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British Industrial History

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Reginald Kirshaw Pierson

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Reginald Kirshaw "Rex" Pierson CBE (1891–1948) was an English aircraft designer and chief designer at Vickers, later Vickers-Armstrongs. He was responsible for the Vickers Vimy heavy bomber during World War 1 and the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic non-stop; he was also chief designer of the Vickers Wellington bomber of World War 2.

1891 February 9th. Born at Little Fransham, Norfolk, the son of the Reverend Kirshaw T. Pierson and his wife Helen Mary

Educated at the Felsted School in Essex.

1908 Although his father wanted him to work in a bank, young Rex started an apprenticeship in with Vickers at Erith.

1911 As soon as the company started an aircraft section in 1911 he joined that part of the company and learned to fly.

1913 He gained the Royal Aero Club Aviators's certificate number 660 on 14 October 1913 at Brooklands.

By 1917 he was the chief aircraft designer at Vickers based in its Knightsbridge offices in London.

1917 he designed the twin-engined Vickers Vimy biplane heavy bomber which entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1919. One Vimy made the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by Alcock and Brown in June 1919.

Among his many other designs were the Vickers Vespa which held the world altitude record in 1932 and the Vickers Wellesley which held the world long distance record in 1938.

He was also chief designer of the Vickers Wellington twin-engined bomber which formed the backbone of RAF Bomber Command in WW2 and of which nearly 11,500 were built between 1936 and 1945.

1946 Pierson was promoted to chief engineer. Postwar designs included the Viking, Valetta and Viscount. His successor as chief designer was the talented engineer and industrial leader Sir George Edwards.

1948 January 10th. Pierson died after a long illness at his home in Cranleigh, Surrey aged 56.

His name and achievements are commemorated by an annual 'R. K. Pierson Lecture' held by the Royal Aeronautical Society (Weybridge Branch) at Brooklands Museum, usually in November. The museum also displays a unique collection of aircraft produced by the Vickers design team led by Pierson and Edwards from 1917-60


1948 Obituary [1]



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