Newsletter 16
Spring 2007
Updated on 16Mar2007
Egyptian chaos
F-35 flies
Harrier - tiger on my back
Harrier news
Hawk news
Hawk vs Goshawk
Hawker apprentices
Hawker people news
Old Hawker Aircraft news
Programme for 2007
RAF Club Camm Memorial
Restored Hawker Nimrod
Restoring Hawker biplanes
Sea Harrier set to fly on
Sopwith - America's Cup
Typhoon and Tempest
Typhoon fund
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents © Hawker Association

    Guy Harris continues his memoir...
    Next stop after completing my degree in June 1960 was 'Progress'; I don't remember much about that so it can't have been very interesting! It was then that I got to know more of my contemporaries at Hawkers, those in my particular group of friends being Alan Boyd, Paul Boon, Chris Farara and Basil Maddox.
    We all used to meet up at lunchtime in the canteen and talk about cars (eg the brilliant new E-Type Jaguar, or Chris's involvement with Peter Westbury's championship winning speed-hillclimb car), or aircraft, those in the Project Office keeping us up to date with the exciting new P.1127.
    As a post-graduate trainee my salary had been boosted by this time to the grand sum of £8/3s/0d a week so, with a bedsit in Teddington at £3 a week and cheap canteen lunches, I was really in the money.

Hawker Graduate Apprentice - Part 2

top toptoptoptop toptop top
    With an old 1933 Morris Minor two-seater, purchased for £5, and petrol at 4/- a gallon (the new Russan 'Jet' petrol at Hampton Court) we were mobile as well - was it really only forty-five years ago that costs were so low?
    A surprise to me in the autumn of 1960 was the Apprentice Prizegiving when, for having successfully completed my degree course, I was presented with a set of books and a toolbox, and had my photograph taken with Sir Sydney Camm; all items which I still treasure to this day.
    After 'Progress' I went back to the 'Inspection Test House', then on to 'Subsidiary Process' (heat treatment and coppersmiths, probably), the 'Press Shop', back to the dreaded 'Machine Shop' then on to the 'Toolroom' which I think was in the famous old roller skating rink in Canbury Park Road.
     This was the most enjoyable and best instruction that I received during my years with Hawkers. I was put with one of the older toolroom fitters, Bill by name, building Avro 748 aileron jigs destined for India, if my memory serves me correctly. Union rules of not being allowed to touch tools did not seem to apply in this department and Bill taught me how to carry out precision fitting work and to be absolutely precise, a skill which I like to think has served me admirably for the last forty-five years, both in my managerial positions and in my hobbies and work at home.
     Then on to 'Plastics' at Richmond Road making fibreglass models of the P.1127 (for wind tunnel testing or directors' desks?), which also involved weekly hand inspections for dermatitis by the lovely nursing staff.
     Then to 'Rear Fuselage Installations' threading hydraulic pipes and other equipment through the structures and learning to wire lock nuts and other fittings correctly, usually working blind through small access panels.
    Last was the Vulcan, before going down to Dunsfold to 'Final Assembly' and 'Flight Shed' involving a daily return journey from Kingston in the Company's brown coach.
    This was probably the most exciting training period for all apprentices, and it now being mid-1961, early flight trials of the P.1127 were taking place, as well flight testing of two-seat Hunters and Folland Gnats.
    At this time Hawkers had, lined up around the airfield perimeter, dozens of ex-RN Sea Furies, which the company had repurchased from the Ministry at virtually scrap prices with intention of refurbishing them and selling them to overseas customers. One of the jobs we did with these aircraft was to inhibit the 18 cylinder Centaurus radial engines by injecting rust inhibitor into each cylinder; we became expert at knowing the timing sequence of these monster engines by the end of the job.
    Also lined up were numbers of early Hunters, also bought back from the Ministry and from overseas operators. These were stripped down, refurbished, brought up to the latest standards and exported to many air forces.
    The intended market for the Sea Furies was Cuba but the plan fell foul of the US Government embargo on military goods to Communist Cuba, for by this time Fidel Castro controlled the island.
    I later heard that most of these beautiful machines fell to the oxy-acetylene cutters; what a tragedy. I was told that the Furies were bought for £70 each (the Hunters cost a little more at £100). If only we could have looked ahead and stacked a few away for thirty or forty years!
    From Dunsfold it was back to Richmond Road and the 'Ratefixers' (pretty boring) and then a couple of months with Wally Rayner in 'Works Management'. All the apprentices who had worked for Wally warned me of the tongue-lashing that apprentices regularly received in his office, but I found Wally a great chap to work for and thoroughly enjoyed my few weeks with him, so I must have done something correctly! He certainly did not stand fools gladly, but if you did what he asked promptly and got answers back to him in a timely manner he was always prepared to encourage you and share a joke, even if his humour was a little dry at times. As one among the stream of apprentices who went through his office over the years I am sure he would have no recollection of me whatsoever, but I was pleased to see mention of Wally in an early Newsletter and sad to read of his passing in 2004.
    After 'Works Management' there followed a month in the 'Buying Office', located at the front of the smart new office building in front of the factory, working on contracts and sometimes discussing with the department head performance details of his brand new Mini-Cooper.
    It was then upstairs to the 'Production Drawing Office' and the 'Experimental Drawing Office', working alongside the girls in the 'Lofting Section'. It was in the 'Production DO' that I was instructed to draw a design for the 'pen-knib' fairing for the P.1127 hot nozzle exhaust. Sir Sydney, on one of his regular tours of the DO, where he spoke to all the draughtsmen whilst checking their work, took one look at my drawing, shuddered, made some quiet comment to the section leader, and passed on. I'm sure my design never made it into metal, and I was never offered a position in the DO.
   Next stop was 'Design Installations', where I worked with Rene LeClair, with a final month in 'R&D' recording readings on the large fatigue test rig where Hunter wings were being tested to destruction.
    So the final two years of apprenticeship came to an end and I subsequently decided to apply for a position in 'Design Installations', this being more in line with my Mechanical Engineering degree.
    That was where I was to spend the rest of my years at Hawkers, working for Rene on P.1154 fuel, cockpit heating and air conditioning calculations, struggling with a clapped-out analogue computer, passed on to us by the 'Advanced Projects Group', trying to make it work correctly. It suffered from loose connections in all the components and this was obviously why APG had finished with it. Salary, I seem to recall, was £1100 per annum or about £20 per week.
    The in 1964 Harold Wilson and the new Labour Government decided to scrap the P.1154 and other aircraft projects (TSR2 and the HS681) and this was when I decided to seek pastures new, ultimately spending most of the rest of my working life in the oil industry, my interest in aircraft maintained by learning to glide.
    Thus it was that in September 1964 I sadly bade farewell to Hawkers and took one last look at the lovely gravel drive in front of the Richmond Road offices; we had all been itching to drive along this road with spinning wheels, but nobody had had the courage to take up the bets! Now, alas, along with the rest of the factory, it has gone for ever. They were great years with a great company and I made many good friends; my only regret is that the years passed all too quickly.