Supermarine Aviation Works
Noel Pemberton-Billing, a wealthy yacht-broker, gun-runner and aircraft manufacturer (he established the Supermarine company, described as ‘tall, slick, monocled and iron-jawed’ by contemporary society columnists, learned to fly in 24 hours to win a £500 wager with Frederick Handley Page and subsequently served with the Royal Naval Air Service, from which his ‘tem-pestuous temperament’ earned him an early retirement, though not before he had helped to organize the first aerial attack on the Zeppelin sheds on Lake Constance.
Noel Pemberton Billing began aeronautical experiments in 1908 with a primitive monoplane. Acquiring a factory at Woolston, Southampton, in 1913, he began to design and build marine aircraft, his P.B.1 biplane flying-boat being exhibited at the 1914 Olympia Show, but not flown.
Pemberton-Billing Ltd registered June 1914.
At outbreak of First World War in 1914 designed, built and flew P.B.9 single-seat scout biplane in nine days. The P.B.29E night patrol quadruplane of 1915, built in seven weeks from beginning of design, paved the way for the improved version, the 1915 P.B.31E Nighthawk anti-airship fighter with many ingenious features, including searchlight and recoilless gun. By the time this had flown the company had been renamed Supermarine Aviation Works.
Other designs were a twin-float seaplane and Baby single-seat fighter flying-boat, the latter flying in February 1918. Company's postwar Schneider Trophy Sea Lion racing flying-boats were developed from Baby, but advanced S.4 racer of 1925 was a twin-float seaplane, though still of wooden construction. The S.5 and S.6 seaplanes, which followed, were renowned for racewinning and record-breaking, but especially as forerunners of Second World War Spitfire, designed by Reginald Mitchell (1895-1937), who had joined company in 1916. Well-known maritime aircraft included the Admiralty (AD) type built by Supermarine (and Pemberton-Billing) in First World War, and Seal/Seagull/Scarab/Sheldrake series developed during 1920s and 1930s.
When the company was absorbed by Vickers in 1928 it was already famous for large multi-engined flying-boats, particularly Southampton, distinguished in RAF service from 1925, especially for long cruises.
Supermarine became Vicker-Supermarine in 1929.
Successors were much-refined Scapa of 1932 and Stranraer of 1935, and the Walrus and Sea Otter earned their place in FAA history during Second World War. The Supermarine Spitfire first flew March5, 1936. Well over 20,000 were built by various makers. Basic change came when the Rolls-Royce was replaced by the Griffon engine. Seafire was naval development (over 2,500 built). Spiteful and Seafang were late piston-engined types with new wing, from which the jet-propelled Attacker was developed to enter service in 1951. Swept-wing Swift was unsuccessful as fighter, and twin-jet Scimitar of 1958 concluded fighter line.