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Sydney Camm: Hurricane and Harrier Designer (ePub)

Saviour of Britain

Aviation > Aircraft > Spitfires & Hurricanes Aviation > Royal Air Force Aviation > WWII > Battle of Britain Military > Biographies Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War P&S History > British History WWII

By John Sweetman
Imprint: Air World
File Size: 5.0 MB (.epub)
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 24
ISBN: 9781526756237
Published: 24th July 2019


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‘This Man Saved Britain’ ran a headline in the News Chronicle on 18 February 1941, in a reference to the role of Sydney Camm, designer of the Hawker Hurricane, during the Battle of Britain. Similarly, the Minister of Economic Warfare, Lord Selborne, advised Winston Churchill that to Camm ‘England owed a great deal’.

Twenty-five years later, following his death in 1966, obituaries in the Sunday Express and Sunday Times, among other tributes, referred to ‘Hurricane Designer’ or ‘Hurricane Maker’, implying that this machine represented the pinnacle of Camm’s professional achievement. Sir Thomas Sopwith, the respected aircraft designer and Hawker aircraft company founder, believed that Camm deserved much wider recognition, being ‘undoubtedly the greatest designer of fighter aircraft the world has ever known.’

Born in 1893, the eldest of twelve children, Camm was raised in a small, terraced house. Despite lacking the advantages of a financially-secure upbringing and formal technical education after leaving school at 14, Camm would go on to become one of the most important people in the story of Britain’s aviation history.

Sydney Camm’s work on the Hurricane was far from the only pinnacle in his remarkable career in aircraft design and engineering – a career that stretched from the biplanes of the 1920s to the jet fighters of the Cold War. Indeed, over fifty years after his death, the revolutionary Hawker Siddeley Harrier in which Camm played such a prominent figure, following ‘a stellar performance in the Falkland Island crisis’, still remains in service with the American armed forces.

It is perhaps unsurprising therefore, as the author reveals in this detailed biography, that Camm would be knighted in his own country, receive formal honours in France and the United States, and be inducted into the International Hall of Fame in San Diego.

John Sweetman is to be congratulated on the very readable but detailed memoir of the ‘Man who Saved Britain’! This volume is a must for library of anyone with an interest in aviation history.

Martin Willoughby, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

A well-presented account, in which this reader readily became absorbed and thoroughly recommends.

Read the review here

Royal Aeronautical Society

Sidney’s formative years and later his social and family life, are woven in combination with his career in design and aeronautics. The role of the Hurricane in the Second World War may have been underestimated in comparison with the Spitfire, but this book clearly and quite rightly revises such sentiments and places it at the forefront as a combat fighter aircraft. The author has achieved in this biography an outstanding contribution to aviation history and to the memory of Sir Sidney Camm CBE, FRAeS.

Roger Coleman, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

This is a useful biography of one of the most important figures in the British aviation industry, someone whose career began soon after the first manned flight and ended with the Harrier jump jet.

Read the full review here

History of War

I enjoyed learning much about the great man's unexalted early life in Windsor. There is much to learn here about the birth of the Hurricane and the tribulations of being an aircraft designer caught up in the national and aircraft industry politics of the post-war period.

Battle of Britain Memorial Trust Website

A well-researched and informative bio.

Read the full review here

Vintage Airfix

This is an excellent, well-researched and highly readable book – not that one would expect anything less of John Sweetman – who members may recall gave a talk in May 2001 to the Ulster Aviation Society about his book on the Dambusters. Highly recommended.

Ulster Aviation Society

This book is a quality read with a wealth of research into the man, the environment in which he worked, and the decades during which he made such exceptional contributions.

Gary Connor, Air Power History, Summer 2020

John Sweetman’s new biography ably recounts the life of one of the most remarkable figures in 20th-century aviation history

Aviation History

John Sweetman’s new biography ably recounts the life of one of the most remarkable figures in 20th-century aviation history, whose career began during the era of wood-and-fabric biplanes and ended in that of advanced supersonic jets and who can arguably claim a share of credit for that progress.

