Oral history of British science

Dommett, Roy (Part 1 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Fleet

  • Interviewees

    Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Middle named after his Father Leonard Frank Dommett; born 25th June 1933, at Wharncliffe Road Southampton, near Woolston Supermarine works; moving to garden city council estate until starting work at Farnborough in 1954. Remarks on earliest memories: aircraft, including Graf Zeppelin, Empire flying boats, first Pan-American Clipper, Mayo Composite Aircraft, early Spitfire at Eastleigh airport, and George V's silver jubilee party. [02:40] Remarks on: Uncle Dennis, worker at Supermarine Hurst Park and Swindon, until he emigrated to Johanesburg; aircraft factories in the area he grew up, Avro and Follands at Hamble, Supermarine, Cunliffe-Owen at Eastleigh. [03:40] Remarks on: wartime evacuation to Bournemouth and Ringwood; air raids and bomb damage; [06:00] drawing aircraft silhouettes in a notebook; reading 'Aeroplane Spotter' magazines; being surrounded by aircraft in Southampton; V1 attacks on Southampton, his Uncle Tom's house being hit by a V1; [08:55] relatives in Forrestgate, London; great grandmother dying at 97; family emigrating to Canada postwar but returning to use the NHS. [10:00] Short story about a V2 attack. Remarks on: first year to sit the 11plus after 1944 Butler Education Act; school career being disrupted by school evacuation to Andover; studying physics,maths and languages; stimulated by bright pupils in class; considering joining Colonial Survey due to interest in physical geography; studying chemistry at sixth form so he could go to Bristol university, sitting the first year of A-level exams. Anecdote about school showing off his workbooks to visitors. [16:05] Remarks on Bristol: accents; travelling by Royal Blue coach; disruption of 13 changes of school to evacuation; learning left and right at school in Bouremouth; billet having a tramcar in the garden; school career at Bournemouth, Sholing, Botley and Ringwood, with classes in a pub due to shortage of space; [20:00] double summer time; Eastleigh air raids. Remarks on father joining RAF: training at Blackpool, posting to Cranfield, as painter and decorator; demob to work at Pressed Steel, Oxford; being a single parent family in wartime; mother working in farming in Botley; a friend who didn't see his sailor father throughout the war; comparisons with current teenagers. [23:40] Remarks on: evacuation, sharing a bed, newspaper for toilet paper, playing outdoors; grandparents and parents moving to Botley and sharing a house with a delivery man and Miss Marsh; household amenities, pigs in garden and strawberry fields nearby; picking fruit in summer; job hoeing a field of chrysanthemums; visiting British Legion with father and having his first glass of cider aged 10; chores, carrying radio accumulator for recharging, mother cooking on small stove. [28:10] Short story about mothers family, Diaper, having their Woolston home bombed and moving into RD's house. [31:00] Remarks on life in Bristol: coal fire fog, living in digs, bomb damage, engineering department in the Merchant Venturers college, isolated from the University; university work, 9 - 1 lectures, afternoon lab work, working Saturdays, English for engineers; [34:00] senior lecturer Black, good experimentalist but poor lecturer, worked on swept wing aerodynamics; comparison of swept wing research in UK and Germany, colleagues at Farnborough visiting Germany postwar, 'Last Days of the Luftwaffe' book, and jet engines. [38:00] Remarks on: hard second year maths exams, theoretical course content, winning a Royal Aeronautical Society [RAeS] prize, winning a Ministry university scholarship, £435 starting salary at RAE; being offered a PhD on low aspect ratio wings; learning off by heart for final exams and having a meeting with examiners intrigued by his work; possibility of PhD course. [43:00] Short story about working night shifts at the Post Office for Christmas, as did future wife Marguerite [MD]. Remarks on 1952 vacation work at Folland: arranged by Professor Collar; working in inspection department; a work outing; anecdotes about quality control. [48:30] Remarks on vacation work at Supermarine: working on Swift aircraft; Supermarine's quality of finish compared to French aircraft industry. [49:50] Remarks on: different countries' engineering cultures, example of drawing standards in UK and USA; value of working in