This is an extraordinary story of a great patriot and philanthropist who has, until now, escaped the attention of historians. Her reach and generosity are amazing, although perhaps of the time she lived in and the society in which she grew. An outstanding story of an outstanding woman, Highly Recommended.
NAME: Lady Lucy Houston DBE, Aviation Champion and Mother of the Spitfire
AUTHOR: Miles Macnair
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Spitfire, Schneider Trophy, SE5, SE5b, Houston-Westland aircraft, Everest expedition, 1920s, 1930s, great air races, the arms race, rearmament, monoplanes, Rolls Royce ‘R’ engine, women’s rights, charity campaigner.
DESCRIPTION: This is an extraordinary story of a great patriot and philanthropist who has, until now, escaped the attention of historians. Her reach and generosity are amazing, although perhaps of the time she lived in and the society in which she grew. An outstanding story of an outstanding woman, Highly Recommended.
Lady Lucy Houston lived from 1857 to 1936 and it was a very full life. She was a renowned beauty who as a teenager enticed a wealthy lover and married three times. She was a committed campaigner for women’s rights and undertook outstanding works of charity during the First World War. Her work in convalescent nursing for soldiers returning from the front was recognised with her being made a Dame of the British Empire. To this point, she was typical of a group of women from wealthy backgrounds who championed women’s rights and went on during WWI to actively care for the wounded. Many went to France and nursed the wounded close to the conflict, well within hearing of the constant barrage of guns, or undertook charitable work at home in nursing and other care and support for the troops. Lady Houston also understood the politics behind war and she was a firm early believer that Britain would again face war with Germany. However, she was also typical of many wealthy people in admiring Mussolini for restoring Italian patriotism and self-esteem, will despising most of the weak British politicians, an exception being Winston Churchill who she championed through the period when he was out of political favour, recognising a shared patriotism.
Through her series of marriages, Lady Houston acquired considerable wealth. It did not bring unalloyed joy, with her being temporarily being certified mad after the death of her third husband in mysterious circumstances. His Will made her one of the richest women in England and she was to spend a vast fortune on many causes, but most notably in supporting the British Schneider Trophy campaigns. She also funded the Houston-Mount Everest expedition of 1933. This was perhaps less a love of aviation as a deep and patriotic belief in helping Britain to equip for an inevitable war with Germany.
Through her generous sponsorship of the British Schneider Trophy challenge, she had a direct and vital influence on both the development of the Spitfire and of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine that powered the Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster, Mosquito and Mustang war planes and was used on other aircraft, including, after WWII, the Spanish license-built Me 109.
The eventful and eccentric life of Lady Houston and her charitable and patriotic works is such a great story it is very difficult to understand why no one has told it until this book. It is a fascinating story that could have come from the entertaining pen of a novelist.