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Supermarine Rolls-Royce S6B Manual readies for take-off

4th December 2018
Ralph Pegram
Monday, 3 December, 2018


4th December 2018: It’s nearly 90 years since a British racing seaplane set a world speed record of 407.5mph in 1931.  Now a new book from Haynes, the Supermarine Rolls-Royce S6B Owners’ Workshop Manual, tells the story of this incredible aircraft, forerunner of the legendary Spitfire.

The RAF’s record-breaking Supermarine seaplanes competed in the Schneider Trophy contests that reached their peak in Europe and the USA in the late 1920s/early 1930s. The contests were initially intended to stimulate technical advances in seaplane design, but they soon became contests for pure speed.

Author Ralph Pegram, an authority on the Schneider Trophy racers, looks at how the Supermarine SB6, S1595, won outright for Britain in its final Schneider Trophy competition on 13 September 1931 in front of more than half a million spectators on Southampton Water.  The S6B was flown by Flt Lt John Boothman who achieved a record-breaking average speed of 340.1mph.

Later that month, Flt Lt George Stainforth pushed the same aircraft to even more extraordinary speeds by averaging 407.5mph during four runs on 29 September 1931.  The aircraft was fitted with a special 2,500hp Rolls-Royce R27 sprint engine and it set a further new world record.

The manual draws on previously unpublished research documents on the S6, S6A and S6B to relate the story of the Schneider Trophy competitions and describes the development of British high-speed seaplane designs. It also looks at the anatomy of the S6B, designed by R.J. Mitchell, who went on to design the iconic Spitfire.  This includes the Rolls-Royce ‘R’ engine that was at the heart of the S6B. The manual offers rare insights into its flying characteristics, plus how it was maintained and operated.

Talking about the book’s release, Schneider Trophy racing expert and author Ralph Pegram said: "The Schneider Trophy contests were held twelve times between 1913 and 1931 and the prize was a magnificent trophy to the winning team, which would be retained permanently by the first to gain three victories from five consecutive contests.

“Teams were entered by Britain, Italy, France and the United States, but it was not until 1927 that the 900hp Napier Lion and subsequently the newly developed 1,900hp Rolls-Royce ‘R’ engine with its massive boost in engine power gave the British team the winning edge over the formidable Italian competition.”

Ralph continues: “The Supermarine Rolls-Royce S6B was not just a superb piece of aeronautical engineering in its own right, but it was also an early indication of the growing prowess of Mitchell and his Supermarine design team that was destined to produce the Spitfire – one of the most recognisable and celebrated aircraft of all time – just five years later.”

The Supermarine Rolls-Royce S6B Owners’ Workshop Manual is supported by some 200 photographs and illustrations, many of them rare and seldom seen in print.


Title Details

Supermarine Rolls-Royce S6B Owners’ Workshop Manual is priced at £25.00 and available from The book number is H6226. The ISBN is 9781785212260. It is published in December 2018.

About the author

Ralph Pegram pursued a career as a geologist in the oil exploration business before retiring to concentrate on his passion for aviation history.  He has a particular interest in the Schneider Trophy contests and its aircraft, which he has been researching for more than 30 years.  Ralph is the author of Schneider Trophy Seaplanes and Flying Boats (2012) and Beyond the Spitfire: The Unseen Designs of R.J. Mitchell (2016).  He lives in Hampshire. 

The author is available for interview - contact:


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