Secrets of the Spitfire, Lance Cole
Secrets of the Spitfire, Lance Cole
The Story of Beverley Shenstone: The man who perfected the elliptical wing
Beverley Shenstone was a Canadian aeronautical engineer and aerodynamicist who played a major role in the design of the distinctive modified double elliptical shape of the Spitfire's wing. During a long career he spent several years in pre-war Germany, working on some of the most advanced aircraft designs of the day (first with Junkers and later with Alexander Lippisch, an early advocate of the flying wing and tailless aircraft). He worked at Supermarine for most of the 1930s, and was a senior member of the Spitfire design team, working on the wing and its connection to the fuselage.
At the heart of the book are the very detailed discussions of the design, development and the technical performance of the Spitfire wing. Cole certainly proves one of his points - the elliptical wing form clearly wasn't adopted without a great deal of thought, and everyone involved believed that it would result in better performance than a standard tapered wing. This fits nicely with the memories of just about every pilot who flew the Spitfire, who all report that it was a delightful aircraft to fly, seeming able to respond to the pilot's commands effortlessly. Cole goes into a great deal of detail on the aerodynamic advantages of the Spitfire's wing shape, and I must admit much of this section is rather beyond me (the author is an aviation expert). There is enough detail here to satisfy the expert reader and enough general explanation to allow the general reader to follow Cole's arguments.
There are a couple of irritants here, mainly because the author is so keen to prove his point. In particular the frequent comments that a particular piece of information is being published for the first time do start to grate after a bit and do the frequent references to the Heinkel He 70. This aircraft had a simple elliptical wing and appeared just before the Spitfire, leading some writers to mistakenly believe that the Spitfire wing was inspired by the German aircraft. Cole proves that elliptical wings predate the He 70, and that Shenstone's design had very little in common with that aircraft's wing, but the argument does tend to spill out of the chapters already devoted to it into other parts of the text.
These are minor flaws, and really come from the author's enthusiasm for his subject. Shenstone is an interesting figure, who played a major part in the design of the Spitfire. The detailed calculations he left behind when he left Supermarine were used when the wing was altered later in the war. After the war he moved into civil aviation, where he rose to a high position within British European Airways. He was also interested in gliders and man-powered flight, and made significant contributions in both fields.
This is a passionately written biography of an interesting figure who genuinely deserves to be much better known that he is.
1 - Before Take-off - Early Days in Canada
2 - Canadian Wings - From Water to Air
3 - Toronto to Southampton via Dessau, and the Wasserkuppe
4 - Supermarine Days
5 - Perfecting the Spitfire
6 - The Mystical Ellipse
7 - Supermarine's Modified Double Ellipse
8 - The Spitfire's Vital Advantage
9 - Sailplanes and the Spitfire?
10 - Beyond the Leading Edge
11 - The Heinkel 70 and Other Issues
12 - Atlantic Commuter
13 - Canada or Britain?
14 - British European Airways
15 - Viscount, Vanguard, Trident
16 - Airlines Gliders and Man-powered Flight
Epilogue: Tail Piece
Author: Lance Cole
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Secrets of the Spitfire - Revealed BOAC's Bev Shenstone's story
'Secrets of the Spitfire the story of Beverley Shenstone the man who perfected the elliptical wing by Lance Cole - published by Pen and Sword books. just out.
If you are under the misapprehension (as erroneously pedalled by many) that the Spitfire's wing was 'inspired' by the Heinkel 70, (He70) then this is the book for you - chapter 11 forensically proves that the Spit's wing came from way back in history and from young Shenstone's mind. It had now to do witht eh HE 70s ellipse. Smoothness criteria is a separate issue.
There's loads of new Spitfire -science stories and new quotes by from R.J. Mitchell in this.
Shenstone went on to be President of the RAeS, Chief Engineer at BEA and Board memebr, and tech director at BOAC - his airline transport years are also touched on in this book.
R.J. Mitchell is portrayed as the hero he was, but this story of an unknown team member really deos lift the lid and add new facts.
