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
1 Early years
2 Aviation career
2.4 Sea Fury
4 Final years
6 Personal life
8 See also
10 External links
10.1 Video clips
Sydney Camm was born at 10 Alma Road in Windsor, Berkshire, the eldest
child of the twelve children of Frederick Camm, a carpenter/joiner and
Mary Smith. The Camm family lived near Windsor & Eton Central
railway station. His brother
Frederick James Camm
Frederick James Camm became a technical
author, and created the
Practical Wireless magazine.
In 1901 he began attending the Royal Free School on Bachelors Acre in
Windsor (The Royal Free school became the Royal Free Middle School
with the secondary school becoming the Princess Margaret Royal Free
School on Bourne Avenue). In 1906 he was granted a Foundation
Scholarship. In 1908 Camm left school to become an apprentice
Camm developed an interest in aeronautics. Camm and his brothers began
building model aircraft which they supplied to Herbert's Eton High
Street shop. After finding that they could obtain a higher price they
began making direct sales to boys at Eton College, which were
delivered in secret to avoid attracting the attention of Herbert and
the school authorities.
These activities led him to being one of the founders of the Windsor
Model Aeroplane Club in early 1912. His accomplishments as a model
aeroplane builder culminated in a man-carrying glider which he and
others at the club built in 1912.
Shortly before the start of the World War I Camm obtained a position
as a shop-floor carpenter at the
Martinsyde aircraft company which was
located at the Brooklands racing circuit in Weybridge, Surrey. His
ability soon led to his being promoted to the drawing office, where he
spent the war period. After the company went into liquidation in 1921,
Camm was employed by George Handasyde, who had created his own
aircraft manufacturing company, which was responsible for the creation
of the Handasyde Monoplane.
In November 1923 Camm joined the
Hawker Aircraft Company (later Hawker
Siddeley) based at Canbury Park Road in
Kingston upon Thames
Kingston upon Thames as a
senior draughtsman. His first design was the Cygnet, the success of
which led to his being appointed chief designer in 1925.
In 1925, in association with Fred Sigrist, Hawker's managing director,
Camm developed a form of metal construction, using cheaper and simpler
jointed tubes, rather than the alternative welded structure.
During his employment at Hawker he was responsible for the creation of
52 different types of aircraft, of which a total of 26,000 were
manufactured. Among his early designs were the Tomtit, Hornbill,
Nimrod, Hart and Fury. At one time in the 1930s 84 per cent of the
aircraft in the RAF were of Camm design.
He then moved on to designing aeroplanes that would become mainstays
of the RAF in the Second World War including the Hawker Hurricane,
Hawker Typhoon and Hawker Tempest.
"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
Among the engineers who worked 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
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).
Hawker Hurricane was designed by Sir Sydney Camm.
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.
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 the MAN diesel plant in
Augsburg in 1936.
A full size
Hawker Hurricane replica has been placed near the River
Thames, Windsor, to honour Sir Sydney Camm's aircraft
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 as a fighter-bomber, in which role its low level
performance, weapon-carrying capabilities and ability to absorb damage
made it very effective. It was much used in the Battle of the Falaise
Pocket, in which ground-attack aircraft proved very destructive.
German losses were so severe that most of France was retaken less than
two weeks after the conclusion of this operation.
Hawker Tempest prototype
The lessons learned from the
Hawker Typhoon were incorporated into its
successor, the Hawker Tempest. As soon as the Typhoon entered service,
Air Ministry requested a new design. Camm recommended that they
keep the existing design of the Typhoon for the most part, with
modifications to the aerofoil. He also considered the new and powerful
Napier Sabre and
Bristol Centaurus engines as the powerplant. Camm
decided that both engines would be used: the Tempest Mk 5 was fitted
with the Napier Sabre, while the Tempest Mk 2 had the Bristol
Centaurus. The design modifications to be made to the aircraft to
switch from one engine type to another were minimal, so that little
assistance was needed in ferrying these aircraft all the way to India
and Pakistan, in the final days of the conflict.
This was a higher performance development of the Tempest with a
reduced wing area, a Centaurus engine, and a considerably improved
view for the pilot. Named the Fury, only the carrier-based Hawker Sea
Fury went into service, serving with the Royal Navy from 1947 to 1955.
After the Second World War, Camm created many jet-powered designs
which would become important aircraft in the
Cold War era.
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 takeoff and landing (VTOL)
aircraft designed at Hawker Siddeley, which would later merge into
British Aerospace, now known as BAE Systems. The Harrier was one of
the radical concept aircraft which took shape in postwar Britain,
which required the coming together of many important technologies,
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, Camm was knighted for these and other
achievements and his contribution to British Aviation. 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.
Camm was President of the Royal Aeronautical Society(RAeS) from 1954
to 1955. Since 1971 the RAeS has held the biennial Sir Sydney Camm
Lecture in June, given by the current commander-in-chief of RAF Air
Full-size replica Hurricane tribute to Camm at his boyhood home at
Camm retired as chief designer at Hawker in 1965 and was succeeded by
John Fozard. He, however, remained on the board of its successor,
Hawker Siddeley until his death.
Before he died, Camm was planning the design of an aircraft to travel
at Mach 4, having begun his life in aircraft design with the building
of a man-carrying glider in 1912, just nine years after the first
In 1966, Camm was awarded the Guggenheim Gold Medal, which had to be
Camm died in his 73rd year on 12 March 1966 whilst playing golf at the
Richmond Golf Club. His body he was buried in
Long Ditton Cemetery,
Long Ditton, in the County of Surrey.
Camm lived at
Thames Ditton in Surrey. He married Hilda Starnes in
1915 and they had a daughter in 1922.
'Camm Gardens' road in
Kingston-upon-Thames was named after Sydney
Camm, with a memorial in situ to his memory of a World War 2 propeller
^ 'Sir Sidney Camm Commemorative Society' website.
^ McKinstry 2010, p. 21.
^ McKinstry 2010, p. 22.
^ "Biography of Sir Sydney Camm." The Royal Windsor Website.
Retrieved: 26 March 2015.
^ McKinstry 2010, p. 23.
^ McKinstry 2010, p. 25.
^ "A recollection by Robert Lickey, an engineer who worked for Camm at
Hawker Aircraft." Archived 26 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
Eagle.ca. Retrieved: 26 March 2015.
^ "Sydney Camm." London Gazette, 1953.
^ McKinstry 2010, p. 321.
^ Entry for Camm's grave in Findagrave.
Bader, Douglas. Fight for the Sky: The Story of the Spitfire and
Hurricane. London: Cassell Military Books, 2004.
Bowyer, Chaz. Hurricane at War. London: Ian Allen Ltd., 1974.
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.
McKinstry, Leo. Hurricane: Victor of the Battle of Britain . London:
John Murray, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84854-339-3.
Sydney Camm Commemorative Society
Hawker Typhoon and Tempest
Hawker Siddeley Harrier
Bristol Siddeley Pegasus Engine
RAeS lectures including the Syndey Camm Lectures
Memorial service in Windsor in May 2008 on YouTube
Hawker Siddeley aircraft
By project number