Friday, 28 February 2014

Newsletter for March

In this issue we carry on with the ‘meet the team’ feature and it is the turn of Jim Munro our TV and film producer. Also an article on Harald Penrose.

 For details of our first AGM see the bottom of this newsletter

Metal has been delivered to the workshop so that cutting can now commence.

Jim Munro saw his first computer at Kidsgrove in Staffordshire in 1962 whilst doing an Electrical Engineering degree at Aberdeen University, that having been the home town of his RAF father.  Jim's career has encompassed telecommunications, computing and IT and he is currently assisting the ex Technical Director of Ofcom in an industry standards making initiative engaged on developing M2M communications using TV White Space communications.  Jim is also Executive Producer of the film 'Ghosts of the Whirlwind' which involves heavyweight professional film making assistance.
Jim's father was a mechanical engineer out of Cambridge University (& Air Squadron) who joined the RAF in 1934, flew Fairey Gordon biplanes against insurgents in the Sudan (plus ca change!) then was embedded in the Westland Whirlwind project as the aircraft neared production status. He was the Flight Commander of the first 6 WWs at Drem in September 1940 as they awaited the German invasion whilst protecting the Navy's capital ships in nearby Rosyth.  After briefly commanding 263 Sdn Whirlwinds flying out of Exeter he was promoted to take charge of the AGME at Duxford (cannons to Spitfires etc) then again (to Group Captain) when S.E. Asia Command was formed.  This entailed 3 unbroken years in India (RAF Ranchi)/Burma working alongside Earl Mountbatten, General Orde Wingate of the Chindits and latterlyAVMSir Keith Park ofBattle of Britain fame.

Rene Peters who is doing all the CAD work on the Peregrine engine sent me this, the latest rendition for inclusion in this newsletter.

With a bit of luck I may be able to get him to do a team profile for a future newsletter.

David Atkins was kind enough to send me some photographs of F/O A Torrence during his time with 137Squadron         
                  McClure, Rebbetoy, Mercer, Smith, Smith, Freeman, Furber                                           Brown, Roberts, Bryan, Van Shaick, Goghlan, Adjt, Jowitt, Doc Flynn, Walley (eng Officer)  Woodhouse, Sutherland, Brinet, Torrance, Musgrave, Samat, Paddy O’Neill.
Snailwell 1942

                                        Torrance, McClure, DeHoux, Bryan, Barnett, Ashton . 
Manston  September 1943
               Torrance while in Burma.

 18th July 1940 to 263 Squadron,  Grangemouth.  8th of February 1941 shot down of Dodman Point Cornwall.  Pilot Ken Graham Killed. Total operational hours were only 8:25hrs


There are still copies available of the print of the Whirlwind prototype. This is unframed and costs £25.00 which includes postage and packing. It is signed by the Artist Dave Gibbings MBE also in facsimile by Petter, Penrose and Davenport. 

This can be obtained from me at the address or email at the end of this article

A short history of Harold Penrose Chief test pilot on the Whirlwind.

Harald Penrose, O.B.E, CEng, F.R.Ae.S, A.M.I.N.A was chief test pilot at Westland Aircraft Ltd (from 1931 to 1953), a naval architect, and an aviation author. His flying experience spanned man carrying kites before the First World War, to early jet fighters and helicopters. He designed, built and flew his own glider in the 1930s, designed 36 boats and yachts, and wrote many books describing his flying career and the history of British aviation.

Harald James Penrose was born in Hereford on 12 April 1904. His fascination with manned flight started at an early age when his father showed him pictures of Bleriot's monoplane. He first flew aged 7 in a man-lifting kite. His first powered flight was in 1919, in a modified three seat Avro 504K, piloted by Alan Cobham.

When he left school in 1920, he was unable to find an apprenticeship in the aircraft industry, so on the advice of Frederick Handley Page, he attended the aeronautical engineering course at Northampton Engineering College London University. During a visit to de Havilland he flew in the prototype Moth as a passenger, piloted by Hubert Broad. As part of his course he undertook industrial placements working for Handley Page Ltd and Westland Aircraft Ltd.