The photos seem to include shots of the Type 224 pre-Spit prototype that have not been seen before.
Shenstone was also a trained RCAF pilot and Wasserkuppe trained glider pilot.
His work with Lippisch and at Wright Patterson adds to the 'secrets'.
Dear old Nicholas Goodhart Rr Admrl CB FRAeS also makes an appearance as does Uffa Fox and Peter Hearne. Gliding is a big theme in the story
Well worth a read despite the odd typo. The author wrote a VC10 book with a Foreword by Brian Trubshaw - many years ago.
Aviation History Book Review: Secrets of the Spitfire
Reginald J. Mitchell will always be remembered as the mastermind behind the Supermarine Spitfire. But in Secrets of the Spitfire, Lance Cole focuses on the iconic fighter’s most distinctive feature and the man who developed it. Canadian Beverley Strahan Shenstone (1906-1979) was the genius in aerodynamic engineering who gave the Spitfire its elliptical wing.
The Greek Apollonius is said to have first coined the term elleipsis for a curved form that was something less than a perfect circle. Since then, many mathematicians and engineers have studied the properties of the curve, including its aerodynamic possibilities. In early 1894, Frederick Lancaster built a series of large flying models with thin elliptical planforms, and in 1906 Danish designer Jacob Ellehammer developed a successful airplane with an elliptical wing. Shenstone, however, was influenced by the studies of Nikolai Zhukovsky, while he was working on the research team of Alexander Lippisch, father of the delta wing, from 1930 to 1931. During the 1930s Shenstone and Lippisch continued to communicate about the flying problems they faced. In retrospect it seems curious that the Germans already knew of Shenstone’s application of mathematical principles toward developing an elliptical wing, while Shenstone already knew about Lippisch’s work on delta wings.
In 1937 Shenstone designed the first delta-wing bomber, the Supermarine B.12/36. For the Spitfire fighter, he succeeded in designing a double elliptical wing, having resolved the wing’s spanwise airflow circulation control largely based on what he had observed in the development of the Lippisch sweptwing (later used on the Messerschmitt Me-163 rocket plane) and delta-wing shapes. Through his delta-wing work and his study of German glider designs, Shenstone knew that the behavior of the airflow over the wing, as well as the wing loading itself, were the two key factors in creating an advanced wing. Applied to the Spitfire, it gave Britain a match for the Messerschmitt Me-109E when it most urgently needed such a plane.
Anyone interested in seeing how talented engineers seek and find solutions toward improving flight characteristics, and how mathematical theory makes its way from the drawing board to soaring reality, should find Secrets of the Spitfire a satisfying read.
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Aviation History Magazine. To subscribe, click here.
Secrets of the Spitfire
Lance Cole’s extraordinary book examines a part of the Spitfire story that is both important and, more importantly, has not been covered before. This famous British fighter plane owes its remarkable and unique performance to a bright young Canadian aeronautical engineer who, having been identified as an up and coming graduate at the University of Toronto, went to work in Germany at a time when its aircraft industry was making huge strides and getting ready for World War II. Beverley Shenstone’s time in Germany was serendipitous because being in the right place at the right time enabled him to work on the Junkers production line and so gain the very necessary hands-on experience of building aeroplanes.
Cole being both a glider pilot and a trained designer gives him a most suitable vantage point from which to examine Shenstone’s interests and achievements. Shenstone, who had trained as an RCAF pilot, also took up gliding which familiarized him with flight behaviors that would prove crucial to his later designs for the Spitfire. Germany, shackled by the Treaty of Versailles having effectively banned powered flight post-World War I, had made gliding a national sport and German gliders the best in the world. Interestingly, Germany lobbied very hard, but unsuccessfully, to have gliding included as one of the official sports at the infamous 1936 Olympic Games. It is thus uniquely relevant that this particular interest of Shenstone’s brought him to Germany’s gliding center, Wasserkuppe, where he met a man who was to have a profound influence on his subsequent career: Alexander Lippisch, the brilliant German aerodynamicist who perfected the tailless delta wing and whose work made the extraordinary Me 163 high-speed rocket-powered interceptor a viable project. Shenstone worked alongside Lippisch, absorbing much fact and inspiration. Cole correctly suggests that Shenstone being a Canadian citizen made his presence politically acceptable in the highly sensitive aviation environment of Nazi Germany.
