"The Schneider Trophy Races"

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“The Schneider Trophy Races” by Ralph Barker. 272 pp. 5¼ n 5½’. ?Airhle Publishing Ltd., 7 St. John’s Hill, Shrewsbury. Salop, £8.951

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the last of the Schneider Trophy seaplane (flying-boat ) races that were first held in 1913 at Monaco. Consequently, several books have been published to mark the occasion, This one appeared originally in 1971 and is thus a reprint. It lutesnothing for that. except that it has apparently not been re-edited, or if it has, the first man to take-off from water. Henri Faber, “who is still alive” according to the author, most now be 99. Also, Ralph Barker is a journalist who has written about cricket as well as about aviation, which may be why he has made the remarkable and inaccurate comparison between the Rolls-Royce Eagle acre-engine and the 4010 h.p. Rolls-Royce can engine, saying that the VI2 o.h.y. Eagle was “virtually the engine that had gone into the Silver Ghost motor car before the war, with its stroke increased from 4 1/2″ to 6″,” which is twaddle.

That apart, this is a very entoyable and complete coverage of races which towards the end of their span had caught the imagination of the World, as contested between the very fastest and most powerful racing machines then in existence.

With much detail about these competing machines, the dramas of preparation and retirement, the excitement of the races and the effect of rules and weather on the outcome, enlivened by quotes from contemporary comment and reports, I found the book irresistible. The accotmt of the last year’s racing and record-attempt seems to have tailed off. as if the author had tired) but otherwise it is a splendid story, of one of the most exciting and incident-packed air-races of all time. nicelv illustrated.

It is interesting to find many parallels with motor-racing, such as the deliberate but permissible shutting out of a rival at the turns, the bickering over the regulations. etc. The crowd interest, too. reflects on the excitement these International contests aroused. with 300-400 m.p.h. racing seaplanes that needed some two miles in which to land safely. Trenchard apparently never liked the participation of the RAF, with its special High Speed Flight, yet today the “Red Arrows” acrobatic team continues something of the old tradition, with the individual pilot-officers named, which Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Lord Trenchard thought unwise.

Although the book has a mildly journalistic touch in it’s chapter-headings which are based on the Trophy (a female figure, put up by she forgotten Jacques Schneider, do not let this mislead you. The races are covered in technical detail, with maps of the different courses, tabulated data about the competing machines, and an analytical concluding chapter. It wasnot be the whole story, which would have to describe the development of the Rolls-Royce and Fiat racing engines in more detail, etc.. but it is nevertheless excellent coverage — the modest beginnings, the fatalities, the fiasco of the organisation at misty Bournemouth in 1919, etc. 

Perhaps the words of Lady Houston. who contributed £100,000 so that Britain could win and retain the Schneider Trophy in 1931 with Boothman flying the 350 km. course at 340.08 m.p.h. in the 2,350 h.p. R-R-powered Supermarinc 56B!, might be remembered today:”England has always been first in peace, first in war, first in courage and first in beauty. Are we now going to take a back seat? No. most emphatically-, no. We are not worms to be trampled under the heel of Socialism. but true Britons, with a heart for any fate, except the slavery, of Socialism.” — W.B. “Schneider Trophy Aircraft — 1913-1931″ by Derek N. James. 305 pp. 8,” x 5,” (Putnam & Co. Ltd., 9, Bow Street, London, WC2E 7AL £12.50)

This book is definitely one published to commemorate the Schneider Trophy racc anniversary and whereas rho book reviewed above tells of this exciting contest race by race, this work by the author of “Gloster Aircraft Since 1917” has as his main theme a description of the individual machines which contested the race, with many photographs and some of the scale plans which characterise Putnam’s publications. However, the book does have a learned run-in to the races year-by-year, deals with non-starters and projects, and has separate chapters about the engines used and the rewards to be had from the event. Incidentally, look at the photograph of a Napier Lion power unit and marvel that it can be installed in a Bentley chassis! The author makes the point that the much publicised R-R R-type engine was us,,d only for the 1929 and 1931 contests and calls its effect on the war (via the Merlin) “conjectured”. He is also a little wide of the mark in saying WWI sounded the death-knell for Napier cars (what of the 40,50?). He refers to the R-type R-R engines in Segrave’s boat and Eyston’s LSR can but not in Campbell’s Bluebird from 1933.

Like the other Schneider Trophy book, this one tabulates the results year-by-year (but I find Ralph Baker’s easier to follow as a quick reference; both authors quote the race-numbers of the aeroplanes, which is helpful for identifying other photographs), it lists the fatalities incurred in another Appendix, has a short description by Air-Vice Marshal Webster on what it was like, as a young Flt.Lt., to fly the Supermarine 85 at Venice in 1927, and is very erudite about how the timing of the races was done. It closes with an Appendix on the four machines left extant out of the 47 that flew in the race (two are in Italy, two, both S6Bs, in this country) and even looks at the Replicas now being built and flown, of Schneider Trophy machines.

These two excellent books make a choice difficult. James’ is more technical, Barker’s a more continuous “read” about those enthralling days. This may, in fact, be a bit of a publishers’ dilemma. — W.B.

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