Category Archives: Thoughts

Say what you mean advertising. – SpecSavers

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With all my problems health wise, and especially my eyes, (see The most precious thing in life, sight), and the fact that a pair of my reading glasses had fallen apart, the arms had become detached, and I having had constant reminders in the post to get my eyes tested, I decided to visit my local SpecSavers in Kingston upon Thames.

SpecSavers, although being a very large organisation, with perhaps an outlet in every town here in the UK, have always been good to me, the staff are pleasant, mostly knowing what they are doing, the only drawback is that there seems to be long waiting times, this time almost three hours. OK, there was lots to do.

SpecSavers have a marketing campaign that says “Clear Price is here“.

SpecSavers marketing campaign

It purports to say that you know what you are going to pay for, which is true, you choose the frames at a price, say £99. Not bad for glasses, but, hang-on, add the price of the extras, the special anti-glare, plus the anti-scratch, plus the reaction coating darkening when in bright sunlight, plus, plus plus, and then you get to the total price.

OK, I can cope with that, I passed my maths exam, even if the SpecSavers assistant needed a calculator to work out the total cost three times.

Then there are the offers, “Buy one, get one free“, or “2 for 1.

I like that offer, as like any modern products, there seems to be a built-in a life span, after which the product dies. In the case of my previous glasses, both arms became unglued and dropped off, this after two years. SpecSavers suggest everyone should have their eyes tested every two years. Strange that my glasses died and needed replacing just on two years. Good job I had a spare pair.

So I ask for a free second pair offer.

Wait, I am told I have to pay for the extras on the second pair.

OK Clear Price, I will not have all the add-ons on the second pair.

I order the new glasses, happy, but the total price not £99, but £287.

When I get home, on the doormat is a flyer, or marketing leaflet for SpecSavers, saying “FREE REACTIONS“, (the glasses go dark in the sun becoming sunglasses). “2 FOR 1 GLASSES“, “FREE EYE TEST“.

SpecSavers leaflet giving ‘special’ offers

I am entitled to free eye tests, so I did not get that or need that offer.

I got 2 for 1, even if SpecSavers only meant the physical glasses and not the add-ons.

What about the “FREE REACTIONS” written the leaflet? I had paid for that, and only for got it for one pair of glasses.

I look at the back of the leaflet. A lovely lady wearing dark glasses, and in bold capital letters “FREE REACTIONS“.

I read on.

Buy any pair of glasses from our £75 or above and have them fitted with Reactions photochromic lenses at no extra cost………”

So why did I have to pay? It clearly says “FREE“.

Under the article is written “*Conditions apply. See leaflets in-store for details.” in small print.

Because I had taken the 2 for 1 offer, I could not get the FREE REACTIONS offer. This is not what your advertisement says. Sorry, it does in small print, hidden somewhere in your shops.

I hate this type of marketing, it is not “CLEAR PRICE“, it is bad marketing, bad advertising. it is not clear.

Another advertising campaign states, “30% off” for those over a certain age, well I am, I’m 95 (joke) so am I entitled to that offer. No I’m not, I have taken the “2 for 1” offer so the “30%” is not applicable.

SpecSavers, you are hiding the truth, in small print, especially not correct when serving people with possible sight problems. You are getting people into your shops with a promise of an offer, which is has conditions.

I am upset, why would I write this. How many other customers are you loosing by this bad marketing.

Yes, other companies do it and are being told to stop by National Governments and the European Parliament set in law. Companies like Ryann Air and other airlines who advertise, “Fly to XYZ for £10.” But, when you add-on taxes, airport duty, handling fee, baggage fee, and because I did not book six months in advance the £10 ticket is not available, the total cost is greater than a scheduled airline.

Come on SpecSavers, if you say Clear Price, then keep to it.

I would still buy from you and recommend you though.

Update, see New glasses
See One Year Later SpecSavers, well done

Another close call for 2 jets at JFK airport

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This morning I was catching-up on news, this time on the web site of MSNBC, an American biased site, but still gives me an insight into what is happening out there where you are.

I spotted a headline Another close call for 2 jets at JFK airport, and jumped in to read it.

The article tells how for 12 – 13 years, the FAA have been trying to change the procedures of aircraft landing at JFK airport, as there was an accident waiting to happen. The old procedure involves the taking-off and landings on two perpendicular runways.

Then it nearly did, twice in fact. One plane had not cleared the area before another used it, in other words, two planes could have crashed, or there could have been an accident.

