Kingston Aviation
Name: Gordon Jefferson
Transcript: 15 – Sydney Camm as a leader of design teams

After the development of the Hawker Hurricane in the 1930s, aircraft became faster and more complex and Sydney Camm became less of an aircraft designer in his own right and more of a leader of design teams. Camm was becoming elderly – he was 60 in 1953 – but in this role too he proved to be successful. Gordon here speculates on why this was.

If you go after the Hurricane, I think the airplanes weren’t bad but whether any one of them was in the same league I honestly don’t know. But you’ve got to remember that Sir Sydney Camm probably didn’t design them. The Project Office designed them and Sir Sydney Camm probably told them it was rubbish because he wanted to be on the right side. If it didn’t work he wanted to say I told you so. And that was all a bit of a joke. But fellers like Ralph Hooper will give you a much, much better idea than I can of the technical aspects of Sir Sydney. I only really knew him, almost I would go as far as to say almost on the social side.

So – but what you say is, there is no doubt he was a very capable chap.  But he was capable in the times perhaps of the biplanes. And when it came to monocoque type construction and of course that was all new to him.


Because the Hurricane was really a biplane design with metal wings.

But I mean that’s right he, by this time, he had actually sort of had become a kind of leader of the design team, hadn’t he?

Oh, absolutely.

He was less an aircraft designer by your time. But he nevertheless managed very successfully to lead the design teams, didn’t he?

No question about that.

And so what was it that he actually had which made him the success that he was? Because there was something about him, wasn’t there?

Oh yes, yes.

You know, to lead a vast body of people.

Well, I suppose he had the ability to generate enormous respect and that was perhaps because of his historical situation having started virtually at the bottom and working his way up to the top, he couldn’t have done that unless he had been quite exceptional. But I mean my view of Sir Sydney is probably very different to a lot of other people, ’cause I liked him very much and treated him, as I said earlier, as if he was, you know, a relative almost because I could talk to him. Amazing really and almost ‘pull his leg’.