Napier versus Rolls-Royce

From Air Commodore F.R. Banks

With reference to the letter from Mr. Weatheritt in your February issue. I am always interested in the correspondence columns of your journal, but wish Mr. Weatheritt’s letter wasn’t so obviously prejudiced against Rolls-Royce since this and the inaccuracies it contains detracts from its value. For instance, the start of the second paragraph states that “Rolls-Royce efforts to produce an engine to equal the Sabre were abysmal failures”, when there were no such efforts. The Merlin was sized for the Hurricane and Spitfire and the Sabre for the Typhoon. This was planned by the Air Ministry, and there was no competition between the two firms. The Vulture engine was ordered for the Manchester and, like the Sabre, certainly gave its quota of trouble. But this was cured, though the Manchester was underpowered and was superseded by the four engined (Merlin) Lancaster. As to the later engine development in the War, Mr. Weatheritt has not mentioned the Rolls “Griffon” which gave 2,375 b.h.p.

All these engines were wanted for their particular aircraft and both Napier and Rolls received all the help (finance) needed for them to get their engines developed to a reasonable state of reliability at their respective power ratings. Napier were at no disadvantage to Rolls in this respect. My letter in your same issue gives the powers of the engines concerned without going into the details of their take-off and altitude ratings, which would have unduly lengthened the latter.

Summing up: the Rolls-Royce “Merlin” in the Hurricane, Spitfire, Lancaster, Mosquito and Mustang and, of course, the pilots, saved our collective necks. The Sabre in the Typhoons and Tempests did a good job in Normandy. The Merlin was built for £1 per b.h.p. and £1 per lb. weight. The Sabre cost 3-4 times the Merlin to manufacture.

London, SW7, F.R. Banks