In the article by Associated Press, it was written:-

    Laughlin said. “This is what we call, and what the FAA classifies, as a ‘proximity event.”‘

Why not use words that we humans use, “there was a cock-up”, a “near accident”?

I also read that The FAA ordered new procedures Friday afternoon to change the way takeoffs and landings on perpendicular runways are sequenced, or “terminated that perpendicular simultaneous approach procedure.

The new procedures it was stated are designed to ensure “that aircraft of one runway clear out of the path of the other runway before the second flight comes down on the other runway.”

I do not think I will be flying to JFK, as I perhaps pilots and air traffic controllers will not quite understand the new procedures.

Use clear, clean language not gobble-de-goop.

Collecting becomes Hoarding

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I have had some feedback and comments after my article I am a hoarder, which raised discussions, and provoked my thinking into what defines being a hoarder.

One definition defines hoarding as the collection or acquisition of items in large numbers of “seeminglyuseless possessions, and that collector fails to make use of them or discard them, that it causes clutter, which then stops other basic activities of living such as sleeping, washing, cleaning or getting access to the “storage” area.

There are a number of words I would like to look at in the sentence above.

Collection or acquisition. Many people I know have hobbies, they collect things, from books, stamps, coins, cut glass vases, cutlery, plants, aircraft identification, train numbers, etc etc. The last two are very British, and I know, those of you reading this in countries other than Great Britain (see English or British – Confused? I’ll explain.) will have no concept of this hobby. The question is, when does it cease being a hobby and become an obsession?

Seemingly. In whose eyes are the collections or acquisitions of no importance or useless, only to those who give the label to someone else of a hoarder. To the “hoarder” the items are very important and are or could be useful.

Could be. Surely, someone who thinks “could be”, is a forward thinking person, one of vision, a planner, be ready for any eventuality.

Useless. When does an item become “useless”. Only when someone cannot see a use for the item. What use is a used stamp to anyone, you cannot send a letter with it. What use is a souvenir of a holiday, a football program, the souvenir program of a play or concert? But a screw, a nut and bolt, an elastic band, a headache tablet, they can be useful.

Fails to make use. How can you make use of an old coin, that has long gone out of circulation, or a football program that was for a match years ago, or a badge from a meeting that was hung around the neck?

Clutter. Another word for being untidy, being in a mess. I look at some of the fashions of today, yes I know I was the same and still the same, where people wear a collection of clutter, they are a mess, yet in their eyes, they are not. I have seen the rooms of great thinkers, visionaries, professors, where there is no spare space in their rooms.

Basic activities. What is basic to one person, will not be to another. This I think can be defined to what is important to a person. One person will only wear a jumper, shirt or blouse once, and then have to have the item washed, others will wear the item many times. Some people will shower in the morning, some only at night, and some only once a week. What is basic?

Sleeping, washing, cleaning or getting access. Sleeping, well I know people who sleep in very strange places. Washing is what we are used to. I know of people who after a nights sleep, get up and get dressed and go straight to work without a shower. To me that is wrong, after sweating all night in bed, but then they must have a shower before going to bed to rid themselves of all the dirt and sweat acquired during the day. Cleaning, I have a friend who cleans the house from top to bottom every day, others, once a year. Getting access to is easy, just move one or two things.

Yesterday I went to the Hampton Court Flower Show, (video may follow) and saw people collecting/buying vast quantities of plants, garden accessories, all being pulled around in coloured plastic boxes on wheels, often empty, known as trolleys. Totally useless items, which will end-up at the back of the garage, shed, greenhouse or corner of the garden.

At Hampton Court Flower Show, coloured plastic boxes on wheels, often empty, known as trolleys.  At Hampton Court Flower Show, coloured plastic boxes on wheels, often empty, known as trolleys.

At Hampton Court Flower Show, coloured plastic boxes on wheels, often empty, known as trolleys..

I looked at some of the show gardens, and they are a collection of seemingly useless items, plants. They do nothing, just grow, and at one time they were weeds in some far off country, and are still classed as weeds there. And people stood for a long time admiring this garden full of “seeminglyuseless possessions.

Seemingly useless items and plants at Hampton Court Flower Show.

One garden had vegetables growing. To me it was a mess, just plants all mixed up. Another showed wild weeds, or what they called it pasture. You could not access the garden as it would spoil the look.

        A mass of vegetables at Hampton Court Flower Show. Useless to me, I hate vegeatables.  A mass of vegetables. Useless to me, I hate vegetables.

Around the grounds of Hampton Court were signs, “KEEP OFF THE GRASS“. In the show itself were signs, “DO NOT TOUCH“. So I could not gain access. The thing is I could if I had wanted to, and so it is with a hoarder, they can if they want too. I know where everything is, I can have access to the item if so required.

