Vikings at Waterloo: The Wartime Work on the Whittle Jet Engine by the Rover Company

by David S Brooks

This is, sad to say, a dull book about an exciting topic. It concerns itself with the wartime development work on the Whittle jet engine done by the Rover, Lucas, and Rolls-Royce companies up to 1943 in the Waterloo Mill area of England. The author is “a retired teacher with life-long interests in aviation and local history.” A great deal of information is included in this book, but it just doesn’t “jump off the page” at the reader.

The author’s writing style, for this reader at least, is a bit too suppressed and precise to be captivating. Example: “Great courage and vision had been displayed by Spencer and Maurice Wilks whilst facing sustained and determined opposition to their improved engine arrangement between 1941 and 1943,” sums up the problem for me. What is being said here isexciting, and the sort of material high-tension movies could be formed around. Left untapped are the struggles of dynamic personalities and technological development, pitted against wartime necessities and production deadlines, amidst a backdrop of a sleepless town forced to listen to endless hours of round-the-clock jet engine testing. Any tension that may have existed in this mix just fades away into the plodding delivery of the storyline.

By February 1943 the Rover-designed W2B/26 straight-flow engine passed a 50-hour endurance test at 1488 lb thrust at 16,500 rpm, and by May 1943, in a preliminary 100-hour test, generated a steady 1600 lb thrust at 16,800 rpm. All very exciting when compared to the German jet engines that were producing 1,887 lb thrust, but had very short operational lives that were all to frequently measured more in minutes than hours. None of this excitement gets through to the reader, unfortunately. All the facts seem to be present, but a sense of enthusiasm for the topic is lacking. I’m not sorry I bought this book, I’m just sorry I can’t recommend it without this caveat. Best left as a source book for a more exciting history of the same topic.

A very good Contents page is followed by a Foreword, Preface, 12 Chapters, Appendices A–F, a Bibliography and Acknowledgements. No Index. In the Foreword we are told that “David’s objective was simply to record what he believed to have been an important era in history, as it related to his home town, in a dispassionate and objective manner.” Unfortunately, he succeeded.

Copyright 2011, Bill Ingalls (

Vikings at Waterloo
by David S Brooks
Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, 1996 (PO Box 31, Moor Lane, Derby DE24 8BJ, England)
131 pages, 44 photos, 19 drawings/maps/documents, softcover
List Price: £9
ISBN: 1-872922-08-2

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