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Harris Booth

(1884 - 1943)

Harris Booth was born in 1884 in Forest Hill, London, the son of Richard and Ann Sarah Martha Booth. Following graduating with a BA from Cambridge he joined Leonard Bairstow’s staff at the Aerodynamics section of the National Physical Laboratory in Bushey Heath, along with the likes of F. H. Bramwell, J. H. Hyde and B. Melville Jones, conducting practical aerodynamic research. In March 30, 1912 Booth was appointed to serve on the Research Committee of the Aeronautical Society, to which he was elected Associate Fellow in June of the same year.

Captain Murray Sueter was given command of the Navy's Air Department in 1912, in which role he oversaw the creation of the Royal Naval Air Service, and under Sueter Booth was seconded as a Civilian Technical Assistant to the Air Department. Following the outbreak of war, Booths first design, and the first design of the Admiralty Air Department, was the A.D. Type 1, (or Admiralty Type 1000) seaplane. Development began in 1915 and seven aircraft were ordered from J. Samuel White. The first flew during the summer of 1916 but was overweight and the remaining six were cancelled.

Certainly the A.D. Type 1 was no thing of beauty, but Booth had a significant role in the aircraft of the RNAS. As Mason [1] writes “Although most of Booth's own designs bordered on the grotesque, he was able to use his undoubted influence with the Board of Admiralty when it came to gaining official support for the designs of his subordinates (and he it was who strongly advised Murray Sueter to have such outstanding aeroplanes as the Handley Page O/100, and Sopwith 1 1/2-Strutter, Pup and Camel adopted by the Admiralty when they were still on the drawing board)”.

The need for a large aeroplane was first felt by the Royal Navy and in 1914, Commander Samson, reporting back from the scene of war, asking for an aircraft that would be a "bloody paralyser." This request was backed up by Winston Churchill, and a specification was drawn up and conveyed to Handley Page on December 25, 1914. The consulting engineer with whom Handley Page was in contact was Harris Booth, who he described as being a man of slightly eccentric ways, one of which was a habit of changing into carpet slippers for the office!

Booth's next design was the AD Scout, four prototypes being ordered in 1915 with two each built by Hewlett & Blondeau and the Blackburn Aeroplane & Motor Company. However, the aircraft proved to be seriously overweight, fragile, sluggish, and difficult to handle, even on the ground, and the project was abandoned. The AD Flying Boat was also designed in 1915, again under Booth, but with hull design by Lieutenant Linton Hope. Two prototypes were constructed in 1916 by Pemberton-Billing, Ltd (later to become Supermarine Aviation), with hulls constructed by May, Harden and May.

In 1916 Harris Booth moved to Blackburn where his first project was a heavily-revised AD Scout, the Blackburn Triplane. Only one was built. It was accepted by the Admiralty on 20 February 1917, but was rapidly found wanting like the Scout before it. In January 1918, the Admiralty issued specification N.1B. In response, Harris Booth designed the Blackburd, a large, three-bay biplane with unswept, unstaggered wings and a slab-sided fuselage, whose simple lines were designed to facilitate rapid production. In 1920, Booth designed an “aerial lorry” to take advantage of the Alula wing designed by the Commercial Aeroplane Wing Syndicate, Ltd.

Harris Booth moved to Vickers at Weybridge in 1924 where he joined R.K.Pierson to assist in producing the first Vickers all-metal aircraft, the Viastra. Nothing seems to be recorded concerning Booths career from this point on. It is known that he was living in Iver, Bucks., in 1935 so it is possible he returned to a more academic life.

As well as many authoritative papers, Booth produced one book, “Aeroplane Performance Calculations", Published by Chapman and Hall in 1921.

Harris Booth, B.A., A.M.Inst.C.E., F.R.Met.Soc, F.R.Ae.S. died in 1943, in Staines, Middlesex.

Biography References

  1. British Bomber Since 1914, Francis K. Mason (Putnam 1994)
  2. Flight Magazine March 22, 1913
  3. Flight Magazine Nov 21, 1952
  4. Flight Magazine Nov 9, 1961

V1.3.0 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated February 2017