When does a collector become a hoarder? When another puts that label on them, when it does not fit their word, their understanding, likes and dislikes.

Compulsive hoarding or it could be classed as pathological hoarding, can be a sign of the condition known as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), and can be treated in many ways, including as I have done with NLP.

An extreme form of hoarding, is the collecting of rubbish, waste, for example old newspapers, empty tins, empty water or Coke bottles, and is known as syllogomania or disposophobia.

But, I have repaired my old cars with used tins which used to contain Corned Beef, stored oil in a soft drinks bottle.

So, when does a “seeminglyuseless item become an artifact and become a museum piece, surely the museums of every country hoard items? When are my old computers, my old Palm Pilot PDA‘s and prior to them the Apple Newton or the Psion handheld become museum pieces, collectables and not junk? When will my disc’s containing hours of work creating programs for the many customers I had become unwanted?

It is all in the eye of the beholder.

Oh Poo Poo. My brain hurts.

I am a hoarder

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I am a hoarder. Well that is what I am told, and it certainly feels like it at the moment as I go through my personal things, throwing out a lifetime of memories and “stuff” I have accumulated.

It is my personality, my way of living, never throw anything away that can be of use. It could be a nail, a piece of wood, a nut and bolt. I would need many hands to count the days gone by when I was a “handyman“, a “DIY” person, where the whole project would have been impossible to complete for the sake of that screw I had not thrown away, that I had kept for that “rainy day”.

How many times have I gone into the garage, and from bits and pieces, constructed something useful, something of beauty? Many times. The trouble is I have not had a garage for years.

How many times has something gone wrong, broken, and I have just the thing to repair it, taken from that old thing in the back of the cupboard.

How much money have I saved through repairing stuff by using other stuff I have saved?

They say you should not throw away old bills, invoices, bank statements, you should burn or shred them, as naughty people can steal your identity, so perhaps that is why I hoard them, I have literally taken-on their instructions.

Yesterday, as I was shredding some of my old bank statements (twenty years old, from a bank I am no longer with), the shredding machine I have been using of about a year, yes I do destroy things, broke down. I tried to see if there was anything stuck in the cutting teeth jamming the mechanics, I checked the fuse by changing it with an old fuse taken from a plug I had saved from two years ago. I check the internal electrics and connections.


I had to go out and get another shredder, another twenty pounds (£20) down the drain, and I threw the old shredder into the waste bin, but not the collecting bin that the old shredder fitted into. It may come in handy in the future.

The new shredder works fine, and I can continue in my sad task of getting rid of my past, my history, but I still wonder this morning, if only I had checked a little bit more on that old shredder, maybe, there was a solenoid, a hidden switch I missed, I could have repaired it.

What about those old magazines I will read when I get the time, there will be some interesting articles. Yes I know, I will never get the time, so out they go.

What about those computer discs, containing the computer software I developed for customers when I worked for the computer manufacturers NCR, Sperry Univac and Texas Instruments? Many times after I had left the employment of the manufacturer, I was asked to go back and help solve a problem or make changes. I was the only one who could do it. I needed to keep the data.

But will I ever be asked again? No chance, after forty years, how many NCR 399 or NCR 499 machines exist? How many TI DS 990 computers churn out facts and figures? How many PC computers from 1983 are still sitting working on an office desk?


How many of todays computers will be able to read a CRAM card? Haw many computers will be able to read a magnetic cassette with my programming on it, or the floppy discs of various sizes? Even the small floppies cannot be read as they have been superseded by CD’s, and new computers do not even have the facilities to read them. Next? Memory sticks and cards? Each storing more and more data, as they get smaller and smaller.

Progress with recording computer magnetic media, floppy disks to memory sticks
Progress in computer magnetic media.

Out they all go. Well I have kept one or two for historic reasons. How else am I able to show you examples in the above photograph?

But what is different to me and others?

People collect old photographs, cut glass vases, books, old used postage stamps, CD’s, ornaments, cutlery, diner sets. Diner sets and cutlery which will only come out for that special day that never comes. A cut glass vase, just in case a loved one gives them some flowers. Now will that ever come?

I am no different to others, and it is difficult to throw out my special things, my history, but it must be done, I have no room to hoard more things.

See Collecting becomes Hoarding.

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Ghosts of Targets Past – Philip Gray

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Whilst researching on previous article, Comments from the Spitfire article , Rolls Royce Merlin Engine , and The Hawker Hurricane, at the Imperial War Museum at RAF Duxford north of London, I met an ex RAF pilot, Philip Gray.

