Oral history of British science
Higton, Dennis (Part 5 of 24). An Oral History of British Science.
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Interviewee’s home, Shrewton, Salisbury
Higton, Dennis, 1921-2012 (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 5: Remarks: taking to RAE apprenticeship with diligence; location of bench in engine department; description of engine department; testing single cylinder aero-engine; problems with Spitfire Merlin engines caused by negative-G manoeuvres, corrected by Miss Shilling's work on carburettors in the engine department. [04:05] Remarks on Miss Shilling; Spitfire engine problems in negative-G; sky filled with aeroplanes, Allied raids formatting above Farnborough. [07:35] Remarks on air raids on Farnborough: personnel being divided between shelters to minimise chance of whole departments being wiped out; injuring himself on way to shelter; taking cover with Albert Rowse underneath a Hurricane wing; personnel killed when a shelter was hit; [11:15] impact of war on DH, gas masks, damage to house from bombing; being in a reserved occupation, but trying to enlist in air force; Reggie Falston who joined services; difference between trade and engineering apprentices; reasons for wanting to join services, white feathers for suspected cowards; [17:04] value of work to war effort. Comments on fixing problems with bomber turret windows misting up, story about flying in Flying Fortress ball turret with John Charnley, description of fixing problem, flying in other bombers. [22:52] Remarks on: learning tact after time in water works; feeling Bill Sawyer was proud of him; learning to answer the telephone; Mr Fucher, Bulger and Reggie Selfox and other influential colleagues in waterworks. [26:58] Remarks on: workload at Farnborough, craftsmanship outweighed speed of work, people checking on work; [28:47] theoretical work separate from practical components largely, with reference to exams; cleverness of apprentice system; [31:15] comparison of trade and engineering apprentices, relationship of practical and theoretical work; apprentice George Gale. [33:16] Comments on: experience being on an interview panel later in his career; apprenticeship system and wide ranging facilities of Farnborough; differences between engineering and trade apprenticeships; [39:08] supervision of Harold Martin and examples of jobs worked on. [41:00] Remarks: on end of apprenticeship on 21st birthday; gaining many distinctions in exams. Discussion about Royal Aeronautical Society and Institution of Mechanical Engineers, anecdote about a recent letter from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers praising his long membership, [pause] benefits of membership and importance of mechanical engineering, with reference to Tay Bridge and Airbus engine problems. [49:10] Comments on: safety, Farnborough structures department testing wings to destruction; importance of materials department; anecdote about breaking an extensometer in material department; Farnborough's civilised atmosphere. [52:30] Comments on being assigned to aerodynamics department: DH needed to develop apparatus to make measurements for high speed flight; DH sometimes considering himself a misfit in aerodynamics department because he was from the workshops, Tony Anscombe regarding DH as just an assistant. [pause] [54:20] Remarks on Tony Anscombe: straight from university; regarded DH as 'the boy' to help out with wind tunnel experiments, an approach not appreciated by DH's superiors; spending life with people he worked with in tunnels. [56:50] Comments on: first flight on 21st birthday in a Whitely with Cyril Bethwaite; musical and artistic talents of people in aero department, such as Cyril Bethwaite; Miss Fougerie. [1:00:00] Comments on reasons for feeling like a misfit in aero department, not having a degree and being surrounded by academic scientists; boss Ron Smelt, who built himself an electronic organ and became Lockheed's chief scientist when DH worked for them; being interested in research rather than engineering, but eventually becoming more of an engineer, but with insights that took him to the top; surprise at returning from US to work on Anglo-French helicopter production; [1:03:43] being an engineer amongst scientists, some treating him differently but others, such as John Seddon being very welcoming; John Seddon being brilliant musician and fixing problems on an American aircraft air-intake; DH occasionally having a different viewpoint to others in discussions, with example of Dr Harris praising novel approach of his work in technical school.
Interview with aeronautical engineer Dennis Higton.