Oral history of British science

Hooper, Ralph (Part 2 of 11). An Oral History of British Science.

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Richmond

  • Interviewees

    Hooper, Ralph, 1926- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: Remarks on evacuation to Pocklington, Yorkshire: sharing school with Pocklington Grammar School; army training nearby; not being allowed to join Air Training Corps so he didn't join Officer Training Corps; bomber station built at Pocklington; billeted at old mill and other locations. [04:10] Remarks on holidays in Cumberland and Kent as a child. Remarks on household technologies, mother getting vacuum cleaner postwar, no fridge until after father's retirement, radio. Remarks on being on holiday when second world war broke out, father having to return to help organise Hull fishing fleet, parents relationship, father wanting him to have an office job possibly in the scientific civil service. [09:15] Remarks on apprenticeship at Blackburn: tired of school, mother in favour; interview at Brough with former de Havilland stress man Mr Adams. Description of Blackburn history, Robert Blackburn, early flights from Filey Sands, Mr Swallow's selection of site at Brough, growth of factory. [15:10] Comments on starting at Blackburn: started in the fitters shop, slight shock for a school boy; roles of tinner's shop fabricating double curvature sheet metal and fitters shop making subcomponents; spending 3 months at fitters and tinners before starting at K-shed assembly; B-shed making Blackburn Bothas and Barracudas; welding research shop, which he found great fun. Description of difficulties of welding aluminium. [20:15] Remarks on RAF training school across airfield, working on Tiger Moth and engine maintenance. Story about covering an engine inspector with oil by accident. Story about accident at work when an apprentice was killed in a fire caused by a home made cigarette lighter. Remarks on start of apprenticeship delayed because he was resitting French. [25:00] Remarks on difference between engineering and works apprentices. Story about ricocheting cannon rounds whilst testing a Firebrand's guns. Comments on enjoying work at experimental department most: high quality of staff, worked with Eric Missen. Story about pointing out an error in the working of a new under-carriage door to supervisor Jack Springham [mic crackle]. [29:30] Remarks on apprentices of same class, working a 47 hour week. Remarks on sharing time with apprentices of same class. Comments on: colleagues working at his bench, assistance from older colleague Jim when RH first arrived in fitters shop, people generally getting on well apart from seeing one argument. [35:20] Remarks on eating packed lunch outside in summer and canteen in winter. Remarks on working in the experimental department: Firebrand prototype, working with an elder colleague. Story about a Firebrand crash. Story about a Botha crash. [41:00] Remarks on: starting at Blackburn in 1942, bombing of Hull, collecting shell splinters at school, a school friend who was wounded by a splinter, urgency of work at Blackburn. Anecdote about girls in paint shop painting misbehaving apprentices. [44:35] Remarks on: secrecy of work; bringing scrap parts home, some which are now in museum at Yeovilton; pay levels, getting paid less than elder colleagues for a time, saving enough money from apprenticeship and working at Blackburn stress office to get him through University College Hull, and Cranfield; being trusted to get on with work; pranks, such as being sent for the long stand and having holes drilled in your mug. [49:10] Remarks on time spent in the inspection shop, testing samples of flying control cables and spark plugs, Kingston Technology College's heavy testing equipment. Remarks on end of apprenticeship reports and being judged a 'very good all round boy.' Remarks on: managers; bonuses and discovering he'd accidentally cheated on his time sheet; visits by Robert Blackburn to view bomb damage, including an unexploded bomb that probably remains. [56:15] Remarks on: BBC 'Workers Playtime' entertainment party, preferring to eat lunch alone, workplace dodge to get new drill bits, useful contents of scrap bins. Anecdotes about: smuggling out a sheet of aluminium to make a container for his bike; a worker who allegedly smuggled out a whole engine bit by bit; a worker allegedly who acquired a seaplane float to make a speed boat. Remarks on: A 'govy job', called a government job, because it wasn't; officially frowned on; making himself a paper punch; educational value of making things illegally. [1:01:10] Remarks on night school at Hull Municipal Technical College: studied variety of subjects including materials, technical drawing, mechanics, design; higher national certificate. Remarks on starting university at 17: natural progression as part of apprenticeship; university funding arrangements; swimming certificates; reports. [1:05:40] Further remarks on split of work between University College Hull and Hull Technical College and subjects studied; larger proportion of women than in peacetime; dance classes, rugby and sport. [1:10:00] Remarks on: heavy workload; competition between Blackburn students; RH coming third to Ken Newby and Alec Atkin's joint first; no Blackburn classmates returned to Brough; poor quality of Blackburn designs. [1:12:00] Remarks on: limited feedback about operational use of aircraft, such as, the Skua, Firebrand and Botha; seeing visiting aircraft; feedback of RAF pilots to test pilots. Comments on fire watching at University College Hull, anecdote about spooky surroundings. [1:17:00] Remarks on social life at university: aeronautical apprentices staying in same location, anecdote about climbing to the roof, not being able to afford to drink beer in large quantities. Remarks on working in a group with other students, teaching methods, high standard set by Ken Newby. Remarks on: Ken Newby, older than most of class; Alec Atkin, self confident, son of Blackburn foreman, former trade apprentice, friendly with only female aeronautics student, who he later married. [1:20:20] Remarks on knowing he was above average, except in maths, always interested in finding other solutions to a problem. [short pause - finding university coursework drawings] [1:23:50] Remarks on designing a monoplane version of a Blackburn biplane in Mr Barnard's class: developing a different sort of flying control system because he found it more interesting. Remarks on draughtsmanship of last railway locomotive that his grandfather designed. [pause] Remarks on: drawing practices, design work at Cranfield, drawing class amongst the best output of the course. Remarks on: failing examinations triggering call up; requesting to join RAF or Navy Fleet Air Arm if he was called up; considering career in Fleet Air Arm; returning to complete apprenticeship in Blackburn stress office; Ken Newby joining scientific civil service, Alec Atkin English Electric, of which he was later managing director. [1:32:30] Further remarks on university courses: finding theory of elasticity too theoretical for his tastes; quality of teaching; teaching methods; passing diploma. [1:35:40] Remarks on: returning to Blackburn to work in the stress office; Peter Wroe suggesting Cranfield, which included a chance to learn to fly.

  • Description

    Interview with aeronautical engineer Ralph Hooper

  • Related transcripts

    Ralph Hooper 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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