Philip Gray joined the RAF in 1942, to join Bomber Command as a pilot, and he has written a book about his experiences, Ghosts of Targets Past.

He writes about his going through the Selection Board through to end of the Second World War in the first person, recalling the conversations of his fellow aircrew, officers and friends. He describes the raids made on German cities, not only his fears as he flew through Ack-Ack or flak, but also those of his crew members.

For me it was the information and stories he told of his duties after the end of the war, still flying the mighty Avro Lancaster with its’ four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines across the English Chanel to drop food supplies to the Dutch in Holland. His description of an old lady looking up at him as he was flying over her at only 150 knots and at low-level, 
    “down on her knees, hands clasped together and held upwards, face staring towards the sky. Whether
      she was thanking her Maker, the Lancasters or both……..

this really moved me.

Avro Lancaster, cockpit, front gunner and bomb aimer positions
Avro Lancaster, cockpit, front gunner and bomb aimer positions

He also told how he and his crew flew across to France to pick-up and repatriate prisoners of war, and the emotions involved, not only for the ex PoW‘s but for him and his crew.

My father and many of my uncles and were involved in the war, but they never talked to me about their experiences, sadly they are no longer with us, so I am grateful to have read Philip Grays‘ book and to have met him, so I have a better understanding of what these men and women had to endure, and the public of both sides of the conflict.

Lastly the facts that Philip Gray imparts, has helped my understanding and knowledge. of staggering figures of “unloading a million tons of explosives over the Third Reich, losing eight-and-a-half thousand bombers in the process and a staggering fifty thousand aircrew.

The most precious thing in life, sight

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It must be my age. I seem to be spending more time in this last couple of year going to the hospital, than I had in the rest of my life.

Oh Poo Poo.

This time I had to attend the Joint Ophthal Consultant’s Ophthalmology clinic, (try saying that after a couple of booze), to see the Reu Fluoresceins, (if someone had eye problems how would they be able to see?), at the Royal Eye Unit of Kingston Hospital.

I had been called to see the Practice Nurse at my local GP (General Practitioners) Surgery, “just to keep an eye on me”, but maybe, to attain the statistical figures set by the British Government and Local Heath Authorities of the NHS (National Heath Service).

Although it is said, the NHS or the British health service is the envy of the world, where all medical treatment is free at source, it is run on statistics, figures and targets. The length of the waiting list to see a doctor, the number of people seen, the number of patients given the flu injection over a certain age, the number of women patients having had the smear test (cervical cancer), all are figures that have to be met so that they will be paid.

I was offered the pneumonia jab or injection. Um, I wonder why? Figures again? Or had they purchased too many units? Waste not. Want not.

During my appointment I mentioned a problem with my sight, and was told to go straight to hospital as an emergency. That was two months ago (see Falling apart at the seams), waiting list is a big problem with the British NHS, but I have been seen by a couple of clinics in those two months.

Yesterdays visit to the Joint Ophthal Consultant’s Ophthalmology clinic, to see the Reu Fluoresceins, (I still cannot say it, nor could the other patients waiting to see the doctor), I had “stuff” put into my eyes, and as I sat waiting for the effect of the “stuff” to happen, my sight began to distort, get blurred.

I started thinking about how precious sight is.

It was walking home that my sight became even more strange, no wonder they had said, do not drive.

At home, my vision was bad, I could not focus to read, see my small screen of the computer, see a clear picture on the TV, or focus on the wonderful smelling lilies in the hallway.

Lilies giving a wonderful over-powering perfume
Lilies giving a wonderful over-powering perfume

Yes, sight is very precious. Without it, how are we going to gain information of the world around us. See the smile of on a face, marvel at the colours of the countryside, the shapes of buildings and trees.

I began to appreciate what a get thing sight is.

But is sight the most precious?

A couple of years ago, I found I had a problem with my heart which had to be dealt with. Is the heart the most precious thing, as without it there would be no life. I know with a slightly ill functioning heart, I was not able to function well.

That incident and the drugs I had to take, led to problems with my ears or hearing, (see Today has so much going on for me.) when my one ear had a blood clot inside, stopping me hearing well. I could not hear the sounds of the birds early in the morning, the dawn chorus, the voice of someone talking to me, the sound of waves washing the sea shore.

Is sound the most precious?

How about touch? The feeling of cuddling up to, holding a loved one in your arms, holding hands, have a baby hold onto your little finger, feel the texture of silk, the warmth of wool.

