Newsletter 9
Summer 2005
Updated on 9Jun2005
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents © Hawker Association

Annual General Meeting
Half a Century in
Hawkers In the 50s
Programme for 2005
Reminiscences of a
Roy Goodheart
Sea Harrier
Thirty Years Ago
Visit to Imperial War
Wartime Hawkers
Brian Drew remembers his early days at Kingston...

In 1950, when I was 14, I was taken by my mother for job interviews in a lovely old house in Penrhyn Road. We were sent into a room with walls lined with filing cabinets and in the centre was a middle-aged man sitting behind a desk. He looked at my school records and after some contemplation asked me what sort if job I would like; would the railways interest me? Or, when I showed no interest, the buses? Still no interest. "Well, what about making aeroplanes?" Instantly I replied "Yes please!"

A week later I duly reported to Personnel at the old Sopwith factory in Canbury Park Road and after the regulation medical I was offered a job as an apprentice. The next six years remain with me as fond memories; the original wooden floors and the great people I worked with.

top toptop
My first duty, I was informed, was each morning and afternoon to go to a converted shed in a nearby road that served as a cafe and collect the tea and sandwiches. I asked if I went by the loading bay steps, above which I worked. This caused a smile and at that point a rope with a loop in it was produced. The system was for me to be lowered down the outside wall which was about 10 feet high and on my return to pass up the orders. Then it was my turn to collect my own.

A number of incidents come to mind when I think of Canbury Park Road, some funny and some not. I remember giving my trainer some lip when he ordered me to draw a rubber hammer out of the Stores. My ear still tingles when I think of him leading me by it to the counter. I once inadvertently caused a walk-out. Next to me two men were putting together the fin of a Sea Hawk. The man working on the riveting block had a piece of swarf get in his eye so while he was down in Medical his mate asked me to stand in for him. This was a no-no for an apprentice so all the union men walked out.

A sombre incident was when a man slipped while working over an acid degreasing tank and went in up to his waist. You could hear hi screams all over the factory. Less sombre was my cycling incident. We had a cycle rack in the next road which you got to by an alley-way through to Canbury Park Road. Well, at clocking-off time I used to run down the road and up the alley, then I had to cycle up Canbury Park Road to get home. On one summer afternoon I had collected my racing bike and, head down, I was bombing along and failed to notice that the traffic had stopped. The next sensation was finding myself with two others in a two-seater car with my head in the passenger's foot well and the rest of me draped over the boot. The road was crowded with hundreds of Hawker staff leaving the factory so I was plagued with jibes for months afterwards.

Some other memories. A mate of mine who had a bed-sit in Kingston from Monday to Friday but at the finish of work on Fridays he would don his cycle gear and pedal up to Ipswich...and back again on Sunday afternoon. The staff who went down to the loading bay to fill their cigarette lighters by lowering them on a wire into the lorries' petrol tanks; I guarantee that two thirds fell off into the tanks. The 1953 visit of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh; not much of an event for the men but the ladies in the Planning Office went mad!

I am very proud to have been part of the firm and still have great pleasure putting aircraft together. The old unforgotten skills have been used on a string of them including two Hunters (Brooklands and Farnborough), a MiG 21 and a two-seat Lightning.