The eccentric and adventurous pioneer aviator Noel Pemberton-Billing was born in London in 1881. He travelled to South Africa aged 14 and lived there for a few years before returning to England to set up one of the country’s first motor garages in Kingston-upon-Thames. He developed an interest in aviation and in 1913, in partnership with motorboat enthusiast Hubert Scott-Paine, set up the Supermarine aviation company in a disused coal yard on the banks of the River Itchen in Woolston. The stated purpose of the new company was to “build boats that fly rather than aeroplanes that float”, hence the name 'Supermarine' which was an inversion of 'submarine'. Pemberton-Billing designed the flying boats and Scott-Paine was works manager.
Pemberton-Billing sold his shares to Scott-Paine in 1916 and left the company to take up a career in politics; he was elected MP for Hertford in 1916. Throughout World War One he was a vociferous advocate of the use of air power, calling for air raids against German cities. He also advocated the establishment of an air force separate from army or navy control and was generally critical of government aviation policy.
After the war his virulent right-wing political views and his homophobic conspiracy theories embroiled him in controversy and led to a well-publicized libel case. He resigned his seat in parliament in 1923 due to ill-health and took up writing and inventing, with some success at both. At the outset of World War Two he returned to politics. His attempts to win a seat in parliament were unsuccessful and he had to be content with criticizing government policy from the sidelines. He died in 1948.

Noel Pemberton-Billing

Image Unavailable

A photograph from the 1920s

see also

Newspaper clippings:
Mr. N. Pemberton Billing - (The Times 12/11/1948)

Further reading:
Supermarine Aircraft since 1914, by C. F. Andrews and E. B. Morgan, p14-21. (HS/ph)
'Salome Unveiled at the Old Bailey', by John Edgar Mann, in Hampshire, Vol. 31, No. 5, March 1991, p18 (H/y)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004, Volume 5 (under Billing, Noel Pemberton)


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