Is touch the most precious?

What about taste? My last meal in Istanbul at the Barcelona Restaurant along Taxim Hill was a great tasting meal, one I have tasted many times and look forward to. And then, what about the taste of a chocolate cake?

Barcelona Restaurant along Taxim Hill, Istanbul
Barcelona Restaurant along Taxim Hill, Istanbul

Is taste the most precious?

What about smell? The smell of perfume worn by a lady, the smell of those lilies, the chocolate cake being baked in the oven, the smell of burned aviation fuel or the passing steam locomotive (train). All smells I love.

Is smell the most precious?

I now think it is all of our senses, or in NLP terms modalities, VAKOG, that are precious to us, and it is our ability to appreciate them at a conscious level that is the most precious.

It was on a recent visit to RAF Duxford of the Imperial War Museum, where I went to carryout some research on the Spitfire, Hurricane and Merlin Engine, that I appreciated all my senses.

To see actual aircraft in front of me, to hear a Sopwith Camel flying overhead, to smell the fuel, to touch the exhibit, to taste a wonderful bun to quell my hunger, to meet an ex Avro Lancaster bomber pilot, Philip Gray, to be able to read his book (Ghosts of Targets Past) about his experiences, to imagine his life as he lived through the Second World War, flying, death, love and fear.

A small video of a Sopwith Camel flying at RAF Duxford, July 2008

It is our brain that is the most precious, without it we would not be able to process all the information being fed into it.

Look after it. Do not abuse it.

The Hawker Hurricane

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Whilst reading the book Portrait of a Legend, Spitfire (click) about the Supermarine Spitfire, and my previous knowledge, I was very aware of the other aircraft involved in the conflicts of the Second World War, and another British aircraft, the Hawker Hurricane.

The Hawker Hurricane IIB  the Hawker Hurricane IIB

Another beautifully designed aircraft like the Spitfire, it was the result of the Hawker Aircraft Company, based in my home town (at the moment) of the historic and Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, (click to see video), and their chief designer Sydney Camm.

In 1934, many developments were taking place in the aircraft industry, including Rolls Royce who were developing the PV-12 engine (PV standing for Private Venture having no Government financing). The PV-12 was later renamed, following the tradition of naming the engines after birds, Merlin.

At this time Camm and his design team were working on a fighter project known as the Hawker Monoplane Fury based around the RR Goshawk engine, but as the new PV-12 offered more power, and the Government Air Ministry had issued a new specification of requirements (F36/34), design changes were made, creating what was first known as K5083, and was first flown on 6 November 1935 at Brooklands, the world’s first purpose-built motor-racing track, the car and aircraft (with Concorde) museum, and home to Mercedes-Benz (UK). The first production Hurricane flew on 12 October 1937, and was delivered to the 111 Squadron at RAF Northolt two months later.

Initially the Hawker Hurricane was fabric covered or doped linen, stemming from the early days of Sopwith, (see video of Sopwith Camel) biplanes and construction methods, and it was only in April 1939 that all steel, stressed-skin wing was introduced. The fabric covering had an advantage over the Spitfire, in that the Hurricane was less prone to bullet damage and was easier to repair.

The Hurricane was the first fighter aircraft to fly over 300mph, and on 10th February 1938, it was flown from Edinburgh (Scotland) to Northolt (London) at an average speed of 408 mph.

The Hurricane was to prove to have less performance in speed, maneuverability, altitude than the Spitfire, but it was the Hurricane that proved itself in the Battle of Britain, accounting for 1,593 out of the 2,739 total kills against the Luftwaffe claimed. The Spitfires would intercept the Luftwaffe fighters, whilst the Hurricanes concentrated on the bombers (Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17). In August 1940, the RAF Fighter Command could call on 32 squadrons of Hurricanes and only 19 of Spitfires.

The Hurricane went on to be developed into a multipurpose aircraft, from the Mk IIA to the Mk XII, to deliver bombs being known as the ‘Hurribomber‘ fighter-bomber, to carry air to air, air to grown rockets, and into the naval version the Sea Hurricane, when in some cases they would be catapulted into the air from ships to go into battle, only to have nowhere to land but ditch into the sea and be lost.

The Hurricane saw action in all the theaters of war, especially North Africa and the Far East.

During the war, Hurricanes were supplied to Egypt, Finland, India, the Irish Air Corps, Persia, Turkey, and the USSR. It is said that the Hurricane was one of the greatest and most versatile fighter aircraft of WWII, and it remained in service with the RAF until January 1947.