The main thrust of this excellent book is the story of how Shenstone was recruited by the Chief Designer of Vickers Supermarine R.J. Mitchell in the early 1930s and how Shenstone’s fascination with the science of aerodynamics led to his design of a very advanced and unique elliptical wing that enabled the Spitfire to outperform both the Hurricane and Me 109 fighters. Cole’s exposition should lay to rest once and for all the myth that Mitchell lifted the idea for the Spitfire’s elliptical wing from the German Heinkel He 70. It also clearly establishes just how much of a team effort the Spitfire design was and remained throughout the years. The extraordinary performance of the low-drag wing designed in 1935 was critically important five years later during the Battle of Britain. By 1945, versions of the Spitfire with this Shenstone wing (and a number of other mods by his hand) were achieving speeds as high as Mach .92!
After his time with Vickers Supermarine, inevitably Shenstone was moving up on his career path. He mixed with the mighty at the all-important August 1941 meeting of Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt at Newfoundland and the following year saw him based at the top US aviation research establishment at Wright Patterson airfield in Ohio.
After returning to Canada for a time, post-war Shenstone and his wife crossed the Atlantic to return to a very austere Britain where he took up the position of Chief Engineer at British European Airways. Over the years he held high offices—technical director at BOAC, consultant to several aircraft makers, President of the Royal Aeronautical Society—and was courted by Avro, de Havilland, and Vickers. His early days in the nationalized airline business reflect a sad story of highly competent engineers and administrators trying to fight off incompetent political interference from the socialist Attlee government. However BEA’s enthusiasm for and the development of the Vickers Viscount into a world-beating airliner is a happier story but the airline’s obsession with turboprops led to the unfortunate Vanguard debacle. When BEA finally accepted the benefits of the jet engine, the potentially world-class de Havilland 121 trijet airliner was ruined by the airline’s obsession with imperfect future traffic analysis data.
Based on Shenstone family documents and his unpublished autobiography this very readable book (a basic understanding of aerodynamics—and also general Spitfire history—will help!) concludes with his post-retirement activities that include his fascination with and support of man-powered flight projects, including the creation of the Kremer Prize.
Many of the photos are Shenstone’s own and thus new to the record, especially the Type 224 pre-Spitfire prototype. There are no technical drawings which, considering the subject matter, is surprising. The book includes comprehensive chapter notes. The Appendix relates to Shenstone’s articles, papers, letters, and lectures and the Bibliography includes references to personal interviews. The index is quite detailed.
Journalist Lance Cole is no newcomer to aviation authorship and has published several books and numerous articles. His print and broadcast work is syndicated worldwide. Car folks will recognize him as a long-time contributor to Saab message boards and author of several books about that marque.
Secrets of the Spitfire, Lance Cole - History
The story of Beverley Shenstone, the man who perfected the elliptical wing
S u m m a r y :
Publisher, Title and ISBN:
Secrets of the Spitfire: The story of Beverley Shenstone, the man who perfected the elliptical wing
Hard cover, 272 pages, A5 format English text 16 pages of black and white photographs
GBP £15.99 available online from
www.pen-and-sword.co.uk and specialist book and hobby shops worldwide
A thoroughly researched book on an interesting subject
Some repetition and over-emphasis of key points
Fascinating insights into both the science behind the Spitfire&rsquos elliptical wing, and the man who designed it.
HyperScale is proudly supported by Squadron.com
While Reginald Mitchell is rightly hailed as the man who created the Spitfire, he did not design it on his own. One of Mitchell&rsquos key achievements at Supermarine in the late 1920s and early 1930s was to assemble a team of experts who worked together well and who responded positively to his leadership. Amongst these was Beverley Shenstone, a Canadian aeronautical engineer who joined Supermarine in 1931 when he was 25 years old, and who was primarily responsible for the Spitfire&rsquos signature elliptical wing.