After graduation in 1926 Penrose was employed by Westland Aircraft Ltd. He started work on the shop floor, later working as an observer for the test pilot Lawrence Openshaw, then as assistant to Capt. Geoffrey Hill supervising the construction of the Widgeon III prototype.

In 1927 he took 3 months unpaid leave and learnt to fly with Reserve of Air-Force Officers (RAFO) at Filton. There he first flew Bristol PTMs and later in a Bristol Jupiter Fighter. During this training he met Cyril Uwins after the latter's encounter with control reversal in a Bristol Bagshot. Later, Uwins would mentor Penrose in the science of flight testing and they would become good friends.

On returning to Westland he was employed working between the Works and the Design Office. Under the guidance of Westland's new test pilot, Louis Paget, Penrose became involved in test flying. He gained his A-licence which allowed him to fly as a private pilot and he flew Widgeons at weekend air displays, eventually becoming responsible for all Widgeon testing.

In 1928 he was appointed manager for civil aircraft and the managing director's (Robert Bruce) principal assistant at a salary of £400 per annum. While his main duty was the production of civil aircraft such as the Wessex he was later involved in test flying experimental Wapitis.

In 1931 he was sent to Argentina to demonstrate the Wapiti float plane but failed to secure any sales. He returned to England, took ten days leave but was recalled to Westland after Paget was injured while performing low altitude aerobatics. This accident finished Paget's career but resulted in Penrose being promoted to chief test pilot.

As Westland's Chief test pilot, Harald Penrose established a number of unusual aviation records in the 1930s. He made one of the longest emergency glides in 1933, when the Westland Wallace being prepared for the Huston Everest flight suffered a fuel pump failure at 37,500 ft. He made the first parachute escape from an aircraft with an enclosed canopy in 1934 when the Westland PV.7 suffered a structural failure during diving trials. This was his first and only decent by parachute. And in the 1930s he accumulated the most flying hours in tailless aircraft, specifically the Pterodactyl IV and V.

In amongst the test flying he found the time to design and construct (with the aid of his wife who stitched the fabric covering) the Penrose Pegasus glider. To get a performance comparison, he flew at the August 1935 BGA competition at Sutton Bank, accumulating a total of 6 hours 25 minutes. Up to the outbreak of war the Pegasus was flow at Kimmeridge when the weather was not compatible with sailing.

In the late 30s Westland developed the Lysander and the Whirlwind. Harald's first flight in the Lysander was in June 1936. This and subsequent flights identified problems that required modification to the tail, The problems with the tailplane incidence were not solved to Harald's satisfaction and may have lead to a number of fatal accidents.

Prior to flying the Whirlwind, to get experience of aircraft with high wing loadings and retractable undercarriages, Harald flew the Spitfire prototype K5054, the Fairey Battle prototype and a Bristol Blenheim. The first flight in the Whirlwind (October 1936) was unintentional when he became airborne during a straight high speed run, The early test flights were uneventful but in early 1939 a fractured exhaust burnt through the right aileron push rod at 200 ft, requiring instinctive action. This incident caused Teddy Petter to design a less aerodynamic but safer exhaust system.

As a reserve officer in the RAF, Penrose expected to be called up at the start of the war. However, at 36 and with valuable experience of test flying he was turned down by the RAF's personnel department. Instead, he returned to Lysander and Whirlwind development.

There were plans to use the Lysander for ground strafing during an invasion or as a night fighter. He tested various modified Lysanders fitted with gun turrets, including the tandem wing Lysander fitted with a tail gun turret.

In January 1942 he tested the last production Whirlwind, by then the main work at Westland was manufacturing Spitfires and Penrose was responsible for their production test flying.

During the war, Penrose had three encounters with the Messerschmitt 109. In first occasion he was testing a production Whirlwind, when emerging from cloud, he realized he was on a collision course with a Messerschmitt and slammed the Whirlwind nose back into the cloud. On the second, he was with his family sailing their dinghies 'Tittermouse' and 'Tiddlywinks, when they were buzzed by a low flying German. However, in 1943 he flew a captured aircraft being tested by Rolls Royce. In his memoir he described how he 'froze on the controls and flew very, very straight' when he was intercepted by a RAF Spitfire.

