Frank Cross was another well known name in the Hawker design set-up, who had joined the company as a designer-draughtsman in the 1920s. He had been a Section Leader working on Hurricane wing design in the 1930s
and during the Second World War was promoted to lead the Experimental Drawing Office – which is where Gordon first encountered him. He oversaw the drawing of all prototype Hawker aircraft from the piston
engined Hawker Tempest of the early 1940s to the P.1127 – the forerunner of the Harrier. He was made an Assistant Chief Designer in 1963. He retired in the mid 1960s and lived only a year or so after
Right OK, so Frank Cross was the Head of Experimental.
Yes, and Harold Tuffen was his number two.
Oh and Harold Tuffen OK, so that’s another well known Hawker name.
Yes it is indeed.
Right, so could you sort of tell me a little but about those two, what they were like and any kind of recollections you had with these two.
Well, I knew Frank really at two levels. First level was when I first joined and I remember very well he was not an easy chap to talk to and nobody ever went into his office without him always thinking, ‘How the
hell am I going to get rid of this chap’. So nobody ever went in.
And one day the telephone rang in his office and his secretary answered it and the person on the other end wanted Gordon Jefferson and Frank said, ‘What the hell for?’ And it was because I had just been presented
with a little boy by my wife. So I went in, or he called me or she did and told me that I was a father. And I remember Frank Cross, when I put the phone down saying, ‘You know every time you have child you can’t
blinking well expect to use my telephone.’ And wasn’t the least bit interested or the slightest bit sympathetic. And I was twenty four so I was not exactly excited because you don’t get excited at twenty four
when your wife produces a child.
Anyway, what I didn’t realise at the time was that he obviously didn’t have any funny ideas about that ‘bugger’ Jefferson.’ Because, some years later when we had moved to Richmond Road – the Design Office was now
at Richmond Road – and I used to have, I used to share an office at Kingston, Canbury Park Road, with the librarian because there wasn’t much accommodation. And I used to work in there doing all sorts of things.
Anyway, when we moved to Richmond Road I had to sit in the D.O. behind some filling cabinets.
This is the Drawing Office.
The Drawing Office, yes. And I must have been there for about a year and one day Cross called me in his office and he said, ‘Would you like to be my Personal Assistant?’ and I frankly couldn’t believe it. And he
said, ‘I will just give you all the paperwork, all the post and everything, you go through it all and then just tell me what it’s all about and discuss with me whatever strikes you as being of any importance’.
And I just almost fell on the floor. And he said, ‘And that little cloakroom there which is for the section leaders we will make into your office’ – which he did. And then next morning he just
gave me the post. And it really was unbelievable because there were all the letters from the Ministry about the various things that had to be done and in no time at all I knew more about what was going on than
you could shake a stick at.
Anyway, this was fine and I did that for a couple of years. And what were we doing in those days? It was the bought out parts for the 1127 [the P.1127 was the prototype of the Harrier] and all the test work was
going on. So we had – and things didn’t work out of course when we first tested the ducting system, it just blew up. So we had to think of a solution to that problem. We had, of course, help form everybody else
in the Design Department and the rest of things like the Stress Office. But we had to analyse and decide which way to go.
And then of course Sir Sidney died and they brought a fellow called Barry Laight in [Barry Laight was the designer of the Blackburn Buccaneer and was brought to Kingston from Blackburn Aircraft after the death of
Sir Sydney Camm in 1966].
By now if there was a meeting to go to I would go instead of Frank Cross, because he didn’t want to go. And Barry Laight didn’t like this very much, so he made life difficult for him and eventually Frank got
promoted to – or moved sideways- to look after anything bought out. He had a sort of job with the buying office to do the technical aspects of bought out parts. And I was moved to then begin to take part of the
master planning of the work we were doing, because it became necessary to have proper plans because just getting on with the job wasn’t good enough anymore for the Ministry.
And Frank, that wasn’t the sort of thing he thought was a good idea because he could do it perfectly well without doing a plan. I remember drawing up a plan and proving to him that we didn’t have enough
draughtsmen to do the job and to my amazement he took this to Sir Sidney. And that was why in the end Hamble got, I think it was the rear fuselage to design, or to work on. Anyway, so because of this I got know
him well enough to be able to just sit and chat to him in his office whereas there weren’t many people that could do that sort of thing.