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  • Merlin: The Power Behind the Spitfire, Mosquito and Lancaster

  • The Story of the Engine That Won the Battle of Britain and WWII
  • By: Graham Hoyland
  • Narrated by: Chris Courtenay, Philip Pope
  • Length: 10 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (55 ratings)

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Summary

The most iconic planes of WWII, the Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, DeHavilland Mosquito and the Avro Lancaster, were all powered by one engine, the Rolls-Royce Merlin. The story of the Merlin is one of British ingenuity at its height, of artistry and problem-solving that resulted in a war-winning design.

Published to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain, Merlin is the extraordinary story of the development of the Rolls-Royce engine that would stop Hitler from invading Britain and carry the war to the very heart of Germany.

The story of the Merlin engine encompasses the history of powered flight, from the ingenuity of the Wright brothers to the horrors of World War I and from the first crossing of the Atlantic to the heady days of flying in the 1920's. There is also the extraordinary story of the Schneider Trophy - an international contest wherein nations poised on the precipice of war competed for engineering excellence in the name of progress.

And at the heart of this story are the glamorous lives of the pilots, many of whom died in their pursuit of speed; the engineers, like Henry Royce of Rolls-Royce, who sketched the engine that would win WWII in the sand of his local beach; and perhaps most importantly the Lady Lucy Houston who after the Wall Street Crash single-handedly funded the development of the engine and the iconic Spitfire.

Never was so much owed by so many to so few - and without the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the few would have been powerless.

©2020 Graham Hoyland (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Illuminating and entertaining." (The Times)

"A towering work full of twists and turns." (Independent)

"Richly enjoyable." (Daily Mail)

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What listeners say about Merlin: The Power Behind the Spitfire, Mosquito and Lancaster

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Merlin?

Interesting story but only transiently about the Merlin. It rambles on about all sort of subjects wandering off in directions only notionally about the subject. I also don’t want to hear about the authors political opinions. Well narrated.
Overall promised lots didn’t deliver

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

This isn't just a story about the Merlin but the whole of aero piston engine development since the end of the 19th century to the advent of the jet engine. It not only covered the engineering story but also the social & political histories of the first half of the 20th century parts of which I found fascinating.

My only gripe was the constant asides to give the metric equivalent of Imperial units used at the time. It tended to ruin the glow of Chris & Phillip's excellent narration

Thank you Graham,Chris & Philip.

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely Brilliant

This is the best book I've listened to since joining audiobooks approx 3 years ago.

it links so many aspects of the two world wars that took place in the 20th century together and the time inbetween.

1 person found this helpful

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Superbly entertaining and informative account

This is not just a narrow history of the Merlin engine but a history of flight, the times, the politics, the characters, of the aviation and engineering companies- as well as being a satisfying insight into the incredible practical and theoretical challenges of creating the engine itself. The narration was perfect, delivered with a nice precision and gentle wryness at the right places. Really enjoyed the whole thing, one of the best.

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Fascinating tribute to the Merlin & Rolls Royce’s brilliant engineers who

A very fine book which draws you in the more you listen to it. It is perfectly arguable that without the Merlin we would have lost WW2. Graham Hoyland describes the magnificent engineers at Rolls Royce, and at Supermarine, Hawker and Avro, without whose willingness to back their judgement with their own money neither the engine nor the aircraft that used it would have been built.

It is notable, in these modern times of the State being thought to know best, that the aeronautical achievements that won WW2 essentially came from private enterprise and not from the War Office bureaucracy. Indeed there is a book to be written about the War Office’s failure to build a single decent tank throughout WW2, in stark contrast to the Merlin and the aircraft that used it.

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Brilliant story covering related and interesting additional history.

I wondered what this book would cover. As an avid aero-enthusiast, I was cautious of content and presentation. I need not have worried as the early history of flight, British politics, commercial intrigue and fascinating tales, all knitted together to make an enjoyable and cohesive book. The narrator has a clear concise pleasant English voice but sadly is unfamiliar with many aeronautical pronunciations, and this was my reason for deducting two stars. I’m now looking forward to further work by Graham Howland as he also includes many of his own personal experiences and history. I highly recommend this book!

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Misleading Title

A superficial history of the first half of the twentieth century with occasional reference to the merlin engine. If you are looking for an account of the engineering, look elsewhere. Very disappointing.

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Potted history of the 20th Century

This book could and should have been so much more. The author goes down so many blind alley’s that are at best vaguely related to Rolls Royce or aero engines that it’s almost tempting to give up and move on. It’s almost as if the author would rather have written a book on motor racing or social status in the early 20th Century British culture!

To be fair there are some gems within but you could start at Chapter 15 and not miss a great deal - such is the random and sporadic attention to the subject apparently being discussed.

Certainly an opportunity missed

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Fantastic for anyone interested in early aviation

An amazingly honest history in to Aircraft and piston engines and of course the birth, function and progression of the Merlin.

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  • A
  • 27-03-21

Fascinating insight into an icon

Get this book, you will not regret it. Just the right balance of technical facts and stories for context. Brilliantly narrated, I could not stop listening.

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  • George Young
  • 22-08-20

BRILLIANT!!!!!

Graham Hoyland is a delightful storyteller. This history of the Merlin engine is so much more than that!!! Hoyland is like a weaver of historical threads creating a work rich with knowledge of personalities, events, design, politics and human greatness and human perfidy.
If you love history that includes all the facts, but is rich with the characters and events that define human action, not just the dry facts, then please purchase this work!!
Graham Hoyland has created a history that only a deeply intelligent and richly emotional person could!!!

I bow to the author for creating a history that recreates a fascinating world, which affects us still!

My single complaint is that the narrator, an excellent, excellent reader, had some trouble with sticky mouth noise, and the recordist must have let the window open a few times because I'm pretty sure I heard birds twittering a few times...

George Young
Montreal, Canada

1 person found this helpful

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  • JW
  • 09-09-21

too much opinion

Most of the story was good, if a bit dull at times. What lost me was the editorializing about "the best engineering company in the world", etc.. If the author had stuck with the facts of an overall compelling story, his subject would have been better served.

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  • Rafael
  • 07-09-21

Mostly a history of Rolls Royce

Not quite enough material for a book just on the Merlin, so the bulk of the book is really about surrounding context and background. By the 60% mark I realized that the Merlin had not yet been introduced.

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  • Carol Domme
  • 24-08-20

Revisionism run ampk

ridiculously revisionist. entertaining, in a Hollywood sort of fashion, it doesn't meet traditional historical excellence in truthfulness, being full of half-truths and selective facts. Still, it was entertaining to listen to, much in the way the movie" Pearl Harbor, with Ben Affleck, is entertaining. Just don't rely on it as history. Should have stuck with the dry facts of engineering, left the research to his forebears, as well as the political correctness.