machine shop on Saturday mornings; Bristol Professors Collar and Pugsley, who worked on the R101 airship, on which Nevil Shute was a calculator; pride of links to early aviation; airship history, the Brabazon Committee, changing air transport, the Hindenburg disaster. [54:20] Remarks on: childhood interest in aircraft, model aeroplanes; visiting father in RAF at Woburn Sands in 1942 and noticing Bletchley was inexplicably swarming with military personnel; having measles; being ahead of pupils at the local schools he attended at Woburn and Cranfield; teachers all being old; changes to classes before the 11 plus; being taught by the same teacher as his father; [58:45] father being raised by grandmother during the First World War while grandfather served on HMS Europa at Selonika; grandmother's allotment, 1917 Famine, mother living on fish at Itchen Ferry, drought, effects on his parents. [1:00:40] Story about father's job delivering newspapers to soldiers at Netley Hospital. Detailed discussion of Mother's family, Diaper: in Southampton from 1463; name from Ypres, Belgium; historical geography of Europe, 'The Times Atlas of European History'; brother's work on the family tree; Diaper tradition of providing yacht crews, Uncle Joe, possibly crewing the Kaiser's yacht; Tom Diaper; Diaper association family tree; family tree software. [1:06:45] Remarks on: Uncle Joe's voyages to the South Pacific. Comments on mother: born 1909 Itchen Ferry; won school prizes but left school to work as domestic staff; married at 21 while housekeeper at Carisbrook; comparison of modern and historical ways of life, with reference to 'Larkrise to Candleford'; mother not working until war, kept chickens; mother's brothers: James, George, Ron, Ken; Diaper family arguments. [1:11:25] Remarks on: Father, born 1907; great-grandfather, Thomas, who worked for the London South Western Railway at Devonport and Fennington, and played drum in Payhenbury village band; Dommett family tree and origins at Neroche Forrest near Taunton in the 1460s; RD's memory for place names [mic noise and use of road atlas]. Story about visiting Dommett Moor, near Ilminster and other Dommett named locales. [1:15:40] Remarks on other Dommetts: Devon; New Zealand, including the 5th prime minister and Rear Admiral John Dommettl anecdote about about visiting New Zealand, including the town of Dommett; [1:18:25] visiting the New Zealand Ministry of Defence to learn about their military bands; New Zealand's nuclear free zone policies and earthquakes; an Australian Dommett; 1881 census tracing his family at Breamer, near Fording Bridge, Hampshire. [1:21:30] Short story about William Dommett's naval career: HMS Belleisle; RD finding his order to Admiral Cockburn to attack Washington in the war of 1812 at the National Archive in Washington; use of rockets in the war of 1812 and on telling the story to Americans. [1:24:15] Remarks on: great-great-grandfather and his son Henry, signalman at Breamar railway station; grandfather being his 13 child, and having nephews as old as he was; father's cousin Charles, one of the founders of stock car racing; father going on barnstormer flights and spectator Schneider cup races, and the changes of his lifetime; oral history, RD moving to Fleet and talking to elderly residents about people they had known, with links back to William IV's army and the 1830 Swing Riots; [1:28:50] RD always being inquisitive. Story about visiting family heritage site at Upham with parents. [1:30:20] Remarks on: Father's interests in male voice choirs, Southampton football club, allotments; father not reading much, becoming diabetic; parents tandem bicycle and going on bus trips to Bournemouth and abroad, including Czechoslovakia; mother being quite literary, keeping a notebook of trips, doing crosswords, liking scrabble, writing a novel, RD's hope to publish some of her writings. [1:34:00] Remarks on RD plans to transcribe his notebooks, finding typing hard, having little time due to medical issues, and on his hopes for family history.

  • Description

    Interview with rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer Roy Dommett

  • Related transcripts

    Roy Dommett interviewed by Dr Thomas Lean: full transcript of the interview

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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Dommett, Roy (Part 1 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

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