Saturday, 21 April 2007
Sir Robert Mclean 1884-1964
Sir Robert McLean, who with designer R. J. Mitchell was mainly responsible for the Spitfire fighter, and who vigorously fought Air Ministry opposition to the singleseat monoplane fighter during the 1930s. He was the man who named the aircraft.
He joined the board of Vickers-Armstrongs in 1929, on returning to Britain from the general managership of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, and he became the first chairman and managing director of Vickers Aviation Limited. In this post he was responsible for the acquisition of the Supermarine Company wherein, of course, the Spitfire evolved. In 1938 he left Vickers-Armstrongs' board, though staying for a short period as an advisor, and it was later revealed that he had been dismissed —probably at Ministerial insistence.
Sir Robert described his tussles with the Air Ministry as a "bitter, brutal and hostile battle that was to become more hostile as time went on." Fortunately, it was one that Sir Robert McLean, despite his dismissal, was later seen to have won.