On January 8th 2020 Jill Hollingsworth, a friend of Member Robin Jowitt, came to the Hawker Centre to show her collection of test pilot memorabilia and books. Jill’s interest all started when her father took her to the Farnborough Air Show in 1952 on the day that John Derry’s DH110 broke up and the engines crashed into the crowd of spectators watching from a hillside, killing and injuring many. Today that would have been the end of the show but then attitudes were different and immediately Neville Duke took off in his Hawker Hunter to divert attention from the disaster. Jill and her father looked on in wonder to see the amazing display after Duke’s test pilot colleague had so violently died.
    This sparked a desire in Jill to meet this pilot. Her chance came the following week, when a quiz in the local paper on aircraft recognition was included, with the prize to be presented by Neville Duke. Jill entered the competition correctly but was ballotted out so she wrote to him and he invited Jill and her father to visit Dunsfold aerodrome. Neville showed them round, gave Jill an autographed photograph and, the highlight of the visit, took her to sit in the Hunter cockpit.

Test Pilot Memorabilia

    Jill’s friends at school were writing to film stars for their autographs and when a reply arrived they were proudly shown around. Jill thought she would try this with test pilots and got incredible results which were laid out for Members to examine. Just about every famous British test pilot of the era replied to Jill sending autographed photographs of themselves or their aircraft with personal letters, mostly on company headed notepaper. Seeing these items was very nostalgic for members, many of whom (like your Editor) had been schoolboy enthusiasts at the time, some even being at that disastrous Farnborough display.