In the first part of his memoir Peter Ryans gives an insight into working at Hawkers in the early post-war years….
Part 1 - HAWKER
I left what was then
back at life in industry at that time presents quite a different picture to
that of today. I find this particularly so in the world of ‘health and safety‘.
Despite our often derisory comments in this field there is no doubt that things
had to and have improved over the years. Some of the things that spring to mind
include the open tub of molten sodium cyanide at the end of our work bench into
which we would suspend small hand made tools and jigs before quenching to case
harden them. There was
I well remember significantly altering the contours of a large Sea Fury wing skin when attempting to lower it into a bath for anodic treatment and I happened to bridge the two bus bars supplying electrical power to the bath. A roll of black insulating tape got rid of that problem. I can only remember one occasion when my status as an apprentice was taken advantage of and that was when I was in the machine shop and had to sharpen router cutters for the following night shift. The work was mind numbing and after a couple of days they employed a woman to do this job. Sexist? On another occasion in the machine shop a mill operator had a serious accident when he slipped on the oil soaked duck board in front of his machine and fell into the rotating cutters. It is hard to believe now but it had not been all that long beforehand when the machines in that shop had been individually driven by leather belting from overhead common shafting.
Hawk advanced party was initially located in the Richmond Road factory in what
I believe was the south west corner of the building ( the main road end, not
the river end ) since Leyland was still occupying the remainder of the factory.
There were of course no offices at this end at that time.
I won’t go into any detail about the various problems we had or the personalities involved except to mention Bert Weedon and Wally Raynor who had moved in and occupied an office on the balcony. I was moved into Wally's office for a while to lay out a scale model of the factory floor with representative Sea Hawks, jigs and various departments, to help shoehorn everything in. I particularly remember at about this time acting as a guide to a party of de Havilland apprentices who were visiting us from Hatfield. At the wash-up they said they were particularly impressed with the standard of surface finish and riveting on the air flow surfaces. After visiting Hatfield a few years later on a Comet course and with subsequent Vampire and Venom experience, I could appreciate the visitor's comments.
I consider that the experience I gained during my time on the assembly of the first Sea Hawk was invaluable. We all worked as a team with the trade boundaries becoming decidedly blurred on occasions. There were often instances when assembly drawings did not quite match up to reality and Jimmy Wild was a frequent visitor from the Design Office to sort things out and make the odd drawing alteration. It was also beneficial having the knowledge of the Rolls-Royce representative there as he brought the Nene, positioned nearby, up to the latest required standard. Once the aircraft was fully assembled and all systems functioned, short of running the engine, we removed the wings, loaded it on a couple of low loaders and off it went for its test flights.
a while I went to
assisted with the repair of Sea Fury wings damaged during carrier operations
supporting ground forces in
I remember one classic moment when a rather irate Sir Syd (Sydney Camm) came into the offices with a bunch of photographs from Kinloss showing the results of a Hunter Mk1 landing with a touch of drift on: the cockpit had broken from the fuselage just behind the cockpit rear bulkhead. A modification had been embodied post delivery to introduce a pair of whip antennae mounted in the fuselage skin just behind the cockpit canopy. Fine for communication purposes but not much good for resistance to side loading in this area of the fuselage which also accommodated the gun pack. I then had the job of checking the shear strength of the fuselage of what was our current venture, the P.1121 which had a rather large de Havilland Gyron planned for it.
Another memory of this time is spending many hours doing performance and area rule calculations with John Fozard - of course all on a ten inch slide rule. I spent something like two and a half years in total in these offices before being commissioned into the Engineer Branch of the Royal Air Force. (To be continued)