Kingston Aviation
Gordon Jefferson Name: 
 Gordon Jefferson
Biographical Details:

 Gordon Jefferson was born in 1923. During the war he was in the Fleet Air Arm and joined Hawkers in 1946 as a draughtsman in the Experimental Drawing Office. He worked at Canbury Park Road for five years, getting to know everybody in the Design Department, but in 1951 decided to emigrate to Canada.

When this did not work out and he returned to Britain, Sydney Camm offered him another job at Hawkers – this time at Dunsfold. In the 1960s he became Chief Engineering Manager of the Design Department and in 1985 went to America to become Liaison Engineer for British Aerospace at McDonnell Douglas. He retired in 1988.

Interview Timeline
Name: Gordon Jefferson
Date of Interview: 22nd December 2012
0.00 Introduction and interviewee details
0.49 Family background – Schooling – At Kingston Technical College – Moved to London in 1935 – training for engineering qualification – joined Fleet Air Arm
4.40 Bombing of New Malden during WW2 – job with Kingston Council assessing damage caused by V-1s – area around Portland Avenue much damaged – comparison between bombing in New Malden and Kingston
8.37 Description of doodlebug attack – what it was like to come under attack – the trauma that it caused – getting used to being bombed
9.42 Joining the local Home Guard – Story of the bomb landing on the embankment of the Hogsmill near the Plough – incendiary bombs
13.00 1939 – being in the Home Guard – shooting practice at Bisley
14.00 Joining the Fleet Air Arm – training as an Engineering Officer – course at Warrington – friendship with Norman Dimmock – training with the navy was overly academic – practical engineering course at Watford – posted to St Mirrin in Cornwall – posted to Gosport – the end of WW2 – story about a fire at the base – demobbed to go back to industry
23.20 Returns to Kingston Technical College – recommended to study aircraft design and sent to Hawkers – joins Experimental Drawing Office after a 3 week course
24.22 1946 – Interviewed by Frank Cross at Hawkers – Meets Ralph Hooper – Decided to go to Canada – Story of how Sydney Camm got him a job at Avro in Canada
27.01 Moves to Canada – Working at Avro does not work out – awful Canadian aircraft
27.51 Sydney Camm offers a job back at Hawkers – In Design Department but not as a draughtsman – goes to Boscome Down – Hawkers did not know what to do with him
29.06 Between 1946 – 1952 worked at Canbury Park Road – the two Drawing Offices, Experimental and Production – lack of liaison between the two – The Stress Office – Research and Testing
31.54 Frank Cross and Harold Tuffen, numbers one and two in Experimental Drawing – becomes Frank Cross’s P.A. Frank Cross moved sideways after Sydney Cann’s death – moved into planning
38.17 Harold Tuffen
39.54 Job after return from Canada – Sent to Dunsfold – development of the Hawker Hunter in 1950s – delays on the Hunter – story of fires on Hunters at Dunsfold
43.40 Summoned back to Kingston by Sydney Camm – shares office with the librarian, Eveline Coddington – becomes P.A. to Frank Cross after move to Richmond Road
45.06 Sydney Camm – first meeting with Camm – Camm’s daily tour around the boards – how Camm enjoyed banter – story of cadets on visit to the factory – relationship with Camm characterised by respect but not fear
50.05 How today bullying behaviour is not acceptable in the workplace – bad behaviour of Hawker directors – story of Ministry coming to see directorate and getting a cold reception
53.50 Going to meetings in Sydney Camm’s place – story of the £2 million cheque not handed across – relations between Ministry and Design Department were good – relations between government and the company changed after the Hawk contract
56.37 Mr. Hollyhock and liaison with the Ministry
57.37 How the company worked with government – not involved in the contractual side – change in government attitudes after Hawk contract – change in how minutes of meetings were taken
60.53 Sydney Camm and the government – Modifications meetings at Dunsfold – Camm not a ‘meetings person’ – how Camm hated meetings and gave the job to other people
63.23 Avros, Roy Chadwick and the Lancaster bomber – Hawker aircraft after the Hurricane were designed by teams – Camm’s era was really the biplane era – Hurricane was really a biplane design
66.00 Sydney Camm as a leader of design teams – Camm successful because he generated enormous respect
67.35 Roy Chaplin was the softer side of the system – story of driving to Boscombe Down with Chaplin – Chaplin’s favourite expression
72.53 Design Office at Claremont during WW2 – moved back to Kingston before GJ joined
73.48 First Hawker jets – Sea Fury and P.1040 – Jet development in the Design Office. Age profile of the Drawing Office
76.21 Other draughtsmen he remembers – the lofting floor
78.01 End
Interview Timeline
Name: Gordon Jefferson
Date of Interview: 28th December 2012
0.00 Introduction and interviewee details
0.33 The RTO – Resident Technical Officer – what his job entailed – government owned aircraft and any modification had to be done through RTO. Many different RTOs after Camm died
4.05 How the modification process worked
5.46 From 1970s less trust between government and manufacturer – problems at Preston (BAC) – government wanted to toughen up the relationship
