A FEW WORDS FROM A SALESMAN
"For my floor show this afternoon I have put together a little four part pastiche which will take us down memory lane ... starting way back in 1957 when I retired from the Royal Air Force and set out to seek my fortune in the vulgar world of commerce." So started John Crampton's talk on the 12th November 2003 when, in his customary witty and elegant style, he outlined his career with Hawkers which started in 1959, thanks to the family's babysitter who happened to be Bob Marsh's mother, John was working for SG Brown trying to ginger up sales of their master reference gyro (MRG) for a new instrument system for service aircraft. Bob invited John to bring one to Kingston but Camm dismissed the idea: "Don't want rubbish like that in our aeroplanes. How much does it weigh?" "Twenty eight pounds, sir" and so on. However, Bob showed John a P. 1127 three view and he was duly astonished at the idea. This resulted in Bob proposing that John join Hawkers who needed someone to prepare brochures and show visitors round. After interviews with Camm and Roy Chaplin, John was offered a position in the Project Office at a salary of £1300 per annum, starting on December 1st.
Seated next to Frank Mason, who was busy writing the Putnarn Hawker history, John familiarised himself with his new baby and was soon asked by John Fozard to explain the P. 1127 to two visiting senior RAF officers. While showing them drawings, Sir Sydney entered saying "Stop wasting time useless thing; it'll never work."! A year later Bob Marsh told John that John Lidbury wished to see him in Camm's office. Fearing that he had made a blunder, John was delighted to be offered a new executive status position as Technical Sales Manager with an increased salary, a company car, lunch in the Mess and an office in the 'golden mile'.
His first big presentation was to the Royal Navy in January 1961. In mid 1962 it was round the world calling on India, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. In 1966 "suddenly everything went quiet" Sir Sydney died. In his 1974 Chadwick Memorial Lecture Ralph Hooper wrote: "Sir Sydney's part in the P.1127 development was less a contribution to the design (as the Press would have us believe) than that in the difficult business situation that Hawkers were placed as the Hunter programme ran down, his stature (earned over many years) was sufficiently high within the hierarchy of Hawker Siddeley that support for so unpromising a fledgling was obtained, and defended, during almost three years before a penny of Government money was forthcoming, and that his unparalleled reputation within the Ministry helped to make this funding possible."
After retiring as CTP at the end of the 60s, Bill Bedford arrived at Kingston vowing to sell a thousand Harriers in the next ten years. John became his Deputy Sales Manager (Kingston) and Bill started to build his sales team with Johnnie Johnson, John Parker, Colin Downes and Peter Martin from the RAF, Danny Norman and Robby Roberts from the RN and Charlie Phillips from Flight Development. Project Engineer Roy Braybrook came along to answer the difficult questions from time to time. The Sales Executives were allocated regions of interest; John's were Scandinavia and Europe.
At the end of 1971, before the HS.1182 had been ordered for the RAF, John received a letter from Bjorn Schonberg, a director of Machinery Oy, the company representing HSA in Finland, suggesting that the HS.1182 would suit the Finnish Air Force (FAF) and that a sales drive should start now. John replied that he would soon be there but found little enthusiasm for the exercise, especially in the MoD's Export & Industrial Relations Dept, who advised that there was little chance of a sale. Nevertheless John flew to Helsinki in January 1972 for the first of many visits during which he gave presentations to the C in C, FAF and offered frequent updates. In 1975 a Finnish delegation visited Hawkers to investigate the Company and assess the Hawk at Dunsfold. At the Le Bourget Air Show in 1977 the Finnish Government informed John that the Hawk had been chosen; but this was subject to a non negotiable 100% trade offset worth £100 million, against fifty aircraft. John Glasscock was phoned immediately and the rest is history. In the end a 130% offset was achieved by the efforts of Eric Humberstone and his team supported by John Glasscock and Colin Chandler.
In the early 1970s John had received a call from Peter Mitchell at Hatfield who said he'd met a man in Spain who said he could sell the Harrier to the Spanish Navy. This was Ricardo Fuster. John reported to John Glasscock who refused to buy him an airline ticket to Madrid but did pay his hotel bill when John got there by thumbing a lift on a 125 out of Hatfield. A model and brochure were presented to Admiral Suanzes who was delighted but was concerned that the wooden deck of his helicopter carrier Dedalo would suffer damage from the Pegasus exhaust. Clearly a demonstration was called for. John Crampton and John Farley were taken to inspect the ship and the Spanish Navy arranged to position Dedalo in the Gulf of Cadiz between Faro and Gibraltar, but the Spanish Government refused permission for the Harrier to overfly Spain, putting the ship out of range. With some embarrassment John requested that Dedalo be positioned off Barcelona so that the Harrier could fly from Dunsfold, over France, direct to the ship. This was agreed but when John returned to Dedalo at the time of the demonstration he was summoned by the Captain to receive a dressing down, in perfect English in front of a board of senior officers, for disturbing the arrangements. After a suitably contrite response a tray of whiskeys was brought in and good relations were restored. Later that day Farley's Harrier, carrying 330 gal ferry tanks, appeared fast and low out of the heavy overcast and flew a display concluding with a vertical landing. Two days of trials proved that the ship's deck was undamaged by V/STOL operations and Admiral Suanzes was convinced that the Harrier was perfect for the Spanish Navy; all he had to do was sell the idea to General Franco. He succeeded and an order was placed, via the US Navy to circumvent the UK ban on arms sales to Franco and to forestall any attempt at a future cancellation.
In 1968 John Glasscock informed John that he was to deliver a lecture to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers on the history of Sopwiths and Hawkers. For research John contacted Sir Thomas and was immediately invited for lunch at Compton Manor, King's Somborne, the Sopwiths' home. They were very hospitable and plied John with a favourite drink: rum and grenadine in the approximate proportions of two drops of grenadine to half a pint of rum. The lunch went very well with Sir Thomas reminiscing throughout; but no notes were taken. In fact John fell asleep on the train home and woke up in Bournemouth. There were four or five more visits for proper research to complete the paper. John became a friend of the Sopwiths, later helped other authors and vetted potential visitors to Compton Manor.
As John said in closing, without Sir Thornas there would have been nothing; and we wouldn't belong to a Hawker Association.
During question time John was asked about his clandestine flights deep into the Soviet Union during the 'Cold War.' The USA had been flying spy aircraft over Russia which Kruschev well knew and he threatened President Truman that he would consider the next flight an act of war. Truman understood what the consequences would be so ordered General Curtis LeMay, boss of Strategic Air Command, to cease. LeMay still needed further radar recce photos showing the shape and location of Soviet ICBM sites so they could be destroyed in case of war. To get round the problem the US Joint Chiefs of Staff asked the British JCoS if the RAF would fly the required missions, if necessary using USAF aircraft. Prime Minister Clement Attlee was reluctant but was persuaded by the intelligence argument. Sq/Ldr Crampton was summoned to High Wycombe to see the RAF C in C, Air Marshall Sir Hugh Lloyd, and was ordered to set up an RAF Special Duties Flight at Sculthorpe with eight officers, operating USAF RB 45C four jet reconnaissance bombers wearing RAF roundels. The RB 45C conversion training was in the USA After a probing flight east of Berlin by John, which produced no reaction from defences, three aircraft flew simultaneous missions at night in April 1952 taking radar photographs. John's was the longest at over ten hours, over Moscow, south to the Kiev region and back home. A second mission was scrubbed at the end of 1952 but in 1953 the Flight was recalled to Sculthorpe and in April 1954 three more simultaneous sorties were flown. This time John was puzzled to see little flashes