On Wednesday March 9th Angela Bailey gave a copiously illustrated
on the life of her father, famous Hawker test pilot and executive,
Frank Murphy. There was so much information in Angela’s talk that it
really is impossible to do it full justice in a space-constrained
Newsletter report, but only to give a taste of its scope. To get a
better understanding please visit the HA online video library.
As a child Angela grew up at Dunsfold Aerodrome and was great friends with Bill Bedford’s son, Peter, and John Gale’s daughter Diana, now our Association membership secretary, both present at the talk. Angela is a “forensic” researcher and set out to produce a photo-biography of Frank for his grandchildren. Fortunately her mother, Gloria “kept everything” so that made a good starting point for photos, letters, cuttings and souvenirs. The internet, specialist archives including newspapers, magazines, organisations, museums, armed forces records, log books and so on were important sources and gave clues for further searching. The talk drew on all the information Angela had in her book and was illustrated with the visual artefacts she had collected.
Frank was born in Lancashire in 1917 but moved to New Zealand when his parents emigrated in 1922 and at 18 months he contracted polio from which he recovered, and throughout his childhood spent some time under traction. He had already started working in the NZ Civil Service before volunteering for the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) when war was declared. Frank trained on Harvards, Miles Master IIs and Spitfires. In England he initially flew Hurricanes at Wittering, then from August 1942 Typhoons with 486 Squadron at Tangmere. This squadron’s main purpose was in defending the south coast and they also provided bomber escorts, carried out ship strikes and spotted downed airmen for rescue,
For all of his service career Frank was with 486 Squadron RNZAF which Roland Beamont described as “an exuberant band of New Zealanders with a brilliant record on Typhoons and a rather casual approach to King’s Regulations and Air Council Instructions - and to ‘Pommy Bastard’ Wing Leaders.” During the war 486 flew 11,619 sorties, destroyed 81 aircraft with 5 probables and 22 damaged, accounted for 233 flying bombs and sank 16 ships, as well as destroying a large number of surface targets.
In 1943 Frank became the first 486 Sqn pilot to be decorated receiving a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) in December and he was appointed Flight Commander ‘A’ Flight. In January 1944 he was seconded to Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Langley as a production test pilot and in April 1945 Frank married Gloria Higgs in Windsor.
In 1945 486 Sqn moved to continental Europe supporting the post-invasion advance towards Germany. After the war Frank joined Hawker as a test pilot under Hubert Broad flying alongside Phillip Lucas, Chips Carpenter, Frank Silk and Dicky Muspratt. In December 1945 Frank went to India to oversee the delivery of 180 Tempest IIs to India. Len Hearsey supervised the assembly of the aircraft and Frank oversaw flight testing and aircrew training, also demonstrating the aircraft’s capabilities on visits to Indian Air Force stations. By hitching many flights Frank found his way to Ceylon where he met up with Gloria who had arrived by sea, to go on to New Zealand.
Back at Hawker Frank hit the headlines when he successfully force landed a Sea Fury on the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park. Around this time Hawker’s first jet, the P.1040, was being flown by Chief Test Pilot Bill Humble from Langley but this grass airfield was not really suitable for jets so the aircraft was soon based at Farnborough. With Hawker on a high this was a time of record breaking, demonstrations, air displays and races. .
After questions the vote of thanks for this absorbing talk was given by Frank Rainsborough who told us that Angela would be returning to deliver part two of her father’s life.