R J Mitchell was virtually self-taught; surprisingly, almost all his other 24 aircraft were slow-flying seaplanes. How a lad from the land-locked Midlands, apprenticed to a locomotive works, came to be responsible for the Spitfire is a great tale in itself. This detailed book tells us how Mitchell learned his trade - from 1916, contributing to the production of the cumbersome Nighthawk, designed to combat the German Zepplin threat, and gradually coming to produce record-breaking racing floatplanes which in 1931 won outright the prestigious international Schneider Trophy. Michell was thus well placed to design a high speed aircraft when war began to threaten, but Dr Shelton reveals the production of the famous fighter was by no means a certainty and how, indeed, its vital contribution to winning the Battle of Britain was 'a very close run thing'.
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