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British Industrial History

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George Edwards (1908-2003)

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Sir George Robert Edwards (1908-2003), aircraft designer and industrialist

1908 born in Walthamstow, Essex, the son of Edwin George Edwards, a tobacconist and confectioner, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth nee Freeman. His mother died shortly after his birth.

Educated at Walthamstow Technical Institute Engineering and Trade School; took a part-time University of London engineering degree course.

1928 Technical engineer in the London docks.

Associate member of the Institution of Structural Engineers

1935 he married Marjorie Annie (Dinah) Thurgood. They had one daughter.

1935 Joined Vickers (Aviation) Ltd at Weybridge, Surrey, working under Rex Pierson and Barnes Wallis, chief designer and chief structures designer respectively.

The first aircraft types on which Edwards worked were the G4/31 military, general-purpose, biplane and monoplane prototypes , forerunners of the single-engine Wellesley bomber, which embodied Wallis's intricate lightweight geodetic form of airframe construction.

Soon he became a group leader; his first main responsibility was the design of the tail unit on the Vickers B9/32 prototype, the forerunner of the Wellington and Warwick twin-engine geodetic bombers.

WW2 Devised a means of destroying magnetic mines, a 48 foot duralumin ring mounted underneath a Wellington aircraft. Edwards had to report progress with photographs every night to the then first lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. The device was successfully deployed in the Thames estuary, and later in the Suez Canal, Mediterranean harbours, and the Near East, until degaussing of ships' hulls and minesweeping were developed.

Appointed experimental manager of Vickers-Armstrongs. Established an autonomous dispersal facility at Foxwarren Park, nearby. His principal projects were: the construction of the prototypes of the F7/41 "Metal Mosquito" twin-engine, high-speed, high-altitude fighter, Vickers's first stressed-skin aircraft design; the big, four-engine Windsor geodetic bomber; the high-altitude, pressure-cabin Wellington; the Whittle Wellington jet engine test-bed aircraft; and the prototype of the immediate post-war Viking civil airliner adaptation of the Wellington. Also responsible for the development of Barnes Wallis's bouncing bombs and other special war weapons.

1940–41 Part-time secondment to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, as part of a team to accelerate the development and production of new types of British and American aircraft in other British aircraft factories.

His interest in cricket led to him proposing "back-spin" be applied to Barnes Wallis's "dambusting" bombs to achieve the sustained bouncing effect.

1945 Appointed chief designer.

1945 Appointed MBE

Post-WWII He was a member of the Farren mission collecting research information from Germany.

Vickers, largely at his instigation, embraced all-metal, stressed-skin airframe construction and the gas-turbine engine. Aircraft developed under Edwards' technical direction included the Vickers Viking, Valetta, Varsity, Viscount, Valiant, Vanguard, VC10, and Super VC10. He played a major part in winning acceptance for the Viscount from BEA.

1953 he was appointed a director, general manager, and chief engineer, before becoming managing director of Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd later that year.

Met BOAC's requirement for an aircraft for the medium-range routes to Africa and the Far East with the design of the VC10 and Super VC10; the VC10 was the largest aircraft type ever to go into series production in Britain.

1957 Knighted

1960 When Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd was incorporated into the new British Aircraft Corporation, Edwards was initially appointed Executive Director (Aircraft).

1963 Became chairman and managing director of BAC (Operating), managing director of BAC (Holdings)

1968 Became chairman of BAC. Elected to Royal Society.

1975 retired.

2003 Died in Guildford.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of George