarine brand was consumed by Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) as it became part of British Aircraft Corporation in 1960 and although it is fondly remembered in terms of the Spitfire and alike, today it only remains in the USA as a company manufacturing replica aircraft in kit form.
 

Genealogy

 

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

Aircraft

 
1916
AD Flying Boat
1929
 S.6
1916
AD Navyplane
1931
 S.6B
1917
 Nighthawk
1931
 Air Yacht
1917
 Baby
1931
 Type 179
1919
 Sea Lion I
1932
 Scapa
1919
 Channel
1932
 Stranraer
1920
 Commercial Amphibian
1933
 Walrus
1920
 Sea King
1934
 Type 224
1921
 Seagull
1936
 Spitfire
1921
 Seal
1938 
 Sea Otter
1922
 Sea Lion II and III
1939
 322 also S.24/37 or "Dumbo"
1922
 Scylla
1941
 Seafire
1922
 Sea Urchin
1944
 Spiteful
1923
 Sea Eagle
1946
 Seafang
1924
 Scarab
1946
 Attacker
1924
 Swan
1948
 Seagull ASR-1
1924
 Sparrow
1948
 510
1925
 Southampton
1950
 535
1925
 S.4
1950
 521
1927
 Sheldrake
1951
 Swift
1927
 S.5
1951
 508
1927
 Nanok
1954
 525
1927
 Solent
1956
 Scimitar
1928
 Seamew
 
 
 

Other information