This book by Lance Cole is not quite a biography of Shenstone. It tells the story of Shenstone&rsquos life, from his childhood and education in Canada to his post-war association with British European Airways, but its focus is on how the Spitfire &ndash and particularly its wing &ndash was designed in the mid-1930s. This analysis is the centerpiece of Cole&rsquos work, and so it&rsquos fair to say that the Spitfire shares equal billing with Shenstone as the story&rsquos main character.
The book opens strongly with a series of chapters that describe how Shenstone ended up at Supermarine in 1931. His journey was a fascinating one: after graduating as &ldquoCanada&rsquos first Master in aeronautics&rdquo, Shenstone went to Germany where he worked for Junkers in 1929-30 and then Alexander Lippisch in 1930-31 (with whom he remained friends for over 40 years). These were formative experiences for Shenstone, and arguably one of the main reasons why Reginald Mitchell hired him.
The next 130 pages are devoted to Shenstone&rsquos time at Supermarine, and a detailed exposition of how he developed the Spitfire wing. Unfortunately, this is where the book flags a little. While the Spitfire was without doubt a remarkable aircraft design, Cole&rsquos arguments in support of this are repetitious, and would have benefited from more rigorous editing. Soldiering through this section was nonetheless rewarding &ndash Cole presents a myriad of facts, figures and anecdotes, including an interesting comparison of the aerodynamic efficiency of the Spitfire and Bf 109. The apparent similarity in the wing shapes of the Spitfire and He 70 is also discussed, with Cole dismissing as nonsense any idea that Shenstone was influenced by the German design.
The text is well supported by 16 pages of black and white photographs. Some excellent images are included, such as Lippisch and his design team (including Shenstone) clustered around a desk in 1930, and Shenstone posing next to a Junkers Junior aircraft, also in 1930. Shenstone&rsquos 1937 design for &ldquoa twin-engined, Spitfire-wing derived/fighter bomber&rdquo is also reproduced &ndash now there&rsquos a scratch-building project!
My criticism above notwithstanding, I found this a fascinating and highly informative book. Cole has researched his subjects thoroughly, and leaves the reader in no doubt about the uniqueness and efficiency of the Spitfire&rsquos wing, or of Shenstone&rsquos role in creating it. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand more of the history and science behind Britain&rsquos most famous aircraft.
Secrets of the Spitfire: The Story of Beverley Shenstone, The Man Who Perfected the Elliptical Wing Hardcover – 19 August 2012
This is an excellent book on the Spitfire and just as importantly Beverley Shenstone who was instrumental in guiding the aerodynamics of the Spitfire wing resulting in the unique forward swept modified ellipse that made the Spitfire what it is. The author Lance Cole is commended for digging deeper than previous authors in writing about the Spitfire, admittedly with the help of the Shenstone family providing the diaries and notes of Beverley Shenstone. The story provides a rich background of his time prior to Supermarine, working with Hugo Junkers and Alexander Lippisch in Germany in the early thirties where he gained valuable experience in the design of wing shape and tailless designs.
It debunks many of the myths that have unfortunately emerged in this internet age, one of which is that RJ Mitchell used the idea for the elliptical wing for the Spitfire from the German Heinkel He 70. The wing design that Shenstone used was an original design and was a considerably modified elliptical profile whereas the He 70 was a symmetrical ellipse. He also used two NACA thin wing aerofoil sections and developed and modified them across the span to calculated thickness to achieve the required performance. There were numerous other special features that were developed and designed into the wing shape the majority of which came from Shenstone's mind, he refined the shapes mathematically, not having the luxury of advanced wind tunnels and CFD programs that today's aerodynamicists have.
