This is the autobiographical story of Edward Spurr, a Bradford-born design engineer, and his secret collaboration with Aircraftman Shaw (aka T E Lawrence), during the last eighteen months of Shaw's life. Together they designed a revolutionary form of fast boat, exploiting the aerodynamic phenomenon of 'ground effect' - as they hoped, to give the Royal Navy "world-conquering fighting ships." Was the Admiralty interested? The Russian Embassy certainly was!
After Shaw's death, Spurr went on to build a speed-boat version of their design to fulfil his promise to Shaw and to prove their design principles. In September 1938, Empire Day broke the one-and-a half litre world speed record on Lake Windermere.
Excerpt from Chapter One:
I read my first book on aerodynamics during the First War while still at elementary school in Bradford. I was ten and I found the book in our class library at the Wellington Road Elementary School... I cannot now imagine how on earth that book on aerodynamics got into our tiny library. I read it from cover to cover... I kept on re-reading it. I well remember the early aerofoil profiles shown in its illustrations and the forms of airflow patterns depicted around them at all angles of attack...
Excerpt from Chapter Two:
One afternoon during the first days in my mid-factory office where, through its wide expanse of window, we could look down and view the whole of the assembly bay and more, Les Still called my attention to a man in grey slacks, sports jacket and woollen sweater, who was making his way across the main floor. Les said, “Do you know who that is?” I hadn’t the faintest idea of who it could be and said so. He said, “That’s Lawrence of Arabia.” I looked at Les unbelievingly, but he was quite serious. He went on to say that Lawrence, known at the yard as Mr Shaw, or more officially as Aircraftman Shaw, spent much of his time with us and worked as a test pilot and liaison officer between the Royal Air Force and the British Power Boat Company.
As I looked at the man I was genuinely and completely awestruck. It was as though I had been asked to view Julius Caesar or William the Conqueror at first hand.