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Frederick Sigrist

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Frederick Sigrist (1884-1956)

In June 1912 Thomas Sopwith with Fred Sigrist and others set up The Sopwith Aviation Company.


Obituary of FREDERICK SIGRIST, M.B.E., F.R.Ae.s. [1]

It is with great regret that we record the death on December 10 at Nassau, in the Bahamas, of that well remembered pioneer and much admired personality Fred Sigrist. He was 72 years of age and had been living in retirement — compelled by ill health — since 1940.

When the Sopwith Apprentices Association reunion dinner was held in London a fortnight ago he sent a telegram with the cheerful text: "Pity we are not 40 years younger would then know better than to mess around with aeroplanes" He also generously sent a case of champagne; and through all the speeches at the dinner — not because of the gift, but from genuine admiration and good feeling — there ran a note of affection for him.

Fred Sigrist's momentous association with Sir Thomas Sopwith as chief engineer and adviser, began in 1910, and one of its first fruits was the float plane in which Howard Pixton won the Schneider Trophy in 1914 by averaging 86.8 m.p.h. over the Monaco course. This machine was engineered by Sigrist; and he it was who, working day and night, did a major job of rebuilding — including conversion of the single central float to a pair — in time for the contest.

He was in control of the vast organization to which the Sopwith concern grew during the First World War, when it produced so many famous aeroplanes, including the 1.5-Strutter, whose prototype was the "Sigrist Bus."

After the war, Sigrist took a well-earned rest, but returned to this country to become a founder member of the Hawker Aircraft Co, forerunner of today's vast Hawker Siddeley Group.

He was also associated with the formation of Reid and Sigrist, in 1927.

Fred Sigrist was formerly joint managing director of the Gloster Aircraft Co, and a director of the Sopwith Aeroplane Co, Armstrong Siddeley, A. V. Roe, Air Service Training and Armstrong Whitworth Aviation.

When in 1940 his ill-health compelled him to seek a sunnier climate, Flight wrote of him: "In the early days Sigrist had an uncanny knack of producing the best results from primitive materials, and was one of the finest engine tuners then available. He possessed great executive and organizing ability and, like Sopwith, had the happy knack of picking the right men and getting the best out of them." That tribute fittingly sums up the varied practical abilities by which he achieved success, and the personal qualities for which he was so affectionately esteemed.


An Appreciation [2]

In an appreciation of Mr. Frederick Sigrist, who died on December 10th 1956, Sir Thomas Sopwith, chairman of the Hawker Siddeley Group, writes:

"Fred Sigrist was one of the pioneers of aviation. Although his name does not appear in any Royal Aero Club list of record holders he was one of the best engineers I have ever known and because of this aviation owes a great debt to his memory. He had the priceless gift of getting the best out of all who worked with or under him, partly because he knew his job but principally, I am sure, because he was so completely genuine.

"Fred Sigrist was a Jerseyman. I first met him when he joined the crew of an auxiliary schooner as engineer in 1909. Within a year we were immersed in the early days of flying and in December 1910, largely owing to his genius in persuading our early engines to keep running, we were able to fly from Eastchurch to Belgium.

"In 1911 we started the construction of aircraft, first in a shed at Brooklands and then in a disused skating rink at Kingston. Fred Sigrist was largely responsible for the construction of the early types of biplane, one of which, the Tabloid, won the Schneider Trophy in 1914; and from them grew the line of aircraft which played such an important part in the 1914-18 war . . ."

After recounting the story (which he told at the recent Sopwith Apprentices' Dinner) of how the Tabloid floatplane was practically rebuilt in three days before the 1914 Schneider Trophy contest, Sir Thomas continues:—

"Like many other companies, we suffered the usual post-war setbacks; but eventually the H. G. Hawker Engineering Co., Ltd., was formed, and Fred Sigrist became a director. He stayed on the Board through various changes and when, in 1935, we formed the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Co., Ltd., he became one of its first two joint managing directors. Before World War II he was beginning to show signs of being unable physically to stand up to our winters, and on medical advice he retired to build a house in Nassau. I am sure he would not have survived so many years but for the fact that the climate there suited him so perfectly.

"Fred Sigrist was one of the most cosmopolitan of men. He went all over the world showing the Hawker flag and evidence of his world-wide interests is that on his death he was a member of clubs in London, Paris and New York. I last saw him six weeks ago when he was over in this country. He still suffered every now and then from heart attacks and he was very ill when he was over here. The best clue to his character that I can think of is that in the 46 years I knew him we never once had a cross word or disagreement — even when we were engaged in the temperamental business of designing and building aeroplanes. He was a great character and many of the early officers of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service will share with me the loss of a very dear friend."


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Flight Magazine of 21st December 1956
  2. Flight Magazine of 28th December 1956