VANQUISH Art – The Vanquish

Here’s the last of Daryl’s illustrations. This is the mysterious plane mentioned in CALL TO THE KESTREL, but Daryl brings it to life here. The VANQISH …


The Vanquish was a single-engine, all-metal fighter-interceptor and fighter-bomber built by Speedman Aviation, a specialty builder better known for its racing seaplanes and monoplanes. The Vanquish made its first appearance during the Battle of Britain, surprising Legion forces with its overpowering speed, armor and firepower. There were several versions of the aircraft for specific roles: interceptor, bomber-destroyer, fighter-bomber and reconnaissance. The Vanquish was produced throughout the war.

Vanquish fighter
Vanquish fighter

Design and Development

Carl Speedman’s aircraft company was not much of a company at all, but a collection of engineers, mechanics, craftsmen and women whom he directed to build aircraft for eclectic and often expensive tastes. Speedman described his work as more for the “sportsman pilot” than for “air forces”. He built several custom racing planes that he successfully flew for the Bendix Trophy (1936) and the Seaplane Speed Challenge (1937, 1938 and 1939). He also built private aircraft in limited numbers for many aviators, including then-Crown Prince George before he assumed the throne after Edward’s abdication.

In 1939, he was approached (“challenged” the better word) by friends and rivals to develop an actual fighter plane. Speedman was openly critical of other aviation companies like Hawker and Konqueror struggling to meet Government standards and boasted he could build a plane that could exceed the monoplane design completion requirements. Adapting the gull-wing design from one of his own racing planes, the Vixen, Speedman refined the platform to create a plane which was given only the “V” designation. The aircraft did surpass expectations, but all further development was kept classified given the turn of events on the Continent and the sudden fall of France in June of 1940. The plane was initially to be named “Victory”, but Speedman insisted on naming the plane himself: he called the aircraft, Vanquish.

When bombing of British cities and coastal radar stations began in July 1940, Speedman was asked to put his plane into production. His small facilities were simply not prepared and he could only produce enough for two squadrons. These squadrons were thrown into action, with call for more planes. Production was licensed to four other manufacturers across the British Isles and was responsible for all output during the war. Some eight thousand Vanquishes were produced.

Design Characteristics

The Vanquish has an unusual gull-wing design, a supercharger air scoop located behind the main wing and an “bubble” armored canopy for good all-around visibility. The plane’s engine was originally specified as the Rolls-Royce Merlin V12, the same engine used by the Exeter Lancer, but this engine was quickly replaced with Rolls’ much larger Gryphon V12. The plane utilizes three or four-blade variable pitch propellers. The Vanquish could climb, dive and turn with better handling than all comparable Legion fighters during the Battle of Britain.

The most noticeable difference between the Lancer and the Vanquish is its armament: six .30 in machine guns in each wing and two Hispano 20mm autocannons mounted in the chin of the engine compartment, firing synchronized through the propellor’s arc. The autocannons proved highly effective against all Legion aircraft and the plane quickly became feared in its role as a bomber-destroyer.

Vanquish design
Vanquish design







Speedman Vanquish




Speedman Aviation


Carl Speedman

First flight

June 1940





Primary users

British Royal Air Force



Number built


Developed from

Speedman Vixen

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