The Napier Sabre

The Napier Sabre was the hobbled runner in the immensely rich aero engine stakes of the late 1930s and early 1940s when our national survival depended on them.

After the Rolls-Royce attracted the world's admiration in 1940, the despised and ostracised Sabre was dragged out of the political shadows to cover up for the Merlin's deficiencies in 1941-2 when BMW rose into the ascendant with the Focke-Wulf 190. God bless Acton! we all cried in 1942, for the Sabre in the Hawker airframe was the only engine that could cope with the later BF109s and the scorching 190. Admittedly, those 24 cylinders could come to a grinding halt, and could spill enough blinding oil onto your screen to make an Iranian sheikh cry for joy.

But every time we throttled hard back to avoid overshooting the Hun in our sights, we blessed Frank Halford's genius.

I lived with the Sabre from late 1942 until the summer of 1945, knew it in all its moods, and can confirm Setright's masterful summary of a great power unit.

London, NW8, Richard Hough