‘This Man Saved Britain’ ran a headline in the News Chronicle on 18 February 1941, in a reference to the role of Sydney Camm, designer of the Hawker Hurricane, during the Battle of Britain. Similarly, the Minister of Economic Warfare, Lord Selborne, advised Winston Churchill that to Camm ‘England owed a great deal’.
Twenty-five years later, following his death in 1966, obituaries in the Sunday Express and Sunday Times, among other tributes, referred to ‘Hurricane Designer’ or ‘Hurricane Maker’, implying that this machine represented the pinnacle of Camm’s professional achievement. Sir Thomas Sopwith, the respected aircraft designer and Hawker aircraft company founder, believed that Camm deserved much wider recognition, being ‘undoubtedly the greatest designer of fighter aircraft the world has ever known.’
Born in 1893, the eldest of twelve children, Camm was raised in a small, terraced house. Despite lacking the advantages of a financially-secure upbringing and formal technical education after leaving school at 14, Camm would go on to become one of the most important people in the story of Britain’s aviation history.
Sydney Camm’s work on the Hurricane was far from the only pinnacle in his remarkable career in aircraft design and engineering – a career that stretched from the biplanes of the 1920s to the jet fighters of the Cold War. Indeed, over fifty years after his death, the revolutionary Hawker Siddeley Harrier in which Camm played such a prominent figure, following ‘a stellar performance in the Falkland Island crisis’, still remains in service with the American armed forces.
It is perhaps unsurprising therefore, as the author reveals in this detailed biography, that Camm would be knighted in his own country, receive formal honours in France and the United States, and be inducted into the International Hall of Fame in San Diego.
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