It also shows how RJ Mitchell did not create the Spitfire single handed, as is so often touted by less thorough authors and media when writing on the Spitfire it was a team effort by many brilliant minds that together created what was the most aerodynamically advanced aircraft of its time. The proof being that the Spitfire was developed throughout the WWII and was able to counter all new German aircraft designs such as the Fw 190 however the German jets were an entirely different problem. The Hurricane the Spitfire's Battle of Britain stable-mate became outdated very quickly by comparison a good aircraft but not an advanced one by any means, being developed as an evolution from the Hawker Fury bi-plane. Sydney Camm had economy in mind and used many parts from the Fury to reduce development costs, the first 500 Hurricanes delivered to the RAF had fabric covered wings, most of which by the Battle of Britain had been replaced with metal skinned wings, which permitted dive speeds 80 mph faster than the fabric covered wings.
It clearly illustrates that the Supermarine Spitfire design team were the "dream team' of their time, with many great minds all working together. It also shows that while the work they performed was incredibly stressful it was rewarding and that working for RJ Mitchell was enjoyable, which probably helped the team work efficiently and with increased output.
The other area the book delves into is Shenstone's post war career and shows him as a trailblazer in the field of running the technical and maintenance engineering department of BEA (British European Airways), in the post war era of austerity. BEA was later to become British Airways along with BOAC when they were both nationalized in 1974 by the UK government.
This book is a revelation of facts and information on the Spitfire design that has never before seen the light of day. It requires some basic aircraft engineering, design and aerodynamics knowledge, for which I enjoyed it even more being an aerospace engineer, but saying that, it is still a very readable story for anyone with no prior aerospace knowledge. It also has a number of new never before seen photographs from the period of the development of the Spitfire. The only thing which I would have liked to have seen would have been some technical drawings showing the wing layout, spar position, ailerons etc. where they would be applicable to the story about those areas. However that did not detract from the overall enjoyment, but would have helped people with less prior knowledge of the specific layout of wing design, particularly the Spitfire.
Now what other Secrets are there of the Spitfire, maybe a follow-on book giving us the in-depth story of RJ Mitchell and other key members of his team looking at the unique challenges of the structure, power plant, manufacturing, production issues etc.
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- This book tells the tale of the brilliant aerodynamicist Beverley Shenstone MASc, HonFRAes, FAIAA, AFIAS, FCASI, HonOSTIV. As R.J. Mitchell's chief aerodynamicist, it was Shenstone who designed the Spitfire's wing - the wing that gave the Spitfire it crucial advantage in the Battle of Britain and beyond. A quiet man, Shenstone never sought glory for his work, yet in recent years he has been credited as the man who persuaded Mitchell to adopt the ellipse - a modified ellipse that was unique in its shape and its combined use of two integrated aerofoil sections. Shenstone's knife-edge shape reached far back into early aeronautics for its inspiration. This book also names the other forgotten Spitfire design contributors who were Mitchell's men - Mr Faddy, Mr Fear, Mr Fenner, Mr Shirvall, a Prof Howland and others. Intriguingly, Shenstone had left his native Canada and early training as an RCAF pilot, to study at Junkers and then under the father of the delta wing - Alexander Lippisch in Germany in the early 1930s. There, he became immersed in delta wings and flying wings. He also became a glider pilot. The story of how Beverley came to be in the right place at the right time is revealed for the first time. So too are the enigmatic tales of his involvement with the military, the intelligence world, Lord Beaverbrook, the USAF, and Canadian aviation. During the war Shenstone worked at the top secret Wright Patterson air force base and was involved with the Air Ministry and the pro-British movement in America when Shenstone worked for Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman, the unsung hero behind British defence procurement. Shenstone achieved high office - a President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, technical director at BOAC, chief engineer at BEA and a consultant to several aircraft makers. He was courted by Avro, de Havilland and Vickers, and was the force behind the renaissance of human-powered flight. Using exclusive access to his family documents, his unpublished autobiography and many notes and stories, as well as forensic research, this book details for the first time, a new twist to the Spitfire's story and the secrets of its advanced science. A tale of design and military intelligence reveals a story of a man whose name should be more widely known in the UK, Canada and the aviation world.
‘Swindon Remembers’ – Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary
‘Swindon Remembers’ commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and pays tribute to Harold Starr, the Swindon-born squadron leader who died in the battle, and his fellow pilots whose victory proved a turning point of the Second World War.
