Sydney Camm: Wikis


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Sydney Camm
Personal information
Nationality British
Birth date 5 August 1893
Birth place Windsor
Date of death 12 March 1966
Place of death Richmond, London
Education Royal Free School, Windsor
Spouse Hilda Rose Starnes
Parents Frederick Camm, Mary Smith
Children 1 daughter
Engineering Discipline Aeronautics
Institution memberships RAeS
Employer(s) Hawker Siddeley
Significant design Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Hunter
Significant advance Hawker Siddeley P.1127
Significant Awards British Gold Medal for Aeronautics (1949), RAeS Gold Medal (1958), Daniel Guggenheim Medal (1965), International Hall of Aerospace Fame (1984)

Sir Sydney Camm, CBE, FRAeS (5 August 1893 – 12 March 1966) was an English aeronautical engineer who contributed to many Hawker aircraft designs, from the biplanes of the 1920s to jet fighters. One particularly notable aircraft he designed is the Hawker Hurricane fighter.


Early years

He was the eldest child of Frederick Camm, who had twelve children with Mary Smith. He attended the Royal Free School (became the Royal Free Middle School with the secondary school becoming the Princess Margaret Royal Free School on Bourne Avenue) on Batchelors Acre in Windsor. His brother Frederick James Camm became a technical author, and created the Practical Wireless magazine. He lived near Windsor & Eton Central railway station.

Camm was a towering giant as an aeronautical engineer, but his beginnings were humble. He developed an interest in aircraft at an early age and his first interest in aeronautics was spurred on by his membership in the Windsor Model Aeroplane Club. His accomplishments as a model aeroplane builder culminated in a man-carrying glider which he and others at the club built in 1912.[1]

Aviation career

He started as a carpenter's apprentice and joined the Martinsyde aircraft company.

Camm joined the Hawker Aircraft Company (later Hawker Siddeley) at Kingston upon Thames as a senior draughtsman in 1923, becoming Chief Designer in 1925. He took part in the design of many Hawker aircraft, including the Hawker Tomtit, Cygnet (his first Hawker plane), Hornbill, Nimrod, Hart and Fury.

The Hawker Hurricane was designed by Sir Sydney Camm.

He then moved to designing aeroplanes that would become mainstays of the RAF in the Second World War including the Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Typhoon and Hawker Tempest.


With the Hurricane, Sydney Camm moved from the technology of the biplane to contemporary monoplane fighter aircraft. The result was that fighters flew faster, and with the improved engine technology of the time, higher, and could be made more deadly than ever.

"Camm had a one-tracked mind – his aircraft were right, and everybody had to work on them to get them right. If they did not, then there was hell. He was a very difficult man to work for, but you could not have a better aeronautical engineer to work under. [...] With regard to his own staff, he did not suffer fools gladly, and at times many of us appeared to be fools. One rarely got into trouble for doing something either in the ideas line, or in the manufacturing line, but woe betide those who did nothing, or who put forward an indeterminate solution."[2]

Working with Camm at Hawker were Sir Frederick Page (later to design the English Electric Lightning), Leslie Appleton (later to design the advanced Fairey Delta 2 and Britain's first air-to-air missile, the Fairey Fireflash), Stuart Davies (joined Avro in 1936 and later to be chief designer of the Avro Vulcan), Roy Chaplin (became Chief Designer at Hawker in 1957) and Sir Robert Lickley (Chief Project Engineer during the war, and later to be Chief Engineer at Fairey). The Hawker engineer Frank Murdoch was responsible for getting the Hurricane into production in sufficient numbers before the outbreak of the war, after an eye-opening visit to MAN diesel plant in Augsburg in 1936.


Hawker Typhoon

When the Typhoon's design first emerged and entered squadron service, pilots became aware that there was elevator flutter and buffetting at high speeds, due to the positioning of the heavy Napier Sabre engine intake very close to the wing root.

