Oral history of British science

Dommett, Roy (Part 13 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

  • Add a note
    Log in to add a note at the bottom of this page.
  • All notes
  • My notes
  • Hide notes
Please click to leave a note

The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »

Tags (top 25):
(No tags found for this item)
  • Type


  • Duration


  • Shelf mark


  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s home, Fleet

  • Interviewees

    Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 13: Further comments on working at the RAE: always someone to consult, Ted Phythian and fiancé office romance; tea breaks with liar dice; solving 'The Listener' problem; using Brunsviga calculators; working in Q134; cramped office; RD working with a colleague on data analysis; Ken Weaver section head, mathematical analyst; computing facilities; [05:35] conditions working on a typical job, library research, computing pool; people disappearing for trial works; towing trial vehicles by car to Aberporth range. Remarks on features of Aberporth, West Freugh and Pendine Sands ranges. [10:50] Remarks on use of rocket sled and vacuum chamber. Story about firing a brick wall at a test vehicle during Blue Streak impact fuse tests and losing a replica implosion pit. [15:20] Comments on the value of tests in the development process, with story about testing Chevaline penaid packages in a chamber and remarks on engineering judgement and hardening electronics. [20:05] Remarks on: importance of previous work to Chevaline; importance of understanding interaction of issues on Chevaline re-entry shield. Comments on Skylark: value of experience of individuals like Frank Hazel, Frank Chapman, Dave Childs, Desmond King-Hele, Derrick Dalton; Westcott development of Rook motor; Waltham Abbey development of new propellant; development of Raven motor; RD and TF work on finned cone cylinders and making a mistake in going for a three finned vehicle; solution to stabilisation problems and consequences for guided weapons work; [27:45] development of TRIDAC analogue computer. Remarks on becoming involved in projects where your expertise was required. [short pause] [29:36] Comments on early Blue Streak work and material choice for re-entry vehicles: US Trailblazer tests; RD going through test data on airflow over cones; airflow problems; ablative and heat sink approaches; problems of Plutonium expanding in re-entry heat; aerodynamics and heating problems of heat shield shape; problems of copper, steel and beryllium in re-entry heads; [39:25] decision to use Armco Iron; hemispherical and cone approaches; problems with testing shapes at Orford Ness; Larkhill balloon drop tests and problem of auto-rotation; Harold Robinson influence in going for an ablative heat shield; problems accommodating warhead in re-entry vehicle; influence of aerodynamicists on vehicle shape; influence of low viability work of Grant Dawson on vehicle shape; Aldermaston work on warhead. [47:20] Remarks on: Twiss and lab assistant, who were plastic experts; testing various materials for rentry vehicles; reniforcing rentry materials, such as with Flock Durestos. [51:50] Remarks on personal role in Blue Streak: secretary of materials panel, observing trials, liaising with different departments, heating calculations talking to ABM people; break down of WE and teamwork. Further remarks on material tests on BK09; not observing BK trials himself, going out for planning exercises and talking to instrumentation people, but considering that visiting trials himself was a waste of time; VIP's getting to visit Polaris tests at Cape Canaveral but not those actually doing the work; viewing ELDO tests and Falstaff and Skylark launches to encourage personnel. [56:15] Story about visiting a Skylark launch at Woomera, which went wrong when the rocket turned upside down. Story about Falstaff launch. [1:00:00] Description of Falstaff vehicle; Falstaff heritage in hypersonic airliner research, with remarks on Dietrich Kuchermann's work on Concorde; cancellation and transfer of Falstaff to Chevaline work due to unavailability of Black Arrow as a test vehicle; contract work of British Hovercraft and MDS Frimley, with reference to importance of collaboration of UK firms in national projects; loss of trials footage. [1:08:40] Remarks on security clearances: story about accidentally Morris dancing at a CND demonstration in Dudley; security worries over high number of Christians in department Remarks on assembling a team of experimental officers for Chevaline, managing relations with contracting companies. [1:13:20] Remarks on: viability of Blue Streak except for problems placing silos and launch communications; importance of Blue Streak for future work; testing of beryllium for use in re-entry vehicles. [1:19:00] Comments on underground nuclear tests of components and materials, such as 3DQP, in Nevada. Remarks on: his own involvement with Americans beginning with a 1957 conference; Sputnik's acceleration of Blue Streak development; not being surprised by Sputnik, which he spotted, because he'd read science fiction, was interested in the V2 and joined British Interplanetary Society; [1:26:30] leadership concerns over missile gap and later intelligence briefings on U2 spy missions. Remarks on: reading science fiction; later work on artificial intelligence work, sold by Dave Sloggit to the USA; tracking capabilities of Fylingdales radar and collaboration with French. [1:30:35] Remarks on: later aspects of Blue Streak work, such as nose cone issues; involvement with Black Knight trials with Harold Robinson; promotion to SSO leading to less oversight; slack time after Blue Streak cancellation. [1:33:20] Comments on Dazzle programme: delays in American radar contribution; equipment; anecdote about reading equipment manuals on the Beach in Australia; purpose of Dazzle trials in early ABM work; problems with computing power before IBM STRETCH; different re-entry vehicle material characteristics; result of demonstrating that in atmosphere ABM defence impossible. [1:41:25] Remarks on: US ABM projects, LOWADS and HIBEX high speed missile; watching a sounding rocket test in Canada; travel arrangements for trips to the USA and exploring country for less than it cost to stay put in Washington; limitations of American beer. [1:46:40] Further remarks on: American beer compared to British; working with the Americans; 1958 Aldermaston - US talks, surpise at how far Britain had got with few tests; Anglicisation of Red Snow warhead, safety concerns of Ordnance Board, smaller size compared to British design. [1:50:00] Description of Blue Steel missile, development arrangements involving RAE, AVRO and Elliots, Gwillim Roberts work on navigation systems; developments in inertial navigation systems; obsolescence of system against improved Soviet defences, which also doomed TSR2 aircraft; current aircraft carrier situation and impact on Portsmouth tramway extension.

  • 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

  • Metadata record:

    View full metadata for this item

Dommett, Roy (Part 13 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.

Please log in to update your playlists.

Can you tell us more about the context of the recording? Or can you share information on its content - timings of key sections or important details? Please add your notes. Uninformative entries may not be retained.

Please log in to leave notes.