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British Industrial History

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Grahame-White Aviation Co

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1913.
1914.
1917.
1920. Nine-seater aero-limousine.
1920. Five-seater aero-limousine.

of Hendon Aerodrome

1911 Formed by Claude Grahame-White to cover his aviation interests, including the aerodromes and developed some aircraft. One of the designers was John Dudley North who would become Boulton and Paul's chief designer.

Manufactured a variety of models at Hendon, including the Aero-bus and the Box-kite biplane, a useful trainer which in its ultimate form in 1916 was widely used by both the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps.

1915 Listed as Aeroplane Manufacturers of London Aerodrome, Hendon and 166 Piccadilly [1]

During the war the company's principal role was to manufacture the proven designs of others. One of its staples was the workmanlike Avro 504 biplane; the company accounted for 600 of the 8430 built during the war.

WWI Maker of the Henry Farman F.20 powered by a 80 hp Gnome or Le Rhone engine. Also built:

  • School Biplane. Two seater trainer. Powered by 50 hp Gnome engine
  • Popular Biplane Type VII. Single-seat sporting biplane. Powered by 35 hp Anzani engine
  • Popular Passenger Biplane Type VIIc. Two-seater pusher biplane. Powered by 70 ho Gnome
  • Type VIII. Two-seater tractor biplane. Powered by 60 hp Anzani engine
  • Pusher Biplane. Powered by 70 hp Gnome engine
  • Type XV. Two-seater trainer. powered by 80 hp Gnome engine.

1917 the government placed a major contract for 700 DH-6 two-seater biplanes to be used as trainers to facilitate the expansion of the Royal Flying Corps. The plane was built to a rugged design and should have been easy to manufacture but it became the cause of differences between Grahame-White and the Air Board. Problems over the supply of suitable wood for the construction resulted in delays. Having borrowed heavily from both his uncle and the Admiralty to fund wartime expansion, Grahame-White faced mounting debts as his factory stood idle.

Facing bankruptcy, Grahame-White diversified into furniture and car manufacture, presumably as Grahame-White Co. He discovered a lucrative business in refurbishing war-surplus Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost chassis.

He had some success with post-war plane designs, notably the Bantam single-seater biplane, but his efforts to take a lead in the development of civil aviation were frustrated by the legacy of the wartime DH-6 fiasco and the Air Ministry's refusal to return Hendon aerodrome, which the Admiralty had requisitioned in 1914.

1924 the Treasury appointed a receiver to the Grahame-White Aviation company to recover debts.

Graham White's hangar and relocated Watchtower are now exhibition spaces and open to the public as part of the RAF Museum London.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1915 Post Office London Directory
  • Biography of Claude Grahame-White, ODNB