Doug Shorey remembers his life with Hawker….
Part 1 - LIFE BEFORE HAWKER
I was born in South West London in October 1940 and lived there until my early 20’s. As I entered my teen years I developed a keen interest in military aircraft. It started with making balsa wood models and progressed to assembling Airfix kits of mostly WW2 aeroplanes. My interest was also stimulated by reading many books on the subject. It was about this time that I decided that working in the aircraft industry was something I would like to do after leaving school.
that by the time I reached the age of 15, in mid 1956, I would be
interviewed by someone from the Youth Employment Service with a view to
assisting me in finding suitable employment the following year.
Eventually the day duly arrived for my interview and I was greeted by
an unsmiling elderly woman of rather corpulent proportions. She was a
fearsome looking character, dressed in a thick brown tweed suit with
her greying hair pulled tightly back into a bun. Indeed the lady did
not inspire me with much confidence as I sat down before her.
her of my boyhood interest and that I hoped to pursue a career in the
aircraft industry. Without batting an eyelid the woman responded by
telling me: (1) “There are no aircraft companies round here” and (2)
“It was highly unlikely they would employ the likes of me anyway.“ She
went on to say all I could expect was employment in a more general
engineering environment. I left the interview feeling devastated and
On arriving home, I told my Mother what had happened and she
suggested I write to as many aircraft companies as possible. And that
was precisely what I did, contacting amongst others de Havilland,
Gloster , Folland, English Electric, Vickers and of course Hawker. I
received positive responses from all of them and this led me to making
formal application for employment about a year later. I was successful
in gaining interviews with every company I approached and I
subsequently received letters offering me an apprenticeship from all
but Vickers at Weybridge.
Clearly Hawker was my preferred choice because Kingston was only
about 8 or 9 miles from my home. More importantly their core business
was fighter airframe structures, which was where my main interest
rested. I had no hesitation in accepting the offer from Hawker and I
duly reported for duty in late August 1957, a couple of months before
my 17th birthday. However I was to encounter something of a setback
before I started. I had been offered an Engineering Apprenticeship but
unfortunately I failed to secure the correct number of GCE passes for
this grade. I was therefore reclassified as a Trade Apprentice.
Part 2 - LIFE AS A HAWKER APPRENTICE
Before joining Hawker I had two prime ambitions. The first was to work on the design of airframe structures and the second was eventually to gain Chartered Engineer status. It was evident that it would be difficult to realise these ambitions as a Trade Apprentice but at least I had been given the opportunity to work in the aircraft industry.
My first day with the company was at Richmond Road in the Apprentice Classroom where I met the other 20 or so boys who would be with me during my first year of training. We were also introduced to our training school instructors: Rex Lawrence, Frank Gay and Bill Wooding. The Apprentice Supervisor was Len Holton and he told us how our training was to be structured over the coming years until we all collectively reached our 21st birthdays. I had previously met Len Holton at my original interview when applying for employment. I found him to be a warm and sincere individual and I felt very happy with the presentation he gave on that first day in the classroom. I was to have a lot more contact with Len in the coming years and it is largely due to his assistance and efforts that I was partly able to realise my initial ambitions.
My first year was spent in the Company training school. We were arranged into groups of three or four boys, and our week was divided into the following activities: three days were to be spent in the training school workshop, one day in the company classroom and one day on day release at Technical College. My original aim had been to study for an ONC (Ordinary National Certificate) in Mechanical Engineering on day release – a three year course – before moving onto HNC (Higher National Certificate). However as a Trade Apprentice I was obliged to study C&G (City and Guilds) in Machine Shop Engineering.
The Training School was housed in a separate building from the
classroom and it was divided into three areas: the machine shop run by
Rex Lawrence, the fitting shop run by Bill Wooding and the installation
area run by Frank Gay. This latter area comprised an old Hunter
fuselage, more or less complete apart from its wings, and the work here
entailed the removal and reinstallation of components and
At the end our first year in the Training School we boys were sent off to spend time in different departments within the Company. My first assignment was to the machine shop at Canbury Park Road. I was there for about six months before being transferred back to Richmond Road. During my year at the training school I approached Len Holton to ask if I could be transferred onto the ONC course at college on day release, commencing September 1958. I was told this was not possible. I therefore decided to study ONC at college on a 3 evenings per week basis, in addition to doing the City and Guilds course on day release. At the end of my second year at Hawker I was fortunate in gaining good marks on both courses. Armed with my 1st years ONC results I again approached Len Holton to see if I could switch to ONC on day release but the answer was still the same. This pattern of education was to continue for the rest of my apprenticeship and I managed to gain good ONC marks with my evening studies, as well as a City and Guilds final certificate on day release.
Len Holton knew of my ambition to work in the drawing office on airframe structures and I think he was impressed with my determination and commitment to study ONC at evening classes in my own time and expense. About 6 months before I was due to finish my apprenticeship Len called me into his office. His purpose was to acquaint me with a position for a Junior Loftsman in the Lofting Department and to ask if I might be interested in following this up. If truth be known, I did not fully understand what they did in the Lofting Department but I had no hesitation in accepting the offer of an interview.
The Lofting Department was run by Tommy Wake, a most amiable
and personable man and he seemed to take a liking to me. Tommy had
joined the company in the early 1920s and thus had first-hand
experience of the transition from biplanes to monoplanes right through
to the jet age. Tommy’s career spanned the period I was particularly
interested in, which was from the mid 1930s onwards and I later found
him to be a very knowledgeable individual to have a conversation with.
He decided to take me on and I was to spend around 18 months working in
Tommy’s Department. I considered myself to be very lucky to secure this
position and I began to gain a useful knowledge of airframe structural
design and the aerodynamic contours of the fuselages, wings and
tailplanes etc. (To be continued)