Spitfire: The Biography by Jonathan Glancey - review by Patrick Bishop

Patrick Bishop

Aerial Totty

Spitfire: The Biography

By

Atlantic Books 320pp £17.99 order from our bookshop
 

The Spitfire was seventy this year and time has been kind. The slim fuselage and broad, elliptical wings create a silhouette which remains for many the apogee of aviation beauty. No war plane since, certainly not the stout fighter-bombers of today with their vestigial wings and gross underslung cargoes of missiles and bombs, elicits the swoony response that the Spit still stirs in males of all ages.

If the Spit has the perfect figure, she also has the perfect voice. The original Merlin engine, I wrote in my book Fighter Boys, produced a sound 'like the note of a grand piano after a bass key has been struck, fading and swelling as if it is trying to tell us something, the most poignant and romantic sound on earth'.

The Spitfire produced rare flashes of emotional eloquence from the men who flew. There were those who stuck up gallantly for the homely Hurricane, the machine that really won the Battle of Britain; but once you had tasted the former it was hard to go back to the latter. The

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