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Supermarine Southampton (Hardback)

The Flying Boat that Made R.J. Mitchell

Aviation > Royal Air Force Photographic Books

By Colin Higgs, Jo Hillman
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 249 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526784940
Published: 18th November 2020


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The Supermarine Southampton was the first in a series of successful flying boats designed by Supermarine’s R.J. Mitchell and was the first one to be designed for the RAF after the First World War. Produced between 1924 and 1934 it entered into RAF service in 1925 and became the second longest serving (behind the Short Sunderland) and one of the most successful of the inter-war flying boats.

In an unusual move for the times, the Air Ministry ordered six Southamptons straight from the drawing board as the design had been based on the success of the experimental Supermarine Swan amphibious aircraft. So successful was the aircraft that a further twelve were ordered in July 1925.

The Southampton was a hugely successful aircraft for the RAF, the aircraft’s main sponsor, and was used for reconnaissance duties and as a patrol aircraft. It became best known for a series of publicly lauded long-distance flights, the intention of which was partly ‘flag waving’ and partly for gaining valuable experience of flying boats in remote waters. The 1927 Far East Flight became known for the Southampton’s display of its prodigious range and reliability.

The Southampton was a very successful series of flying boats with sales also being made to Argentina, Turkey and Japan almost doubling Supermarine’s business in just a few years. A total of eighty-three of all types were built, all of which are revealed in this unrivalled collection of archive images, the majority of which, having been drawn from private collections, have not been published before.

Featured by

Flying in Ireland

This is the first published volume dedicated to the Southampton and it is pleasing to record that it covers the subject both comprehensively and readably.

Aeroplane, June 2021

The authors have combined clear text with an outstanding collection of photographs, illustrating the Supermarine Southampton story in design and construction and in service with the RAF, Japanese Navy, Argentina, Turkey and Australia. The Southampton seems an unlikely father of the Spitfire as the design that established RJ Mitchell. – Very Highly Recommended

Read the full review here


A largely photographic coverage of the graceful 1920s flying boat designed by R.J. Mitchell of later Spitfire fame. The aircraft also put the Royal Air Force on the map during the same period, with overseas deployments to as far away as Singapore and Australia. A nostalgic look back at a bygone flying era.

Helicopter International

I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in British inter-war flying boats.

The Catalina Society. The Catalina News, Issue 95, Summer 2021

As featured by

Website of the Royal Aeronautical Society

As featured by

Air Transport Group of the Railway and Canal Historical Society

As featured on Scale Modelling Now

Scale Modelling Now

A book not only for the aeronautical engineer and air enthusiast, but also for any historian of a period where flight began to change the course of that history.

Philip Styles, Archivist – The Shackleton Association

About Colin Higgs

Colin Higgs has more than twenty-five years’ experience in the broadcast and home entertainment industries and for much of that time has co-produced, written and researched aviation documentaries together with Bruce Vigar of Leading Edge TV. Colin’s business, A Flying History, was created to make accessible the unique Peter Keating and John Stroud aviation photograph collections and Colin and Bruce's extensive archive of first-hand interviews with RAF veterans.

About Jo Hillman

Coming from a background in BBC television rights and management JO HILLMAN entered into the world of aviation via a specialist distribution company and involvement in the filming of air shows. A keen, if amateur, historian she is now the Archive Manager for A Flying History and spends much of her time researching, marketing and developing the Peter Keating and John Stroud archives and the A Flying History brand.

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