Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,937 pages of information and 233,602 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

William Edward Willoughby Petter

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

William Edward Willoughby Petter (1908-1968) known as Teddy was a British aircraft designer.

1908 born on 8 August at Highgate, Middlesex, the oldest in the family of Ernest Willoughby Petter (1873–1954), co-founder of Petters Ltd and his wife, Angela Emma (d. 1934), daughter of Henry Petter of Calcutta.

Educated at Marlborough College and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a first class in the mechanical sciences tripos in 1929 and shared the John Bernard Seely prize in aeronautics.

Joined Westland Aircraft Works, a subsidiary of Petters Ltd

1932 After two and a half years as a graduate apprentice, he became personal assistant to the managing director, Robert Bruce, in 1932.

1932 he married Claude Marguerite Juliette (d. 1975), daughter of Louis Munier of Geneva; they had three daughters.

1934 When Sir Ernest Petter decided that his son should be co-opted onto the board of directors of Westland Aircraft Works as technical director, Bruce and several other members of the firm resigned.

1935 Westland Aircraft Works was detached from its parent company, becoming Westland Aircraft Ltd.

At first the Air Ministry lacked confidence in Petter's designs because of his youth and inexperience. However, powerful friends, such as Roy Fedden, convinced the Ministry of Petter's technical brilliance, and Westland was invited to tender for an army co-operation aircraft. From this came the Lysander; between 1935 and 1942 more than 1400 were built at Yeovil.

To cope with the production of the Lysanders, Petter successfully challenged his father's proposal that the firm should merge with British Marine Aircraft Ltd, and instead built a large new assembly shop in Yeovil.

1938 When John Brown Ltd took over Westland, Teddy Petter remained as technical director.

WWII Designs included the Whirlwind, a four-cannon fighter, with the first planes delivered in 1940, and the Welkin, a high altitude fighter, accepted in 1941.

1944 Petter resigned from Westland Aircraft Ltd after failing to obtain the board's agreement to his taking responsibility for production as well as design.

Appointed chief engineer of the aircraft division of English Electric Co in Preston, he was allowed to take his design for a twin-engined jet fighter bomber with him.

1946 Petter's design won a Ministry of Supply contract for four prototypes of what later was called the Canberra.

Petter's other important design for English Electric was a supersonic fighter, with swept back wings, which developed into the Lightning.

1950 Petter resigned, just as he had done from Westland, because he found it difficult to work with colleagues in other departments and wanted to be in charge of production as well as design, and to have his own experimental shop.

Joined Folland Aircraft Ltd as chief engineer, taking several members of his English Electric team with him[1]

1954 After the death of Henry Folland, Petter became managing director. At Follands he designed a small jet fighter, the Gnat, and also the Midge

1962 Petter resigned when Folland Aircraft was taken over by the Hawker Siddeley Group, and left the aircraft industry altogether.

1968 Petter died in Beruges, France, on 1 May

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 17 October 1950
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Biography of W. E. W. Petter. ODNB [2]