I hope this redresses any inbalance I may have caused with the articles on the Spitfires. Portrait of a Legend, Spitfire and Comments from the Spitfire article.

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Rolls Royce Merlin Engine

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The Merlin, a liquid cooled, 27 litre, V-12, piston aviation engine, was part of a range of developing engines produced by the world renowned company, Rolls Royce, and during the war over 150,000 engines were to be built.

Rolls-Royce had been developing engines since the turn of the twentieth century, and named the engines after birds, the Kestral, the Buzzard, the Peregrine and the Vulture.

In 1932, Rolls-Royce decided to replace the highly successful Kestral, and started developing the PV-12 engine (PV standing for Private Venture having no Government financing), later to be renamed Merlin

Early models of the Merlin A – F had many problems, and it was not until the model G was built, that a reliable engine was produce, being named the Merlin II, and was installed in the Supermarine Spitfire.

Up until 1935, the Merlin II had problems with its’ supercharger, sometimes meaning that the engine would cut-out in maneuvers in the Spitfire, and it was replaced by the Merlin XX, using a modified version of the licensed Farman two-speed/two-stage drive. The engine was also developed into the Merlin 130/131 for the De Haviland Hornet and the 133/134 for the Sea Hornet.

Development also continued in America on the Merlin by the Packard Motor Company of Detroit, the V-1650-1, replacing the Allison turbocharged engine of the P-40F’s, which had limiting altitude problems and production demands. This engine was to also power the P-51 Mustangs, giving it the ability to perform well up to 41,900 feet and achieving the speed of 437mph. Over 56,000 engines were produced by Packard Company.

In Britain, the mighty Merlin, was powering the Hawker Hurricane, the Avro Lancaster, Mosquito, and Spitfire. The engine was under constant development, doubling in power from 746 kW (1000 hp) in 1939 to over 1567 kW (2100 hp) by 1944, mostly through improvements in supercharging.

The Merlin was also developed into an engine for tanks the Rolls-Royce Meteor and the Rolls-Royce Meteorite, and for the navy for use in motor torpedo boats and air sea rescue boats.

A Merlin 500/45 engine was used in the Spanish Hispano Aviacion HA 1112MIL Buchon, based on the Messerschmitt Bf 109g-2.

The Rolls Royce Merlin engine in a Supermarine Spitfire, The Imperial War Museum, RAF Duxford The Rolls Royce Merlin engine in a Supermarine Spitfire

The Rolls Royce Merlin in a Spitfire
The Rolls Royce Merlin engine in a Supermarine Spitfire, The Imperial War Museum, RAF Duxford

The Rolls Royce Merlin engine, The Imperial War Museum, RAF Duxford

The Rolls Royce Merlin engine, The Imperial War Museum, RAF Duxford.

Return to Spitfire article.
         Return to hurricane article.

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Comments from the Spitfire article

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I had a comment on a previous article titled Portrait of a Legend, Spitfire, which said :-

“they say the spitfire is the only aircraft in the royal air force that could fight against the German messerschmitt, focke wulf, and junkers in the ww2”

Firstly one would assume the book Portrait of a Legend, Spitfire, by Leo McKinstry, from the title alone, would be somewhat biased towards the Spitfire, but I found that the author McKinstry, through his extensive research, gave the downsides of the Spitfire, its’ faults and failings, not only of the hardware, the aircraft itself, but the people involved in the development, production and deployment, as well as the great attributes of this great aircraft, and the people involved, plus the courage and commitment of “the few” that flew it.

In its’ first incarnation as the Supermarine S6 seaplane, from which R J Mitchell created the Spitfire, powered by the mighty Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the design proved to be a success, although having problems, with modifications, the basic design was continually developed and improved, to give various marks or variants, taking it from a racing aircraft, to a fighter, a fighter bomber, and a photoreconnassiance (PR) plane.

The photoreconnassiance variant, from the Spitfire PR MARK 1A through to the Spitfire PRXIX often flying unarmed, proved to be highly efficient, being able to take high quality pictures at low level and at altitudes from 35,000 feet with its’ F52 36-inch-focal-length lens. The Spitfire PRXIX was flown in 1952 in Hong Kong by Flight Lieutenant Ted Powles to an altitude of 51,000 feet, and in a dive, recorded a speed of 690 miles per hour or Mach 0.94. Not bad for a piston driven aircraft, and attributed to the great design.

Prior to the Battle of Britain (10th July to 30th October 1940), the RAF’s strategy had been, and had been proved in previous conflicts including the Spanish Civil War, that bombers were the best strategy, as was the doctrine of Sir Hugh Trenchard, Chief of Air Staff, and it was that strategy of high concentration bombing that Hermann Göring, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, the German airforce, would employ against the airfields of the RAF, and then the bombing of London called The Blitz.

