This ‘Hall of Fame’ will be an ongoing collection of stories about Austin Ex Apprentices who made their mark in the world, not only within the Motor Industry but also in many different fields of human endeavor. These stories will be added from time to time, in no particular order and with no implied ranking of merit or importance, as we work through all our records and recollections.
Joseph Smith CBE
Joseph Smith CBE 1897-1956
Our first subject, ironically, had a book written about him partly because he wasn’t famous , or at least not as famous as he deserved to be! The book, published in 2013, was “Spitfire’s Forgotten Designer – The Career of Supermarine’s Joe Smith” by Mike Roussel, The History Press, first published 2013. ISBN 978 0 7524 8759 5
(Recommended reading – it covers Supermarine history from the beginning right up to the Swift jet fighter)
Joe Smith was educated at Yardley Secondary School and Birmingham Municipal Technical School, beginning an Austin Apprenticeship in 1914. This was interrupted by the Great War, during which Joe joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) serving on motor launches in the Mediterranean. He then returned to Longbridge to complete his apprenticeship. Austin built military aircraft during WW1, (such as 1650 examples of the famous SE5 machine), and after Joe had collected his indentures, he became a junior draughtsman in Austin’s aeroplane drawing office. In 1919, design work was under way on Austin’s own ‘Whippet’ single seater biplane, under Chief Designer J D Kenworthy, (who had been involved in the design of the SE5 at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough).
During this exciting period of rapid aeronautic progress, Joe decided that his future lay in aircraft design, so that when Austin decided to cease aircraft production (at least, until WW2!) Joe took the opportunity in 1921 to join the Supermarine Aviation Works in Southampton. He became one of the first members of a new team of young engineers being assembled by the great R J Mitchell. By 1927 Joe had become Chief Draughtsman with a staff of 38. He played a major role in the design of the first Spitfire of 1936, and following Mitchell’s death in 1937, took on more and more responsibility for the ongoing evolution of the Spitfire through all its 24 Marks, becoming Acting manager of the design department in 1939 and Chief Designer in 1941. From then until his death in 1956, he oversaw all Supermarine designs, from the first British naval jet fighter, the Attacker, through to the Swift , 525 and Scimitar, as well as the Seagull flying boat.
He was a special director of Vickers Armstrong from 1948, Chairman of the Technical Board and Technical Executive Committee of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors from 1948 to 1951, Chairman of the Aircraft Industries Standards Committee, and a member of the Engineering Divisional Council of the British Standards Institute.