Sydney Camm was the chief designer for the firm Hawker. Sydney Camm is most associated with the production of the legendary Hurricane – a plane that played such an important part in the Battle of Britain and in other theatres in World War Two.

Hawker Hurricane

Camm was born in 1893 in Windsor. He developed an early interest in aeronautics and, when old enough, joined the Windsor Model Aeroplane Club. In 1912, he and others in the club, made a glider that could carry a man. Just  a few years later, planes were used in World War One – still crude machines but ones that were improving all the time.

In 1925, Camm joined the Hawker Company as a designer. Based in Kingston-on-Thames in Surrey, the firm was to produce some of the most famous planes in World War Two – the Hurricane, Typhoon and Tempest being the most celebrated. In the early 1930’s, many still put their faith in biplanes but Camm became convinced that monoplanes were the future and he worked on this idea regardless of what others thought.

Camm had a simple philosophy with regards to plane design. His first belief was to actually know what was required – to have an obvious target to aim for. He also believed that a design company had to work closely with its engine company so that the airframe and engine married together perfectly. Camm also believed in keeping things simple in design and also not to stray outside of the knowledge that he and his team had. He believed that the best designs would always come from using the expertise of his design team, and primarily himself, and that untried theories etc would take him away from this belief.

Those who worked with Camm remembered him as a driven man. He became Hawker’s chief designer and gained a reputation for not suffering fools.

“He had no other interests but his aeroplanes. 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. 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”  Robert Lickley, who worked with Camm at Hawker.

The success of some of his planes is legendary, primarily the Hurricane that shot down more planes than any other in World War Two. The Typhoon had a devastating impact as a low-level attack plane.

Hawker Typhoon

After the war, Hawker and Camm was involved in the Hawker Hunter, and early versions on the Harrier jump-jet. Just before he died, Camm was also involved with work on the plane that was to become the Tornado.

Sydney Camm was knighted for his work in 1953. He died in March 1966.

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