Göring realised that if the Germans had air supremacy, the defeat of Britain, codenamed Operation Sealion, would be easy, and thus Hitler ordered the invasion to begin mid-September 1940. But, he underestimated the strength of the RAF and the two aircraft used at Dunkirk, the Spitfires and the Hurricanes, as Theo Osterkamp, one of the leading Luftwaffe fighter pilots told Göring, the Spitfire had proved to be as good as any German fighter, but his comments were dismissed.

The RAF knew this strategy would be employed, and built up the Fighter Command, but there were great problems in manufacturing of fighter aircraft, not enough factories, and not enough good strong leadership in the government and business. That changed with the appointment of Lord Beaverbrook.

After the First World War, development of aircraft had been slow in many countries, especially war planes, and so it was in Britain. The Gloster Gladiator still a biplane, as was the Westland PV4, the Bristol Bulldog and Hawker Fury. Much slower biplanes with fixed wheels, fabric-covered wings, exposed radial engines, like the Gloster Grebe, and the Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin, had hardly advanced since the 1st World War.

As the British were disparately trying to update the design of the RAF’s fighter aircraft as issued in the specifications (design requirements) F7/30, F10/35 and F36/34, a number of designs and prototypes of aircraft were produced, and the two preferred were the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire both monoplanes, especially as the Gloster Gladiator as Sir Hugh Dowding said, would be of “no use against the 270 mph machines” of the fast German bombers.

Hawker Hurricane IIB  Replica Supermarine Mk 24 DU-X

                Hawker Hurricane IIB                                                                                    Replica Supermarine Mk 24 DU-X

Both the Hurricane and Spitfire were flown against the Germans in the Battle of Britain, with the Hurricane having a greater success than the Spitfire, but it was the Spitfire that was the better aircraft, having a better handling characteristic, higher speed, higher ceiling, better aerobatic capability, loved by the pilots, and had been sold to the British public as the saviour of the war effort, with communities and individuals making collections and donations to build Spitfires.

Both aircraft were employed throughout the rest war, as air supremacy became a major factor.

It was the Spitfire adding to the small numbers of Hurricanes that replaced the three Gloster Gladiators, biplanes known as Faith, Hope and Charity, that eventually repelled the German attacks and onslaught on Malta, to gain supremacy in the Mediterranean and thus have supply routes to the war in North Africa.

It has been estimated that in the Battle of Malta, the Luftwaffe had 249 aircraft destroyed and 50 damaged, with the Italians, Reqia Aeronautica, adding another 60, against 148 Spitfires and 45 Hurricanes losses.

A variant of the Spitfire the Seafire, a Naval aircraft flying from aircraft carriers, proved invaluable in North Africa, and Montgomery’s triumph at El Alamein and in Operation Torch in Morocco and Algeria.

In Sicily the Spitfire played a crucial role in destroying ground defenses and providing air cover.

Submarine Spitfire Mk VB, RAF Duxford
Submarine Spitfire Mk VB, RAF Duxford

In the Far East, the Japanese were threatening to overrun Burma and enter India. With the help of Spitfires, the Allies turned back the Japanese at the Battle of Kohima. The Japanese Mitsubishi Zero and Nakajima Hayabussa having overwhelmed the Hurricane, but being matched by the Spitfire with its’ superior climbing and maneuverability.

Before the start of the Second World War and during, Germany built-up a strong air force, comprising of bombers and fighter aircraft. The Messerschmitt 109 (Me109), the Messerschmitt 110 (Me110), Focke-Wulf 190 (Fw 190), the Junkers bombers (Ju 88) (Ju 86P), the Heinkel (111), and the Stuka dive-bomber.

Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109

With this strength the in March 1939, the Third Reich occupied Czechoslovakia and began to threaten Poland. The British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, having being, it is said, to negotiate for conciliation with Hitler, declared war on 3rd September. Had he been buying time to build-up the strength of the RAF? The British certainly did not have any strength to pursue a war.

As the war progressed, the Third Reich invaded Holland and France, with the Luftwaffe so strong, that many of the outdated French air force never leaving the ground. But all the time, the British were building up the number of fighter aircraft.

As above, Göring had miscalculated the resolve of the British, the strength of the RAF and the power of the Spitfire, plus he was not aware of the newly invented RADAR system which allowed Fighter Command to “see” where the next attack was coming from, so that the Dowding system (Sir Hugh Dowding) of dispersing the squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes.

