Hawker’s Secret Cold War Airfield - Dunsfold, Home of the Hunter & Harrier
Published by Air Word - Pen & Sword Books, the title of this impressive book belies the contents which is far more comprehensive than is suggested. Author, Hawker Association member Christopher Budgen, who spent twenty one years working for British Aerospace at Dunsfold, following his father who was with Skyways and Hawker, and his great grandfather who worked at the adjacent Hawkins Farm from 1895, is well placed to write this detailed history of the origins and occupants of the aerodrome up to its closure by BAE Systems in 2000.
Rightly concentrating on the post-war life of Dunsfold Aerodrome the author outlines the acquisition of the land, the building of the infrastructure and its wartime use but soon moves on to the fascinating episode of Hawker’s occupation and development of the site, and the Government machinations involved.
The occupant from 1946 was Skyways Ltd, a much larger operation than most would have thought, followed by Hawker from 1951. In 1952 Airwork started flying refurbished Spitfires from Dunsfold followed later by Attackers and Sabres, the company leaving in 1959. The author describes all these activities in some detail.
The bulk of the book records the Hawker work at Dunsfold, and also
at Farnborough and Boscombe Down for the early jets, covering every
type from the Sea Hawk and its derivatives, the Hunter, and Sea Fury
and Hunter refurbishments. The take-over of Folland by Hawker Siddeley
brought the Gnat to Dunsfold for final assembly and flight testing, the
ejection seat trials Meteors together with technical and production
staff. GQ also used Dunsfold for testing their parachutes which were
towed along the runway by the Napier Railton car raced at Brooklands by
John Cobb. The vertical take-off story from P.1127, through Kestrel to
Harrier and AV-8A, via the P.1154 interlude, is followed by those of
the Hawk, the Sea Harrier and the Harrier II.
Included in the narrative is the overall history of the company, its personalites and its products and contemporary political events as relevant to the aerodrome. There are numerous illuminating anecdotes, never previously published, which will enlighten and entertain the reader. The book will not only be of huge interest to those who worked at Dunsfold, including the reviewer, but also to all who value Britain’s contribution to the world of military aviation. This comprehensively illustrated book is clearly the result of much original research and so is a valuable contribution to the database of recorded aeronautical history.
There are chapter by chapter notes on references and sources, a comprehensive index and a glossary of abbreviations. Appendices cover airborne data acquisition systems, and Attacker, Sabre and Sea Fury movements.
No Hawker enthusiast should be without this book so now is definitely the time to take up the special offer on the flyer that came with the last Newsletter.
The Aviation Historian Issue 32
Another great cover photograph, looking down on the RCAF’s Golden Hawk Sabres inverted over Niagara Falls. Things that caught my interest inside included Keith Hayward on Shorts, post-war, Tony Buttler on Heinkel’s He 31 1950s jet fighter project thwarted by the F-104G, the tri-rotor Cierva Air Horse, Britain’s wartime anti-g suit developments and Chris Gibson on the outrageous Hawker “New Type of Military Aircraft” schemed in the Project Office by RC Abel in 1957.
The Aviation Historian Issue 33
The mighty Brabazon’s tail fin graces the cover this time prefacing Keith Hayward’s account of the Brabazon Committee’s work to get Britain back into the post-war civil aircraft business. What else especially attracted me? The saga of the Spey Mirage IV for the RAF, and a detailed account of the development of the Hawker P.1040 - N7/46 and its subsequent life as the Snarler rocket boosted P.1072.
Both issues, of course, contain much more, always interesting, and sometimes quirky, pieces of well written and excellently illustrated aviation history.