Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Harry Hawker

From Graces Guide

Harry George Hawker (22 January 1889–12 July 1921) was an Australian aviation pioneer and co-founder of Hawker Aircraft, the firm that would later be responsible for a long series of successful military aircraft, including the Fury, Hurricane, Hunter and Harrier.

1889 January 23rd. Born in South Brighton (Moorabbin), Victoria, the son of George Hawker ( -1862), blacksmith, wheelwright, and wagon builder, and his wife, Mary Ann, née Anderson. His father designed and built a steam engine to power his shop and later a functioning steam car

1901 Worked at a garage helping to build engines for five shillings a week, before going to England

1911 May. Arrived in London

1911 July. Employed by Commer

He became immersed in aviation, began instructing novice flyers, and managed hangars at Brooklands aerodrome, the hub of British aviation.

1912 June 29th. Having established his name as an aviator he was taken on by Fred Sigrist and became chief test pilot for Tom Sopwith who was already recognised as the originator of many fine aircraft.

1913 July 27th. Sets flying record for altitude with three passengers of 8,400 feet.

In 1914 Harry Hawker returned to Australia to demonstrate the advanced Sopwith Tabloid which he had earlier helped design. A wild crowd nearly wrecked the plane on one occasion and he further damaged it during stunt flying, so he went back to England, where he remained throughout WW1, designing and testing production aircraft with Sopwith

1915 'British Altitude Record.— The report of the National Physical Laboratory on the barograph and chart used by Mr. H. G. Hawker in his flight on a Sopwith Biplane at Hendon on June 6th, 1915, was received. The height attained in this flight being 18,393 feet, it was unanimously resolved that the British Altitude Record for pilot alone be granted to Mr. H. G. Hawker. The previous Record was held by Eng.-Lieut. E. F. Briggs, R.N., who attained a height of 14,920 feet on a Bleriot monoplane at Eastchurch on March 11th, 1914.' [1]

After the war, he attempted to fly the Atlantic in a Sopwith Atlantic biplane and disappeared. Six days later he turned up in Europe aboard a tramp freighter without a radio. He won the Daily Mail prize of 5000 pounds, however.

In September 1920 Sopwith Aviation was liquidated because of fears the government would examine the wartime aircraft production contracts of companies like Sopwith and impose a crippling retrospective tax liability on them.

Harry Hawker, Tom Sopwith, Fred Sigrist, and Bill Eyre then formed a new company, each contributing 5,000 pounds. To avoid any possible claims against the new company for the wartime contracts of the old company, they chose to call it H. G. Hawker Engineering. (It was renamed Hawker Aircraft in 1933.) As Tom Sopwith put it: "to avoid any muddle if we had gone on building aeroplanes and called them Sopwiths — there was bound to be a muddle somewhere — we called the company the Hawker Company. I didn't mind. He was largely responsible for our growth during the war."

Hawker was killed in 1921 when his aircraft crashed while practicing for an airshow. He had spinal tuberculosis and that plus a fire in the air were considered contributing factors.

Hawker is buried in St. Pauls' Church, Chessington, Surrey (facing in the direction of the Ace of Spades roundabout, towards Surbiton).

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Flight magazine of 27th August 1915