As part of the festival, Central Library will be hosting three illustrated talks on a Battle of Britain theme.
Harold Starr: One of The Few – a talk by Graham Carter. Tuesday,
September 8th: 7.15pm
Graham Carter, editor of Swindon Heritage, tells the story of our own Battle of Britain hero, on what would have been his 101st birthday. This illustrated talk looks at the whole story, from Harold’s early days in Swindon, up until his tragic death over Kent in 1940, and includes photographs kindly loaned by members of the Starr family.
Flying the Spitfire – a talk by Phill O’Dell. Wednesday, September 9th: 7.15pm
A talk in which Phill O’Dell, a former RAF test pilot, now chief test pilot and head of flying with Rolls-Royce, explains what it’s like to fly a Spitfire. Phill will also talk about the work of Fly2Help, one of the adopted charities of Swindon Remembers, of which he is chair. There will be an opportunity for questions from the audience at the end of the talk.
Secrets of the Spitfire – a talk by Lance Cole. Thursday, September 10th: 7.15pm Swindon author Lance Cole is an expert on the design of the Spitfire. His book Secrets of the Spitfire and the just published Secret Wings of World War II are ground-breaking works about the plane’s iconic wings. Drawing on illustrations from his extensive research, Lance will be in conversation with local historian Mike Pringle, as well as answering questions from the audience and signing copies of his books.
All Talks start 7.15pm and take place in the Central Library 2nd Floor Reading Room. Tickets*: £1.50 (Library Members) / £2.50 (Non-members) per talk.
*Special discount for all three talks: £3.50 (Library Members) / £6 (Non-members). Tickets available from The Ground Floor Help Desk at Central Library SN1 1QG (Tel: 01793 463792) and all other Swindon Libraries
9781848848962 / 184884896X
This book tells the tale of the brilliant aerodynamicist Beverley Shenstone MASc, HonFRAes, FAIAA,AFIAS, FCASI, HonOSTIV. As R.J. Mitchells chief aerodynamicist, it was Shenstone who designed the Spitfires wing the wing that gave the Spitfire it crucial advantage in the Battle of Britain and beyond. A quiet man, Shenstone never sought glory for his work, yet in recent years he has been credited as the man who persuaded Mitchell to adopt the ellipse a modified ellipse that was unique in its shape and its combined use of two integrated aerofoil sections. Shenstones knife-edge shape reached far back into early aeronautics for its inspiration. This book also names the other forgotten Spitfire design contributors who were Mitchells men Mr Faddy, Mr Fear, Mr Fenner, Mr Shirvall, a Prof Howland and others.
Intriguingly, Shenstone had left his native Canada and early training as an RCAF pilot, to study at Junkers and then under the father of the delta wing Alexander Lippisch in Germany in the early 1930s. There, he became immersed in delta wings and flying wings. He also became a glider pilot. The story of how Beverley came to be in the right place at the right time is revealed for the first time. So too are the enigmatic tales of his involvement with the military, the intelligence world, Lord Beaverbrook , the USAF, and Canadian aviation.
During the war Shenstone worked at the top secret Wright Patterson air force base and was involved with the Air Ministry and the pro-British movement in America when Shenstone worked for Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman, the unsung hero behind British defence procurement. Shenstone achieved high office a President of the Royal Aeronautical Society, technical director at BOAC, chief engineer at BEA and a consultant to several aircraft makers. He was courted by Avro, de Havilland and Vickers, and was the force behind the renaissance of human-powered flight.
Using exclusive access to his family documents, his unpublished autobiography and many notes and stories, as well as forensic research, this book details for the first time, a new twist to the Spitfires story and the secrets of its advanced science. A tale of design and military intelligence reveals a story of a man whose name should be more widely known in the UK, Canada and the aviation world.
59 SECRET WEAPONS OVER NORMANDY Supermarine Spitfire Mk . V The
workhorse of His Majesty's Air Force . The Spitfire is powered by a Rolls - Royce
Merlin engine , the Spitfire proved itself against the Bf - 109 during the great
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