Aviation History magazine, May 2020 – reviewed by Robert Guttman

"A good read, that comes recommended."

As featured in

Aeroplane, February 2020

John Sweetman's excellent book at last fills a major gap in the published histories of British aviation, in particular, Hawker Aircraft Ltd. There have been previous books on Camm but they were more about his designs than the man. This book concentrates on the man, his family life, how he worked with his staff at Kingston, how he collaborated with senior engineers at suppliers, such as Bristol Engines and Roll-Royce, and how he used his reputation to persuade officials in the UK government ministries and armed forces to support his projects.

All of Camm's life is covered from his birth in Windsor to his death at Richmond Golf Club; from the Windsor Model Aeroplane Club, through his apprenticeship and work with Martin and Handasyde Aviation, to the HG Hawker Engineering Co, Hawker Aircraft Ltd and Hawker Siddeley Aviation. The author has clearly carried out several years of meticulous research, as the eight page bibliography testifies. He has spoken to Camm's relatives and to people who worked for him, he has read letters and papers in private collections and has referred to books, published and unpublished material and to newspapers, periodicals and journals - no stone has been left unturned.

This well produced, 320 page book is essential reading for those interested in aviation history and the men who made Britain a world leader in aircraft design and innovation. As John Sweetman shows, Camm's work was crucial to the survival of Britain, and therefore of western democracy, in the second world war.

Amazon UK Review

As featured on History Hit

History Hit

In summary, this is an informative; thoroughly researched and engaging account of how Britain’s fortunes were inextricably linked to Sydney Camms’ vision and strength of character to bring the promise of the Hawker Hurricane to fruition against a conservative and vacillating Air Ministry.

The Author’s reassessment of the Hurricane is particularly welcome in this regard, and whilst the moniker of “Saviour of Britain” sat uneasily with Camm, it is hard to argue against the pivotal qualitative and quantitative role played by his most famous machine at a time when Britain stood alone, anticipating Nazi invasion.

Read the full review here

Donna's Book Blog

As featured by

Berkshire Life, October 2019

As featured in

IPMS Magazine, October 2019

As featured in

Battle of Britain Historical Society

Sydney Camm has never received the attention he richly deserved. This new book goes a very long way to rectifying the omissions of historians – Most Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here


The 1940s weekend in Sheringham this year used to have a Battle of Britain flypast involving at least a Spitfire and a Lancaster Bomber. This year, we had a Spitfire on Saturday and a Hurricane on Sunday. Hurricanes are, of course,m more rare than Spitfires nowadays, and we were extremely privileged to see one close up, flying over the town and along the coast. John Sweetman looks at the pioneering designer, Sydney Camm and examines his legacy, which was the design of two of our most iconic fighter planes, the Hurricane and the Harrier. Brilliant!

Books Monthly

Informative, insightful and in-depth.

Watch the full video review here

Scale Modelling Now

Featured in

Royal Aeronautical Society

Click here to listen to author interview

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BBC Radio Devon with presenter David FitzGerald, 18th September 2019

A very well-written and readable book... it is likely that this volume will have wide reader appeal. Aviation Historians may find it of use, as might Military Historians with in interest in military aviation. Aviation enthusiasts with an interest on the Hawker Hurricane, the aircraft of the Hawker-Siddeley Group and British Military Aviation might also find it worthy of their attention. The presence of a small number of aircraft images within the photo section might also interest aircraft modellers.

Keith Rimmer, NZ Crown Mines

Click here to listen to author interview

NOTE: set cursor to 9:40

BBC Radio Berkshire with presenter Sarah Walker, 29th August 2019

About John Sweetman

JOHN SWEETMAN’s many publications include The Schweinfurt Raids and Oil Strike – Ploesti describing American raids, Cavalry of the CloudsThe Dambusters Raid and Tirpitz – Hunting the Beast about British air operations during the two world wars over Europe. Married with two sons and four grandchildren, he lives in Camberley.

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