The engineering of the aircraft to travel at higher speeds and handle compressibility effects was one of the challenges of the day, but with his small design team of one hundred members at Hawker, Camm managed to solve these problems and make the Typhoon an effective combat weapon even at these speeds. As operational requirements changed, the Typhoon was used more in the role of a fighter-bomber where its low level performance and weapon-carrying capabilities created a legendary performance. It was much used in the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, and the ground-attack aircraft essentially and ruthlessly finished off any German resistance, with most of France being retaken less than two weeks later. The heavy-duty aircraft would take a lot of damage before it could be knocked out of the sky.


Hawker Tempest prototype

The lessons learned on the Hawker Typhoon were incorporated in the follow-up to this design, the Hawker Tempest. As soon as the Typhoon entered service, the Air Ministry requested a new design. Camm recommended that they keep the existing design of the Typhoon for the large part, with modifications to the aerofoil. He had also considered the new and powerful Napier Sabre and Bristol Centaurus engines. When the question came as to which engine to use, Camm decided that they would use both. As it happened, the Tempest Mk 5 used the Napier Sabre, while the Tempest Mk 2 used the Bristol Centaurus. The design modifications to be made to the aircraft to switch from one engine type to another were minimal, so much so that there was little assistance needed in ferrying these aircraft all the way to India and Pakistan, in the final days of the conflict.


After the Second World War, Sydney Camm created many jet powered designs which would became important aircraft in the Cold War era.


Hawker P.1127

Notable among these are his contributions to the Hawker Siddeley P.1127 / Kestrel FGA.1, the progenitor of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. The Harrier is a well-known vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft designed at Hawker Siddeley, which would later merge into the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), now known as BAE Systems. The Harrier was one of the radical concept aircraft which took shape in post-war Britain, which required the coming together of many important technology, such as vectored thrust engines like the Bristol Siddeley (later Rolls-Royce) Pegasus and technologies like the Reaction Control System. Camm played a major role in determining these and other vital Harrier systems. In 1953, he was knighted for these and other achievements and his contribution to British Aviation.[3] The P.1127 first flew on 21 October 1960. Working with Camm on this aircraft and the Hunter was Prof John Fozard, who became head of the Hawker design office in 1961 and would write a biography of Camm in 1991.


The Hunter, designed by Sydney Camm, made its first flight in 1951. This privately-owned Hawker Hunter T.7 “Blue Diamond” is seen at speed during an air display in 2007.

Camm worked on many aircraft built by Hawker before the Harrier, including what is probably his most significant aircraft after the Second World War, the Hawker Hunter. It started life as the P.1067.

Final years

Another view of “Blue Diamond”

He was President of the RAeS from 1954-5. The RAeS has since 1971 held the biennial Sir Sydney Camm Lecture in June, given by the current Commander-in-Chief of RAF Air Command.

Before he died in 1966, he was planning the design of an aircraft to travel at Mach 4, or four times the speed of sound. It is humbling to imagine that his spectacular career in aircraft design started at a Windsor Model Aeroplane Club in 1912, where he built a glider capable of carrying a man just nine years after the first powered flight. Sydney Camm not only was witness to many developments in aviation, he also influenced the world of aviation significantly throughout his illustrious career.


  • On the cancellation in 1965 of the BAC TSR-2: All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR-2 got the first three right...

Personal life

He lived at Thames Ditton in Surrey. He married Hilda Starnes in 1915 and they had a daughter in 1922. He is buried in Long Ditton.

See also


  • Bader, Douglas. Fight for the Sky: The Story of the Spitfire and Hurricane. London: Cassell Military Books, 2004. ISBN 0-30435-674-3.
  • Bowyer, Chaz. Hurricane at War. London: Ian Allen Ltd., 1974. ISBN 0-7110-0665-2.
  • Fozard, John W., Ed. Sydney Camm & the Hurricane. London: Airlife, 1991. ISBN 1-85310-270-9.
  • Jane, Fred T. "The Hawker Hurricane". Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
  • Mason, Francis K. Hawker Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1991. ISBN 0-85177-839-9.

External links

Video clips

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