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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.

DAHS have provided the unedited audio recordings, with a text summary of the content of each. We have also provided a searchable (Cmd+F) verbatim transcription at the bottom of this page.

Bill Bedford mini-Bio:
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 and Hawker Siddeley 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.

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Visits: 270

Ralph Hooper – aeronautical engineer

Ralph Hooper (1926-2022), aeronautical engineer, was the first designer of the Hawker Siddeley P.1127, the  vertical-take-off-and-landing aeroplane which evolved into the revolutionary Harrier jump-jet. During his later career with Hawker Siddeley, which became part of British Aerospace, he oversaw a number of other projects, including the P1182 that developed into the highly successful Hawk jet trainer, and played an activerole in selling these aircraft overseas. He retired in 1985, following the cancellation of the P1216, a supersonic version of the Harrier.

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Visits: 142

Harrier Story – Presentation by John Farley

Former Dunsfold Chief Test Pilot John Farley’s presentation of his story of the Harrier development from 1951 to 2015. This hour long presentation is a unique insight into the early development of the “jump jet” and the evolution of Hawker’s prototypes P.1127 to the Harrier as a military aircraft. This recording was made by the Brooklands Museum Trust in 2015.

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Visits: 450

Queen Wilhelmina visits Dunsfold

In 1940 no. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF was formed by members of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service, who had flown from the Netherlands when it was invaded. On 12 June 1944 Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands visited Dunsfold to award medals. In all, 320 Squadron were awarded the Dutch Military Order of William four times and the Dutch Airman’s Cross, 176 times. 

The Queen arrives in a fairly rare aircraft the De Havilland DH95 Flamingo. The film also shows how extensive were the dispersal areas to the South and East of Dunsfold airfield.

Visits: 73

P.1127 on Ark Royal – story behind the image

Bill Bedford and P.1127 XP831 on the deck of HMS Ark Royal

February 8th 1963. Here is XP831 on the deck of HMS Ark Royal after Hawker Test Pilot Bill Bedford had completed the deck landing. This was the first ever vertical landing of a fixed wing aircraft on an aircraft carrier and the last of significant milestones in the proving the prototype’s potential. 3 months later XP831 would crash at the Paris Airshow.

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Visits: 357

Sea Harrier – story behind the image

XZ450 Sea Harrier at Dunsfold August 1978

It was late in a sunny warm Sunday afternoon in August 1978.

XZ450 just at start up for the first Sea Harrier flight at Dunsfold. the photo was taken by Dunsfold Photographic Dept. John Farley is in the cockpit, Trevor Davies is sitting on the ground and I’m standing with the cine camera.

Dick Poole, formerly of Dunsfold Flight Test Department

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Visits: 382

Harrier – Part 1 of 3: Origins

Part 1 of 3 articles researched and written by Greg Goebel of All images and text republished courtesy of Greg Goebel.

Prologue: The Flying Bedstead and the SC.1

* Studies of “vertical takeoff or landing (VTOL)” aircraft began late in the Second World War, with German engineers coming up with a series of concepts that never got out of the paper stage. That was probably fortunate, since the postwar history of VTOL technology strongly suggested that converting such paper plans into practical flying machines was a real challenge.

Various nations began to work on flight-worthy VTOL machines after the war, though initially these aircraft were purely experimental in nature. In the UK, Rolls-Royce began work on Britain’s first VTOL aircraft, known by the bland name of “Thrust Measuring Rig (TMR)”, apparently as a dodge to conceal the real nature of the project from those who might have thought it too far-fetched. It was designed to evaluate hovering flight using raw jet thrust, the vehicle having no capability for serious horizontal flight.

The first of two TMRs was rolled out in 1953. It hardly looked like an aircraft at all, consisting only of a frame with four legs, mounting twin Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal-flow turbojet engines arranged exhaust-to-exhaust, with the exhausts tilted downward through the TMR’s center of gravity. There were reaction jets — “puffers” — on arms out to each side, fed by exhaust bleed from the engines to provide maneuvering capability during a hover. The pilot sat perched on top, with little protection if the clumsy-looking thing decided to flip over. It was referred to as the “Flying Bedstead” due to its appearance; more or less the same nickname was applied to comparable VTOL evaluation rigs developed in other countries.

Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig
The “flying bedstead”
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Visits: 857