Based on the Whirlwind, Westland developed the Welkin high altitude interceptor, Penrose flying the prototype in November 1942. He described how the cabin was 'like sitting in an oven' due to the unshielded cabin pressurisation blowers. He developed pneumonia in early 1943 which he attributed to the extreme changes in temperature on leaving the Welkins cabin drenched in sweat and the bitter wind across the airfield. He survived thanks to the recently discovered M&B drug. As a result of this illness Petter devised a better method for cooling the cabin. Penrose contrasted the arctic conditions in the open cockpits of the PV.3/Wallace during the high altitude flights with the 'delightfully warm' cabin of the Welkin, describing these flights as the 'peak of experience'.

In the summer of 1945, he flew a Gloster Meteor as a guest of 616 Squadron. He described it as 'far easier and safer machine than that superb fighter the Spitfire'. But the experience was marred during landing by uncertainty that the undercarriage had locked down while simultaneously running low on fuel.


After the war, Penrose led the flight testing of the Westland Wyvern. No other contemporary aircraft proved so lethal as the Wyvern. He attributed its problems to underdeveloped power plants in conjunction with a high wing loading and would later describe it as "one of those very nearly very good machines".

On 12 December 1946, he made the first flight in the Eagle engined prototype . This flight was uneventful, but early in 1947 he was forced to land it at grass airstrip at RAF Warmwell after an engine failure, narrowly missing a hidden concrete block. Other Westland test pilots were not so lucky. Sqn. Ldr. Peter Garner was killed on 15 October 1947 after the failure of the contra-rotating propeller bearing and Sqn. Ldr. Mike Graves was killed on 31 October 1949 after an engine failure in the Python powered prototype. Extraordinarily, Penrose's luck held out and he survived three further emergency landings, one in the summer of 1947 due to an aileron push rod failure, one in October 1951 due to hydraulic failure, the third in February 1952 after an engine failure. It was probably attention to detail (such as wire locking the harness release lock) rather than luck that allowed Harald Penrose to pursue 25 years of test flying in reasonable safety.

Under the encouragement of Arthur Davenport and Teddy Petter, Westland's had a long history with rotorcraft starting with the Cierva C.29. In preparation for this work Penrose took an autogyro conversion course at Cierva's Hanworth Air park in 1933, during which he added 10 hours of autogyro flying to his commercial licence. However, neither the Cierva C.29 or its successor the C.30 were successful and Penrose did not fly either of them. In 1944 when Westlands were considering post war business opportunities, Penrose suggested to Davenport that they cash in on their earlier experience of rotorcraft and investigate helicopters.
Subsequently he flew the Sikorsky S-51 under the supervision of Charles 'Sox' Hosegood. While he believed that he could assimilate the piloting techniques because of his earlier experience with autogyros he thought it was wise to get tuition from more experienced pilots, hence Westlands employed Alan Bristow to train Penrose and Peter Garner. Penrose went solo in the Sikorsky S-51 in 1947. In comparison with the Wyvern his flights in helicopters were infrequent, far less arduous and far less risky.
In 1953 after 25 years of testing Harald retired from the role of chief test pilot to take over Westland's helicopter sales.
Harald demonstrated a talent for writing at an early age, winning his school's premier prize for literature. His early books drew on personal experiences, such as I Flew with the Birds (1949), No Echo in the Sky (1958), and Airymouse (1967), In his later works he wrote about the history of the British aircraft industry: Architect of Wings (1985), a biography of the Avro designer Roy Chadwick, Wings across the World (1980), a history of British Airways, and a five-volume history of British aviation.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the above article.

The first AGM of the Whirlwind Fighter Project will be held at

The Premier Inn Hotel.  
Alvington Lane,
Brympton d'Evercy, 
BA22 8UX

The meeting will be held in the Conference room on the 24th of May 2014

The meeting will start at 11:00hrs followed by a break for lunch and then resume at 14:00hrs with a talk on the project by Patrice Moreau followed by The Eye of the Storrm' - Westland' the fixed wing years and Quo Vadis a talk by Dave Gibbings.

We are looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

If you have any articles you would like to include please contact me on this email

The Secretary, 57 Bramblefield Lane, Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10 2SX.

                        Copyright Whirlwind Fighter Project 2011-2014

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