recalls his early career with Hawkers...
I began work in 1945 as an Engineering Apprentice at Hawkers in Canbury
Park Road. Workshop experience was had in the Detail Fitters Shop and
the Machine Shop over a period of two and a half years during which I
was given a day off a week to attend Kingston Technical College but it
was necessary also to spend several evenings there as well. Now, this
was the usual experience, but something then happened which changed my
course of events.
At the Tech. I had
embarked on the ONC mechanical engineering course. I qualified in two
years but the next year while studying for the HNC illness stopped work
of any kind except for a few months early on when I was given some less
physical work in the Process Department. At least I had obtained one
minor qualification but TB, which had begun to attack my spine, was
found to be the cause of my illness and was to keep me in and out of
hospital for close on four years.
From EDO To
Project Office - Part 1
Eventually my health returned and in early 1952 Hawkers very kindly
allowed me to return as a late apprentice. I was enrolled in the newly
reconstituted Drawing Office School, situated in one of the Richmond
Road outbuildings still occupied by Leyland Motors, and presided over
by Mr (Dick) Barton
After training I joined the Experimental Drawing Office (EDO) in
Canbury Park Road, working for Mr Ransford on mods. and amendments
until I was told to report to Joe Melvin in a little drawing office
within the Experimental Workshop in which the first production P.1067
(later named Hunter Mk 1) was being assembled.
Joe was an absolute master at directing the installation of the
hydraulic system and we covered the work in a set of detailed drawings.
I learnt a great deal from him, to the extent that I was sent with Joe
to do the same for the Hunter Mk 2 at the Armstrong Whitworth works
near Coventry and later went on my own to finish the job. Thus I now
found myself a member of the electrical and hydraulic section of the
EDO under Ben Capper, and here I stayed until virtually all the Hunter
work had been finished.
reason I mentioned my brush with TB was to show how that led to a
dramatic change in my fortune. The first thing that happened began
while I was still in hospital where I became very much attracted to one
of the nurses, whom I later married.
The next thing was due entirely to her persuading me to go back to the
Kingston Technical College where I met John Fozard for the first time.
He lectured on the mechanics of fluids which of course included many
aspects of aerodynamics, a subject I had been interested in since my
school days, making flying model aircraft.
By now work in the EDO had become focused on a new private venture
aircraft, but work was slow and my part in it, in the words of our
Deputy Chief Experimental Draughtsman was to "Do the electrics of the
This was quite a
challenge as virtually nothing was known of the electrical
requirements. However, those designing the structural members, such as
fuselage frames and wing ribs, needed to know what allowances to make
for the passage of cable bundles with their plugs and sockets. Of
course, they came to me for the answers which I gave by arbitrarily
increasing the sizes used on the Hunter. Fortunately for me this was
never put to the test as the P.1121 was later cancelled.
In the meantime work continued in a desultory fashion which very often
meant looking busy while doing next to nothing. This was not the
happiest situation but fortunately another stroke of luck came my way
in the person of John Fozard. He arrived at my drawing board one
morning in 1956 and said that the Project Office, where he was a senior
member, needed someone who could draw and he asked me to apply promptly
for a transfer before the position was advertised.
I immediately went to Mr Cross, Head of the EDO, but he showed a marked
reluctance to agree to the move and the interview was akin to being in
the presence of a minor earthquake, from which I staggered back to my
About a week later John
returned and pressed me to apply for the transfer once more or I would
lose my chance. I did this straight away and the result was again
rather earth quaking, but fifteen minutes later I was summoned into Mr
Cross's presence to be told "You're transferred. You can go". So I
packed my things and arrived in the Project