Again Göring miscalculated, with the British on their knees, he changed tactics away from attacking the airfields, giving the RAF chance to strengthen and fight back.

Each side developed their aircraft, so that one would out perform the other, but it was the Spitfire that proved the most successful, even outperforming the jet aircraft (Messerschmitt 262) produced at the end of the war and the V-1 ram-jet or rockets (doodlebugs) that attacked London. Other aircraft would be developed, the Hawker Typhoon and Tempest, the US Thunderbolt,

Spitfire Mk XIV a match for the Bf 109  V-1 Doodlebug Rocket Ram-Jet
      Spitfire Mk XIV a match for the Bf 109                                                                             V-1 Doodlebug Ram-Jet (Rocket)

The Spitfire was good, and was sold to many countries as a fighter, including, Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, Thailand, Australia to name just a few, to end service in the British RAF on the 9th June 1957.

Perhaps the last words of how great the Spitfire was should be left to the German pilots, who when spotting the aircraft would be heard to shout over their radios, “Terrorlieger – terror flyers“, “Watch out! Spitfire“, “Achtung! Spitfeurer!

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Portrait of a Legend, Spitfire

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Whilst working with the Texas Instruments computer distributor Saudi Computer Services in Saudi Arabia, I discovered the joy of reading, from fiction, the books of Wilbur Smith, Ken Follett, Jack Higgins, the classics of Charles Dickens, great titles of The Wizard of OZ, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, to technical books, from the Idiots Guides range, the Introducing range, to books on specific subjects about my chosen fields of work on NLP, Hypnosis, Memory.

I joy of reading was further enhanced by learning PhotoReading, being able to absorb 20,000 – 30,000 WPM.

After PhotoReading a book, then reading word for word, line by line made so much difference, it gives me the desire the urge to want to read the book.

So it was with the two books I purchased at Heathrow airport a couple of trips ago, well there was a special offer, “two books for the price of one“.

The first book was by the BBC‘s Top Gear program presenter, James May. This was a typical impulse buy, the author’s name caught my attention, the cover looked good, and there was a special offer. The title also attracted me, “James May’s Magnificent Machines“, with a sub title of “How men in sheds have changed our lives“.

The book told me little I did not know, it referred a couple of times to how inventors in the past often worked in small back rooms or sheds, with little or no facilities, for example Marconi the pioneer of radio, Reginald J Mitchell designer of the winner of the air race in the 1930’s, the Schneider Cup, and from that the development into the great wartime plane, the Supermarine Spitfire.

One thing which got me going whilst reading James May’s book, was that he talked about how the French car manufacturer Citroën, “pioneered some ideas touted as new by other manufacturers at the end of the 20th century, and he states “the styling was, and still is, fabulous in the real sense of the word (which is why it appears on the cover).” I have looked long and hard Mr May, and found no picture of Citroën car.

The second “free” book was titled Portrait of a Legend Spitfire, by Leo McKinstry. This is a book about the great Second World War aircraft, the Spitfire.

The latest world air races sponsored by Red Bull, has something that captures peoples imagination, the speed the sound, the thrills. So it is with the mighty Spitfire, with the purring and throbbing Rolls Royce Merlin engines (see pictures click here), the curves of the fuselage, sleek and smooth, the thin curved elliptical wings. 

This well researched book by McKinstry, calls on written works from many sources, quoting from all sides, from all involved in the Spitfires design, production, management, to those that flew the Spitfire in its’ various variants, models or marks, to those that fought against it.

Spitfire wallpaper from Spitfire wallpaper from

              Supermarine Spitfire F.24 PK724 RAF Hendon  Supermarine Spitfire F.24 PK724 RAF Hedon 

Supermarine Spitfire LF.XVIE
Supermarine Spitfire LF.XVIE.

Copyright Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum RAF Hendon

McKinstry gives all the warts, the bad bits about the aircraft, the politicians, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Lord Beaverbrook, the manufacturers, Lord Nufffied, R J Mitchell, the military leaders like Sir Hugh Dowding, Sir Leigh-Mallory, pilots, Douglas Bader, as well as the good things about the Spitfire.

The book gave me not only a new in depth look at the Supermarine Spitfire, but also a new look at the history of the period, of the social climate, of how people pulled or did not pull together at a time of war. It showed me that those I had held in such high esteem, often made bad decisions, but without them, this world would be a different place to the one we know today.

Portrait of a Legend Spitfire is an enthusiasts book, and I have always been a Spitfire lover.


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