Modern wonders — II

Resuming from where I left off with Modern Wonder -- here are some rather fantastic French and British 'battle planes' from the cover of the 23 April 1938 issue. I've never seen these designs before and I'm sure they never got off the drawing board -- if, that is, there was even any drawing board at all and it's not just massive artistic license. [Update: of course I was wrong! Jakob quickly identified both aircraft in the comments. The French one is an Arsenal-Delanne 10, which did in fact fly (though not until 1941); the British one is an Airspeed AS.31, which did not. On Twitter, Francois Soyer and AusterityAirliners also got one apiece.]

2 April 1938: Selby Lewis, 'I Fly at 400 Miles an Hour'. Pretty clearly a Hawker Hurricane, but the proportions are off and that nose is a bit Fury-ish. Look, this is hard, okay?

23 April 1938: 'Amazing New Sky Birds of the British and French Air Forces'. This is the one at the top of the post.

30 April 1938. HMS Ark Royal, I think, though it wasn't commissioned until December. But that's not a Fairey Swordfish taking off, or at least not a very good one?

21 May 1938: 'FIGHTING AIR RAIDERS'. Anti-aircraft is still about aircraft, right? A Vickers QF 3.7-inch AA gun, which entered service in 1937. (This issue promises an 'Amazing HIGH SPEED HYDROPLANE PRESENTATION' to every reader, which seems like good value for 2d.)

28 May 1938: 'INVADERS FROM THE AIR'. Paratroops were only just a thing at this time. The Red Army was the best-known practicioner; but while the paratrooper looks vaguely Russian in uniform, the aircraft are too small to make out. Quite possibly meant to be generic.

11 June 1938: 'THE ITALIAN AIR FORCE', in cutaway! All helpfully labelled, too. The big cutaway is a Savoia-Marchetti SM.81, the little one is a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79B (normally three-engined, this was a twin-engined variant for export). Making up the numbers are a Meridionali Ro.37, a Caproni Ca.135, a Fiat CR.32, a Breda Ba.88 and a Breda Ba.65.

I'm not sure why the Regia Aeronautica got a whole feature to itself, when the Luftwaffe didn't seem to; but a number of these aircraft saw action in Spain and the aeroplane (as did German ones, of course) and this issue was only a few months after the heavy raids on Barcelona by Italian bombers.

9 July 1938: Amy Johnson, 'The Art of Gliding'. The first non-military cover since February (out of the aviation-related ones, anyway). My first thought was 'Why would you get Amy Johnson to write about gliding?' but that just shows how little I know: she was an early member of the Yorkshire Gliding Club (founded 1934). Front and centre here is a Hütter Hü 17 (German, not American as stated here), surrounded by a Slingsby Falcon T.4 Falcon 3 (British), a Göppingen Gö 3 (German), a Slingsby Primary T.3 trainer (British), and a DFS Kranich two-seater.

16 July 1938: 'Map Making from the Sky'. Modern Wonder was clearly deep into cutaways by now, and this is a particularly nice one of a de Havilland DH.86B configured for aerial cartography.

8 October 1938: 'AIRSPEED "OXFORD" ADVANCED TRAINING AIRCRAFT'. It does make it easier when the cover says what the aeroplane is supposed to be!

7 January 1939: 'BRITAIN'S NEW WONDER AIRCRAFT CARRIER'. Definitely Ark Royal this time, less than a month after commissioning, with a (presumably) Blackburn Skua touching down.

25 February 1939: 'MOBILE AIRPORT'. No, not that kind of Mobile airport, it's an airport that is actually mobile. What a great idea; when the neighbours start to complain about the noise you simply move it somewhere else! Well, presumably it was meant to be used more in remote locations, say by mining companies or the military, rather than as an ad hoc city airport.

Modern Wonder

4 March 1939: 'AIR RAIDS ON INSECTS'. A Pitcairn OP-1? A bit elderly by 1939, though. I can't find any stories from around this time of an autogyro being used for cropdusting, anyway, so perhaps it's a forecast rather than a report.

Modern Wonder continued publishing well into 1941, though it changed its name to Modern World in March 1940. But even before the war it changed its covers to a much more drab style, based around a photo rather than original artwork. Plenty still featured aviation (including the above, the first one actually, 'JUMPING FROM THE SKIES FOR FUN', 8 April 1939) but as the topics are as mundane as the images I won't continue scouring them. Exactly half of the 26 covers I've presented here are military in some way, but even the more colourful ones certainly aren't as gleefully warlike as those of Dare-Devil Aces, and I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact the publisher, Odhams, was devastated by a bomb from a Gotha on 28 January 1918, killing 38 people and wounding 85.

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6 thoughts on “Modern wonders — II

  1. That French aircraft on the top picture looks like an Arsenal-Delanne 10, which did actually have a prototype built. The other one is a paper design I'm sure I've seen - that cockpit egg is pretty distinctive - but my Google-fu isn't bringing something up. (My brain says it was one of the smaller British manufacturers - Miles? Airspeed?)

  2. My memory was right - a different search brought up the Airspeed AS.31, which was a design to the Air Ministry's specification 35/35 for a high-speed aircraft for potential later use as a fighter.

  3. Richard

    I'm glad (or perhaps sad) to say that I would have got the French one on the first cover.

    The illustration is by Bryan de Grineau who was an accomplished artist painting a variety of subjects including Grand Prix cars and illustrations for Hornby Train catalogues.
    (See History of Formula 1 - Artist Gallery - Bryan de Grineau
    He served in the First World War and was also an Official War Artist during the Second World War. Imperial War Museums have a number of his works.

    Interesting to note the offer being promoted - 'For every reader - a magnificent Sheffield steel penknife FREE' and the fact that the offer seems (from the cover) to be explained on three pages.

  4. Shrike58

    Did some checking around and the Blackburn Shark seems to be the best match as it does have the "W" strut arrangement.

  5. Post author


    Yes, you're right!


    I agree, you're right too. As the Shark was the Swordfish's predecessor I should have been able to work that one out...

    And yes, that must have been one complicated reader offer!

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