Hawker Chief Designer Sydney Camm had a fearsome reputation amongst his staff as an exacting taskmaster with a well developed ability to deliver a stomach-churning dressing down. However there clearly was another side to him as Stella here relates in the kindness he showed to her. And as she also points out, Camm was by no means the only martinet working at Hawkers.
Obviously you must be, sort of, aware of the reputation that he had amongst his staff, Sydney Camm.
I did indeed and they said to me, you know, just do be careful. But he, sort of, treated me more like a daughter, exactly like a daughter, you know. And I said to people, ‘It’s rubbish, not like that at all.’ I don’t know perhaps he was.
Because it sounds like that, it sounds as if he was very fatherly to you.
He was indeed – yes. Because when I left, when I finally left, the day I left to go in the WRENS, he asked me into his office for coffee and chatted to me and he said to me, ‘Now come back to me after the, after you come out of your service.’ I said, ‘Yes I will’ – and I don’t know why I didn’t.
But Sydney Camm must have thought very highly of you if he called you in and instructed you to come back after the…
Well he took me to, when we went to the final … [Court hearing to get Stella released from Hawkers for military service]
Oh, yes, yes.
You know, when you are not very old. Well I was nineteen I suppose I wasn’t old for my age, we weren’t in those days I am afraid. You look at nineteen year olds now and they are right grown up and I didn’t feel grown up at all but he…
He took you to the Court.
Oh yes he did. And he said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you know, stop shaking.’ And I said, ‘Well they are only going to say no again.’ He said, ‘I don’t think they will not now.’ He said, ‘The war’s practically finished, I think it will be alright.’ And then afterwards I was told that he personally had said yes I could go and I was told I could leave as soon as I was accepted into whichever service I wanted to go into. I actually went into the WRENS in January 1946.
So he personally, sort of, OK’d that himself.
He was very good to me, you know, I have good memories of him actually.
He does seem to be someone who, although he did give his staff a hard time, that’s very well documented. And of course he did have a…
But then they all did really, you know. When I say my uncle [Stella’s uncle was a foreman at Hawkers with a reputation as a taskmaster] was, you know, rather fierce. I mean he was much, much, way below all of them of course but he was quite a ‘king pin’ to most of the people who were under him. And I think they were all, sort of, ‘tarred with the same brush’, really. It was a good thing, they got good work done didn’t they.