Sunday, 23 January 2011


Mr North has an excellent video of the TSR2 which I had not seen before, I shall re-post it here because I simply love this aeroplane which was so viciously clawed from us in what must be one of the lowest points in the 'special relationship' ever seen, at least to my mind (or at the very least in engineering terms).

Here is another very very long piece I wrote some time ago, on the TSR2, which is well worth the read if you are interested in aeronautics. One thing is for sure, Britain does some quite frankly amazing engineering, quite unmatched in any other country in the world. Unfortunately we also have the drawback of creating arguably the worst kind of politicians a country could ever have or need.


dak said...

I worked at Ferranti in Edinburgh for a few months in 1981. A lot of people there had worked on the TSR2 project and were still very angry about the way it had been cancelled.

I read your previous article as well, very good.

13th Spitfire said...

Really? That is very interesting, have you written anything on your time there? Would be very interested in reading about that.

Oh why thank you, very kind. Unfortunately our government seems to be doing the same thing now...

dak said...

Strictly speaking I'm not allowed to write anything about my time there as it's covered by the Official Secrets Act. I hadn't actually even thought about doing so, although now you've mentioned it there may be a posting on my own blog at some point. Ferranti was a great place to work, many really good people, but it was subsumed into the GEC Marconi empire, which is now such a might force in the global avionics market (not).

One of the to-be recurring themes on my own blog is the debasement of British engineering since the middle of the 20th century and this would fit in with that. In fact the next post is about the new Forth Bridge, following on from one I did recently bemoaning the projected cost.

13th Spitfire said...

Hmm, I hope you can get around it and frame it in such a way as to not impinge on the requirements of your contract. It would be very helpful if anyone could give an account of that period, not in the least for young people like myself (I am twenty something) who know little of that era, more than the scraps we manage to pick up from various forums and whatnot on the internet.

GEC Marconi is now BAE Systems if I am not mistaken, with the electronics part being taken over my Ericsson of Sweden. BAE is not as massive ad Boeing or Airbus, granted but would you not agree that they are not doing too badly (bar Nimrod of course..). Perhaps that is not what you meant?

I think or at least I hope that is in reverse, mostly because I think the nation has awoken to the fact that it is not viable for a nation to have as its main source of income the shifting around of imaginary pieces of paper whilst calling it money. It is good sub industry but it should not be the main one. We know that we can make as good if not better stuff than Germany, we have just lost our direction a bit. But this will probably come back I reckon, Mr Gove appears keen to reverse the fucktard decision made by Labour and Major. Which is good. British engineering companies are still world leaders in many fields, even though they get comparatively little help from the government. We are very creative and that will never end.

Anonymous said...

You're probably right in saying that Marconi/BAe is not doing too badly now, but nor are they British – their taxes are paid in Stockholm.

Don't be too hard on John Major, he was just carrying on the policies of Margaret Thatcher, who saw the demise of manufacturing as simple collateral damage in her fight against the unions. The 1970's are often derided as a decade of industrial strife, but if you look at the trade figures we were holding our own. The last time the UK balance of trade in goods was positive was 1984. Labour, however, were an unmitigated disaster and we now lose more every month than we ever did in any year under the previous Tory government.

Have you chosen a “hard” industry as a career? It sounds like it and, if so, I'm impressed. We desperately need more young people in the real wealth creating sectors. I'm 50 now so reasonably well on in my career, but I still love it.

As for the OSA – I'm not too worried about it and I might just write a short memoir of my time at Crewe Toll. Defence contracts then were still of the “cost-plus” variety, so life was quite relaxed. I worked with a lot of excellent craftsmen and very clever engineers and learned a lot in a short time. I am sure that if I was to mention that many of the prototype circuit boards for the Tornado fighter's ground -mapping radar were cleaned by me using soapy water and a nail brush in the gents' toilet, or that one of the major contributions made by one of our US electronics consultants was to accidentally destroy a trolley with a sledge hammer while assembling it no-one would worry too much.

One amusing aspect that sticks in the memory is that Ferranti always gave a certain type of project a code name beginning “Blue”, followed by the name of a bird. I think ours was officially “Blue Parrot” and we had “Blue Kestrel”, “Blue Hawk”, etc. Management being what it always is, was a bit short of imagination and never realised that the “Blue Tit” project would be forever known internally as “FN” (“Frigid Nipple”). In those more relaxed days no-one batted an eyelid, but nowadays the thought commissars would be organising re-education sessions.

dak said...

Above comment is by dak, although submission system seems to have become a bit confused, sorry.