Of the many books on this engine, few have gone into such depths or detail, from the fateful meeting of Henry Royce, the self-taught engineer orphaned at nine, leaving him to scratch a living delivering newspapers and Charles Rolls, son of a Viscount. It rebuts the common impression that Rolls was just a wealthy dilettante: in fact, he held an engineering degree from Cambridge University. By the 1918 Armistice, Rolls-Royce had produced 60% of all British aero-engines. The book covers Rolls-Royce racing engines in the1930s, including the 36-litre, 2,530 hp Schneider Trophy-winning “R” that set a world air speed record of 407 mph and that, shortly before his death from overwork, Royce ordered the design of a V12 engine “larger than [the company’s 22-liter] Kestrel, smaller than the R.” The result was the 27liter Merlin.
Racing pilot Steve Hinton’s Foreword describes how the original 900 hp Merlin, developing over 2,500 hp by 1945 (the greatest increase in power of any aero-engine), was boosted to over 3,400 hp to push his P-51 Voodoo to 531.65 mph, the world record for a piston-powered aircraft. Wilson lists every variation of the 168,040 Merlins built, and the aircraft they powered - especially the Spitfire and Hurricane that saved Britain from invasion, and the P-51D Mustang, which was instrumental in permitting American daylight bombing raids. The subtitle, "The Engine That Won The Second World War" is fully justified.
The book is, however, replete with factual errors and inexcusable typos, revealing surprising gaps in research and proof-reading. For example, he dismisses the British Stirling as carrying a smaller bomb load than the Lancaster because of being underpowered, when in fact its four Bristol Hercules engines put out 1,650 hp each (comparable with the Merlin), it had the same top speed 270 mph and could haul up to 14,000 lbs. (The Stirling's main fault was its limited wingspan, imposed by Air Ministry requirements that it could pass through the doors of existing hangars.) He refers to the non-existent "Congressional" Medal of Honor, gives RAF multiple-ace Douglas Bader only 5 air victories instead of his official 20 and doesn't mention that Bader had no legs, having lost them in a flying accident before WWII! One other ace is listed as having won the DF (no C.) Of the Battle of Britain, he talks about the inspiring speech by Sir Winston Churchill (who was actually not knighted until 1953) and says the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which tours RAF "Open Day" airfields each Sept. 15, is composed of a Spitfire, Lancaster and Mosquito – the third aircraft is, of course, the Hurricane.
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Amberley Publishing (15 December 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1445656817
- ISBN-13: 978-1445656816
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 522 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)