Oral history of British science
Dommett, Roy (Part 1 of 19). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, Fleet
Dommett, Roy, 1933- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
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.
Interview with rocket scientist and aeronautical engineer Roy Dommett