Newsletter 15
? Winter 2006
Updated on 9Dec2006
Aviation Heritage Project
Dunsfold Wings & Wheels
Female Angle
Flight Test from a Desk
Harrier News
Hawk News
Graduate Apprentices
Hawker People News
Hugh Merewether
  1924 - 2006, Test Pilot
  Flight Development
  Faster, Higher, Further
  Spinning With Hugh
JSF Progress
Sea Furies at Reno
Sea Harrier ZA195
Sea Hawk Recovered
Sir Sydney & Sir George
Sopwith & Bradshaw
Summer's Day at Dunsfold
Vulcan to the Skies
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

Don Williams, author of 'The Great No. 1 Factory at Kingston, Surrey' (see Newsletter Number 6 for review), puts some questions...

One of Sopwith's undoubted strengths was his ability to choose not only reliable members of staff  but also business associates. But did he make a mistake with Granville Bradshaw?

Bradshaw's reputation as an engineer, businessman and human has suffered from the freedom of historians to besmirch the deceased, sometimes on flimsy evidence. It has been suggested that, despite Bradshaw's OBE, his apparent acceptability to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers as late as 1945, and the certainty of his many engineering achievements, he was a plausible rogue.

Sopwith and Granville Bradshaw

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However, it is clear that, from 1911 when Sopwith bought a small ABC engine made by Bradshaw at Brooklands, Sopwith and then Harry Hawker held Bradshaw in high regard. This happy relationship must still have been extant in 1920 when the Kingston factory began to make ABC motorcycles. At that time Sopwith had been aware of, and seemingly in at least tacit approval of, Bradshaw's Dragonfly engine for over two years. Yet it is the Dragonfly engine which is cited most often by Bradshaw's detractors.

The prototype Dragonfly, a big twenty-three litre, nine cylinder static radial, was built by Guy Motors of Wolverhampton and the writer, who was employed by Guy Motors when Sydney Guy was still its chief, finds it difficult to believe the Company would willingly have become involved in a project obviously a dud.

Yes, in July 1921, it was a Dragonfly that powered the Nieuport Goshawk biplane in which poor Hawker died, but the engine fire which crash witnesses described was due, not to Bradshaw's basic design, but to one of the engine's three carburettors having shed its float chamber. LK Blackmore in his book "Hawker", describing Hawker's last flight does not emphasise Bradshaw's overall responsibility for the engine's bought-out ancillaries, but he seems to have been open to censure.

Did such censure come from Sopwith? Or did Sopwith overlook the carburettor failure and accept that the fire had been blown out in the (intentional?) dive reported and that the aircraft could still have been landed had Hawker not at that moment suffered paralysis of his legs due to the bursting of a long-existing abscess on his spine?

Eighty-five years have passed but only seventeen since Sopwith died, so it is still possible that someone in the Hawker Association has the answer. Two reputations are involved: Sopwith's for his choice of associates, and Bradshaw's already tarnished image. Unlike Sopwith's feelings the subsequent history of the Dragonfly is well documented. It is a story of major modifications, thought worthwhile by other than its designer, and decline in demand for which Bradshaw can hardly be blamed.