R. J. Mitchell: To the Spitfire

Author(s): John Shelton 

ISBN: 9781781558850
£28.00 £40.00
A new and comprehensive assessment of the complex personality and work of the self-taught designer who produced the iconic Spitfire.
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  • In a market that is inundated with books on the design, development and operational history of the Spitfire, R. J. Mitchell: To the Spitfire brings something that is very new and original 

  • Of interest to Spitfire connoisseurs, from its origins to test flight, sourced from unpublished documents, letters, interviews, etc. 

  • Beautifully illustrated with many rare and unpublished photographs 

  • Of interest to aviation and military historians, modellers, gamers and flight simulator enthusiasts

R. J. Mitchell: To the Spitfire is the definitive account of the life and designs of Britain’s best-known aeronautical engineer.

John Shelton calls upon unpublished letters and extensive press accounts, concentrating particularly on the harsh conditions of Mitchell’s apprentice years, the precarious state of the aircraft firm he joined, and moments of good fortune of which he took advantage. He was a ‘chancer’ as well as a methodical developer of, mainly, slow-flying seaplanes.

Mitchell’s progress from draughtsman, with no formal training in aeronautical design, to internationally known chief designer is charted through a chronological study of his designs – revealing a formidable work ethic with a complex personality, which combined ‘dreams and common sense’. It will also be shown how the success of his high-speed Schneider Trophy designs propelled him reluctantly into public attention and how his anxiety for his pilots’ safety matched an equal concern that his designs should not let down an expectant nation.

Later expectations on him to produce a ‘killer fighter’ were equally daunting, and the outcome was often uncertain, but details of colleagues’ accounts highlight the essential and unique contribution of Mitchell’s experience and drive to the eventual appearance of the iconic Spitfire.

BOOK ISBN 9781781558850
FORMAT 248 x 172 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 448 pages
PUBLICATION DATE 22 December 2022
ILLUSTRATIONS 279 black-and-white photographs


John Shelton took a first degree at Hull University, an MA at Miami University and a PhD at Birmingham. He eventually became Head of Humanities at a polytechnic, incorporated into Staffordshire University, where he developed its first Arts and Social Science degree courses. Meanwhile, his interest in industrial archaeology led to various publications on the locally born R. J. Mitchell. Having taken early retirement to concentrate more fully upon renovating an Elizabethan manor house, he learned to fly motor gliders and light aircraft. Shelton currently lives near Eccleshall where he has continued his aviation research and aviation painting.