Kingston Aviation
Gordon Jefferson
Transcript: 5
Meeting Sydney Camm

Sydney Camm – designer of the Hawker Hurricane – was the Chief Engineer when Gordon joined the company in 1946. His daily tour of the drawing boards in the Design Office, when he would tear a strip off any draughtsman who presented him with shoddy work, had long become legendary in the company. Gordon however was able to develop a rapport with Camm and became one of the few people able to converse with him on a one to one basis.

Sydney Camm was the head of the whole area that you worked in.

He was indeed.

Can you tell about the first time that you actually met him.

Met Sir Sydney?  Yes, the funny thing that used to happen was, I don’t know why, but very soon after I’d joined Sir Sidney came into the office – and of course if Sir Sydney came into the office the office went absolutely quiet and everybody just picked up their pencil and did something whatever it was.

 And he used to come and stand behind me, in the office. I remember him saying to me today, one day, ‘What have you done today?’ And I said to him,’ I’ve just rubbed out this line, ’cause I am drawing this rib and that’s the centre-line of the rib and it’s in the wrong place on the piece of paper. And people couldn’t believe that I could be that sarcastic to Sir Sydney but he quite enjoyed a bit of banter. And said something to the effect of, ‘Well the next time you do it you had better put it in the right bloody place hadn’t you, wasting your time.’ 

And after that he pretty well came on a very regular basis and stood behind me and I’d turn round and there he’d be and we’d have a silly chat about absolutely nothing. And as a result of that eventually- a bit later on not while I was actually in the D.O. – he used to give me these jobs to do.

Can you remember any of the stories which the other draughtsmen used to tell about Sir Sydney? Because obviously his daily tour around the boards became almost a thing of legend, didn’t it?

It did indeed. I must admit that the answer is I’m afraid I can’t tell you what he’d said to everybody else because really what he would say to the other people they wouldn’t reply to him. So it would just be a dash round and the mere moment that he came into the room the whole place changed. I believe Roy Chadwick was the same in Manchester [Roy Chadwick was the Chief Designer with the Avro company and designer of the Avro Lancaster bomber].

And of course I wouldn’t be in a position today, I don’t think a boss  – or the situation would be quite considerably different. But that almost wouldn’t be tolerated as a way of conducting your business.