Oral history of British science

Denning, Ralph (Part 4 of 15) An Oral History of British Science

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  • Subjects

    Aeronautical Engineering

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  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Bristol

  • Interviewees

    Denning, Ralph, 1925- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 4 [36:54] Story about being sent to visit facilities in Germany 1946: Arriving at Millbank around end of war; Clifford Moore sending RD to Germany to void postwar redundancies in civil service; preparation, military rank; flying out from Farnborough, after almost missing plane; customs at Blackbush; flight in Hudson. [03:50] Comments on Operation Surgeon mission to Germany: description of location of Volkenrode institute in Brunswick; camouflaged installations in woods fooling RAF in war; hunting hares on airfield; establishment for aerodynamics, engines and projectiles; accommodation in V2 building; driving around airfield in former German ambassador to Britain's car; purpose of Operation Surgeon to cut out German technology and return to British research establishments; Russians nearby; [09:50] visits to Berlin with WJ Stern; conditions in Berlin; formal relations with Russians; description of civil servant WJ Stern, early disbeliever of jet engines. [14:35] Further remarks on Volkenrode: RAF support; anecdote about mess hi-jinx; facilities, low speed and high-Mach number wind tunnels; large wind tunnel, used to test V1 pulse jet motor; use of tunnels to test submarines, adapted to correct Froude number; impressions of scale of German facilities compared to British; rapid absorption of German knowledge by UK and USA. [21:15] Remarks on background of Operation Surgeon: Sir Roy Fedden, designer of successful pre-war Jupiter engine, fall out with Bristol over knighthood and Stafford Cripps appointing him special technical adviser to MAP; Fedden's visit to postwar Germany; run by intelligence services; aims of acquiring prototype aeroplanes, helping German scientists write up work, translate research, dismantle and remove facilities. [25:40] Remarks on RD activities in Germany, editing translations of documents from Germans, visits to Berlin with WJ Stern to collect things; removing engines to Cranfield, such as Wankel and Lutz engines; German research conditions and extent of work on jet engines; German description to put advanced aircraft to ill use; German aircraft wrecks on airfields; running of German test facilities; US removal of Munich facilities to Tullahoma, along with personnel such as Gerhard Neumann and Hans von Ohain; RD meeting Frank Whittle at Bristol, when he was visiting Stanley Hooker and later in USA; [33:40] Whittle's favour for centrifugal compressor compressors, encouraging use in Spey successor; differences between development of axial and centrifugal compressors, necessity of buried installations for centrifugal compressor engines.

  • Description

    Interview with aeronautical engineer Ralph Denning

  • Related transcripts

    Ralph Denning 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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