July 6, 2021

Alasdair Cross: The Spitfire and the Schneider Trophy (1925)

This week marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Britain. In that perilous moment of the Second World War, with the Nazi forces gathered just across the English Channel, the British people put their faith in the pilots of the RAF and that most captivating of aeroplanes: the Spitfire.

The Spitfire is widely known as a masterpiece of British engineering. It could fly at speeds of around 400mph and it had enormous dexterity, making it a formidable foe in a dogfight. But where did these qualities come from? In today’s episode the writer and radio producer Alasdair Cross takes us back to 1925’s Schneider Trophy to show us the genesis of this fabled aeroplane.

Alasdair Cross is a successful radio and TV producer and the co-author of The Spitfire Kids: The generation who built, supported and flew Britain's most beloved fighter.

Brought up in the Orkney Islands, an annual summer treat was Britain’s smallest air show, once memorably visited by a powder pink Spitfire. He has worked on many BBC programmes as well as the popular BBC World Service podcast Spitfire: The People’s Plane.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: 3 January 1925 - Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy- Mussolini makes a speech which effectively makes him dictator of Italy. So begins the new age of the dictators, but also a time of glamour and speed.

Scene Two: 10 March 1925, Supermarine factory, Southampton, UK. Henri Biard flies the Southampton flying boat for the first time. This is the aircraft that establishes the reputation of RJ Mitchell and ensures the longevity and prosperity of the Supermarine company.

Scene Three: 23 October 1925. Baltimore, USA. This is the location for the Schneider Trophy race of 1925.  Mitchell’s revolutionary S4, the precursor of the Spitfire, crashes. Mitchell has stretched too far but will learn an enormous amount from the experience.

Memento: Henri Biard’s flying suit.


Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Alasdair Cross

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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