8.00 Relations between Hawker Directorate and Government was more abrasive than between the RTO and the Design Dept – there were meetings between the Directorate and the Government on the P.1127 which GJ attended in the place of Sydney Camm
12.30 Sydney Camm could be naive in meetings – Story of Modifications meeting at Dunsfold – did not hear of the awarding of the Hawk contract through official channels
17.20 Sir John Lidbury and Eric Rubython – Lidbury and how he dealt with company finances – anecdote about Lidbury and GJ’s car – Lidbury’s positive attitude to those who were doing a good job
21.48 Anecdote about asking Eric Rubython’s permission to paint Neville Duke’s car red – why it was a good idea in Hawkers to do things ‘on the quiet’
25.46 Story about John Lidbury’s farm near Dunsfold
28.30 The World Air Speed Record in the Hunter 1953 – GJ’s time at Dunsfold – summoned back to Kingston by Sydney Camm
30.51 Mood in the company in 1953 after the Hunter record
31.55 Story of John Crampton flying Canberras – the Official Secrets Act
34.21 Never met Tom Sopwith – but Sopwith’s son used to drive at Dunsfold
35.35 The reverse side of John Crampton – how he would take off in his boat
37.46 Tropical trials in Aden, Bahrain and Khartoum
39.24 Anecdote about being locked up at Cairo Airport after Suez Crisis
42.50 Anecdote about MIG-15 photographs
43.55 Story of Canberra tail plane damaged by bird strikes
46.48 Flying in a Hastings to Bahrain
47.43 Purpose of tropical trials was to test hot weather equipment and how the aircraft responded in extreme conditions
50.00 Hawker Hunters sold all over the world – arctic testing was done in Canada
51.17 Tropical trials of the Hunter from 1954 to 1957 – Ralph Hooper beginning work on the P.1127
53.07 Sydney Camm and the P.1082 – ‘handsome is as handsome does’
54.29 1957 Defence White Paper – Camm did not get to build his supersonic fighter
57.56 Politicians know very little about defence or engineering
59.14 Hunter development finishing in late 1950s – struggle to get interest in the P.1127 – Duncan Sandys plan is quickly dropped
62.04 GJ becomes Chief Engineering Manager of Design Dept  – work on ducting contracted out to Morefax
68.57 Story of explosion in test rig – Barry Laight and downsizing the EDO – GJ offered job of Chief Buyer for Hawker Siddeley in Manchester but Robert Lickley was not agreeable – so executive job created for GJ
74.08 Project management system – all ancillary activities of the department incorporated into GJ’s section – anecdote about Robert Lickley
77.57 Barry Laight and Robert Lickley did not see eye to eye – Barry Laight at Hawker and his influence on the company
80.07 Robert Lickley’s role in the company
80.53 Effect of Sydney Camm’s death on the company –  Anecdote about the visitor from Australia – anecdote about member of staff being sacked and Camm’s reaction to
86.33 Sydney Camm’s death – GJ at Camm’s memorial service at St Clement Danes – Story about Camm wanting somebody to walk around the factory with
89.52 Many elements of GJ’s new job went against the grain – Alan Millican in charge of computing
92.35 Statistics and data could be used to accurately predict costs but traditionalists did not want to know
95.26 New management techniques were necessary to gain new contracts – Ralph Hooper knew there would not be another new aeroplane – Hooper did not think it a good idea to have BAe staff working with the Americans
96.37 A real struggle to get Hawkers to move into a new era
97.58 Company had been very successful – a lot of staff were long serving – Sydney Camm hated mdern management and resisted getting a wind tunnel – ‘I can see the air moving over the wings’
100.19 Colin Chandler – Programme management was required by the government – ‘it’s one thing to fail with project management, but if you fail without it you will get shot’
102.40 Nationalisation gave Kingston staff more money through national pay scales – but company was happier on its own
104.28 Success of the Harrier during Falklands conflict – strengthened the idea that costs do not matter – tight controls suddenly loosened – ships were converted in no time at all
108.13 Amalgamation of BAe Kingston and Weybridge – GJ gets new Liaison Engineer post with McDonnell Douglas in USA
110.38 ‘You had to be very careful how you dealt with the Americans’
111.39 GJ’s wife becomes his PA in America
112.41 Gets to know Bill Ross the boss of McDonnell Douglas through his wife’s talents as a water skier – this made a huge difference in sorting out any problems between the two companies
117.33 GJ retires age 65
117.40 Americans felt they had made the Harrier their own – Douglas company eventually taken over by Boeing
120.00 Meeting at which a possible merger between Airbus and McDonnell Douglas was discussed
122.31 Americans buy large numbers of aircraft – ‘you have to be in with the big boys’
123.42 GJ retired before the closure in 1992 and never went back
127.27 Why was Hawkers successful over such a long period? – success with Harrier and Hawk – ability to sell their aircraft abroad
136.18 GJ and Ralph Hooper go to Preston to look at Typhoon – Preston offers Kingston the wings – test pilots hated the Typhoon
137.48 GJ reflects on the way the aircraft industry has gone since he retired – a terrible decision to mothball the Harrier fleet
140.22 End and thank you