The Life and Times of Wing Commander N.F. Usborne RN, Pioneer of Naval Aviation

Guy Warner

* An outstanding biography, exploring the life and times of Neville Florian Usborne, one of the leading lights of early British airship design.

* Deeply involved in the design of the SS and Coastal Class airships, his efforts had a direct bearing upon the eventual outcome of the First World War.

*Tragically, he wasn't destined to personally wit
Date Published :
November 2020
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
60 illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781473829022
Pages : 320
Dimensions : 9.21 X 6.14 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781526781574
Pages : 320
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Neville Florian Usborne entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1897. In the years between him joining up and the outbreak of the First World War, he engaged in a huge number of enterprises and endeavors. Praise and respect garnered in accordance with his achievements all helped to establish his reputation in later years as an 'irreplaceable' pioneer and a leading light of early British airship design. His fertile imagination and enterprising spirit fused to form a dynamic personality, able in wartime to draw up countless schemes in an effort to outwit the enemy.

His chief task during the Great War was to dream up new tactics and designs to combat the Zeppelin menace, perceived as one of the most damaging threats of the entire conflict. He was also deeply involved in the design of the very successful SS and Coastal Class airships; indeed, during 1915 he was actually appointed Inspector Commander of Airships at the Admiralty. Unfortunately, his illustrious career was destined to be cut short in 1916 when he was killed testing a prototype of one of his own designs. This new biography seeks to shine a light on an overlooked pioneer of early aviation and it does so in entertaining and reverential style. The importance of Usborne the pioneer is made plain; as one of his contemporaries commented upon his death No one can talk of the early days of British airship design without mention of his name and work. A personality was lost on that February day which was irreplaceable.

About The Author

Guy Warner is a retired schoolteacher and former MOD civil servant, who grew up in Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland, attending Abbots Cross Primary School and Belfast High School before going to Leicester University and later Stranmillis College. He now lives in Greenisland, Co Antrim with his wife Lynda. He also has two grown up daughters and three grandchildren. He is the author of over twenty five books and booklets on aviation past and present and has written hundreds of articles for magazines in the UK, Ireland and the USA. He also reviews books for several publications, gives talks to local history societies etc and has appeared on TV and radio programmes, discussing aspects of aviation history.


"Irish-born Neville Usborne joined the Royal Navy in 1897. An above-average cadet, by 1904 he was promoted to full lieutenant and by 1905 was posted to the Torpedo School at HMS [i]Vernon[/i]. A dynamic character, Usborne had a head filled with ideas, especially with regard to airship design and technology. Lighter Than Air is an easy to read story of this great pioneers life plus a comprehensive history of early airship technology... it is a great book and I thoroughly recommend it."

- Military Modelling

" A marvelous book..... I thoroughly enjoyed reading it..... one of the best books I have read in a long time."

- Den Burchmore, Airship Heritage Trust

"In his introduction, the author points out that at the start of the 20th Century, the airship was just as 'promising a piece of advanced technology as the frail aircraft'. This story traces the development of the airship alongside the careers of Neville Usborne, a naval officer who committed himself to the early naval air service...... This is an amazingly comprehensive tale of 'those magnificent men and their flying machines', and of one man in particular, Usborne, who had the imagination and skill to make the airship into a viable and useful platform. The airship story is covered up to the present day and is lavishly illustrated with some unique photos. This is a marvelous read and a fitting tribute to a genuine pioneer. Highly recommended."

- Warship World

"A BIOGRAPHY OF Neville Usborne was long overdue, so it is good to see the gap filled. However this is more than a biography, as the account of Usborne’s life is entwined in a history of the early development of lighter than- air military aeronautics in Britain, especially in relation to airships."

- The Aviation Historian, Issue 20

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