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Newsletter 4
Autumn 2003

Updated on 24Oct2003

Published by the Hawker Association for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

Contents

Editorial

Bill Sherwood remembers

Book reviews

Christmas lunch

Dunsfold update

Dunsfold's Dove

George Anderson

Harrier II production

Harrier web site

HA members

Hawker memories

India makes up her mind

Kingston Aviation Heritage

Mick Mansell retires

Philatelic cover

Programme for 2003-4

Putting the record straight

Requests for information

Transatlantic air race

Visit to Farnborough

V/STOL Historical Society

Home Home

BILL SHERWOOD REMEMBERS HIS TIME
AT BROOKLANDS AND LANGLEY


I left school and joined Hawkers as a shop boy some 60 years ago, at the age of 15, at Brooklands. I worked in No.1 shop, the long hangar that ran alongside the racetrack on the Byfleet banking. In 1940 the war had reached a critical stage and even I, the most junior, was asked to work every hour I could.

Hawkers at that time could be described as a family concern as most of the people employed at Brooklands had brothers or fathers, or even sisters, working there so it was a pleasant place to be. My brother and my father both worked there. We lived in Byfleet, as did most of the Hawker employees. I enjoyed being part of the team and it gave me great pleasure to see the Hurricanes fly, when I had time to stand around at lunchtime.

My pleasure was to be short lived because Hawkers ceased production of Hurricanes at Brooklands and our family team split up. I went to Langley, my father to Kingston and my brother joined the RAF to become a flight engineer.

Working at Langley was a complete change; it was so much bigger, the family atmosphere was gone and we refugees from Brooklands were quickly absorbed into the work force.

I continued to work on the erecting floor but for me disenchantment was creeping in and I decided to try to join the design department. I had to endure an interview with Sydney Camm who I felt at the time was formidable but quite friendly. Amazingly, my interview was successful but it did mean I had to work in the design office at Kingston.

After a while I hankered to be in touch with actual aircraft and asked to be transferred back to Langley and eventually my wish came true. The drawing office at Langley was very small and was situated over the main erecting floor. With the hammering, riveting and shouting it wasn't a quiet place by any means. The DO staff comprised a section leader, two engineers and me as permanent staff and two designers on secondment from Kingston who were changed every three months or so. One of these was John WR Taylor who later became editor of Jane's All the World's Aircraft, and another was Ken Gatland who was making a name for himself in the field of interplanetary travel.

One of the aircraft we dealt with was the two seat Hurricane for Persia. The experimental shop went to work on the aircraft and we, the design office, followed behind to record everything they had done. I approached my section leader to ask permission to request a flight and Bill Humble, the Chief Test Pilot, agreed to fly me in the Hurricane which had an open front cockpit and a teardrop hood over the rear.

He elected to fly from the rear cockpit; it was raining that morning and I don't think he wanted to get wet. He must have thought I had a confident look about me for if I was in the front cockpit I would have to do a number things like raising and lowering the undercarriage and flaps because the rear cockpit had basic flying controls and not much else.

I borrowed a Sidcot flying suit and helmet from one of the other pilots and thus equipped was helped into a parachute and given instructions on how to use it. Bill Humble and I made our way out to the aircraft, climbed in and I settled down for my first flight. I must add that this Hurricane did not have the niceties of proper intercom, merely Gosport speaking tubes. Sitting in the open cockpit with my Gosport tubes plugged in I felt I could follow any instructions given by Bill; but this was before he started the engine. With the engine running it dawned upon me, and probably Bill, that I couldn't hear a thing, the Merlin made such a noise.

Nevertheless, we took off and when we were well clear of the ground I retracted the undercarriage and we continued upwards into the clouds. Because of the draughts in the cockpit all manner of sawdust, swarf and even the odd nut and bolt flew past me. It didn't occur to me that these might have been holding something vital together, such was the confidence of youth!

After a while we descended through the cloud and did a mild beat-up of Langley after which it seemed an appropriate time to lower the undercarriage and put the flaps down. We landed, taxied to the apron and got out. As I was walking away from the Hurricane, with the sound of the Merlin ringing in my ears, Bill said something to me, but whatever it was, I shall never know.

My stay at Hawkers was coming to an end, the control of labour wasn't stringent and I felt it was time for a change. So, I went back to Brooklands, but this time to Vickers Armstrong's design office at Brooklands House.

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