Bill Bedford Oral History

This set of 7 reels of audio interview was recorded with Bill Bedford at Brooklands Museum in 1989. Held at the Imperial War Museum. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80017445

British NCO served as pilot with 135 Sqdn, RAF in Burma and India, 1942-1944;

Served with 65 Sqdn, RAF in GB, 1945;

Served as instructor with Training Command, RAF in GB, 1945-1949;

Served as test pilot with Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, GB, 1950-1951;

Civilian test pilot with Hawker Aircraft Coy and Hawker Siddeley Ltd in GB, 1951-1967

Reel 1

Reel 1 30 minutes

Background in GB, 1920-1939: family; education; apprentice with Blackburn Stirling electrical engineering firm in Nottingham, 1936-1939. Aspects of enlistment and training as pilot with RAF in GB, 1939-1940: enlistment, 1939; soloing at 8 Elementary Flying Training School at Scone; flying Miles Master at Service Flying Training School, RAF Hullavington; first flight in Hawker Hurricane; initial posting to 605 Sqdn, RAF. Aspects of operations as pilot with 135 Sqdns, RAF in Burma and India, 1942-1944: posting to squadron; transfer to 135 Sqdn; voyage to West Africa; ashore in Iraq; flight to Burma; memories of commanding officer Frank ‘Chota’ Carey; bomber escort missions; move to RAF Dum Dum in India; injuries and hospitalisation from car accident, 25/12/1942; recuperation in India, early 1943; rejoining squadron at RAF Madras; converting onto Republic P47 Thunderbolt.

Reel 2

Reel 2 30 minutes

Continues: attending air-fighting course at Air Fighting Training Unit at Armarda Road; attachment as instructor. Aspects of operations as pilot with 65 Sqdn, RAF in GB, 1945: return to GB; operations to Norway; threat of anti-aircraft fire; flying fighters in aerial combat; lack of contact with enemy. Aspects of period as instructor with Training Command, RAF in GB, 1945-1949: reasons for decision to become instructor; loss of caravan home; movements and types of aircraft flown; obtaining place on Empire Test Pilot’s Course, 1949; period as tutor and instructor with Empire Test Pilots School at Farnborough. Recollections of period as test pilot with Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, GB, 1950-1951: background to appointment to Farnborough; work on spinning of swept winged aircraft; recovering from spin in Hawker Hunter; research work on gas turbines.

Reel 3

Reel 3 30 minutes

Continues: death of test pilots flying De Havilland DH 108; flying Avro Lancaster with power controls; development of power controlled aircraft; story of Tom Kerr’s solving problem of flutter with Hawker Hunter; loss of test pilot ‘Wimpey’ Wade, in P1081 1951. Recollections of period as test pilot with Hawker Aircraft Coy in GB, 1951-1963: move of company to Dunsfold; aircraft development work at Dunsfold from 1951; memories of Sir Sidney Camm; flying Hawker Cygnet; flying Hawker Hart; characteristics of Hawker Hurricane; early development of vertical take off and landing aircraft; role of Ralph Hooper in development of Hawker P1127; question of development of aircraft designs.

Reel 4

Reel 4 30 minutes

Continues: development of concept of vertical take off; training on helicopters for vertical take off; visit to use vertical take off simulator at Langley Field in US; problems flying Bell X14; lessons learnt from visit to Langley Field; flying prototype Shorts SC1; American contribution to vertical take off aircraft development; first engine run of Hawker P1127, 1960; characteristics of engine nozzles on Hawker P1127; description of jet reaction control system; control system of Hawker P1127; provision of wrist rest for pilot to control aircraft; development of nozzle control lever.

Reel 5

Reel 5 31 minutes

Continues: initial cockpit layout of Hawker P1127; effects of breaking leg; first tethered hovered flight in Hawker P1127, 21/10/1960; problems with lateral control in hover; testing hovers without tethers; use of puffer nozzles on wings; problems with undercarriage on Hawker P1127, 1961; direction control; further problems with undercarriage and solutions; initial problems encountered during flight tests in Hawker P1127; restrictions on flying Hawker P1127; improvements in aircraft’s controls; yaw problems with aircraft and solutions.

Reel 6

Reel 6 30 minutes

REEL 6 Continues: pilot who snapped undercarriage of Hawker P1127; problems encountered during development of Hawker P1127 and solutions; flying second prototype Hawker P1127; character of inflatable air intakes; flutter tests; ejecting from aircraft and reasons for malfunction; first deck landings on aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, 2/1963; attending Paris Air Show, 6/1963; performance of French vertical take off aircraft; incident of crashing at Paris Air Show, 6/1963; reasons for crash and lessons learnt; character of Hawker Kestrel developed for multi-national trials force; role of John Fozzard in development Harrier; effects of Government cuts on vertical take off landing development programme.

Reel 7

Reel 7 16 minutes

REEL 7 Continues: character of Hawker Siddeley Harrier; improvements to Hawker Siddeley Harrier from 1967; character of development programme of Hawker Harrier; leading players in the development programme; opinion of test pilot John Farley; memories of Sir Thomas Sopwith.

Navigation