Geoffrey De Havilland OM CBE AFC RDI FRAes

British aviation pioneer and aircraft engineerCaptain Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, OM, CBE, AFC, RDI, FRAeS, was born 27 July 1882 . His Mosquito has been considered the most versatile warplane ever built. Geoffrey de Havilland’s first aircraft took two years to build before he crashed it during its first very short flight at Seven Barrows near Litchfield, Hampshire in 1910. A memorial marks the event. Subsequent designs were more successful: in 1912 he established a new British altitude record of 10,500 feet (3.2 km) in an aircraft of his design, the B.E.2. De Havilland was the designer and his brother Hereward the test pilot.In December 1910, de Havilland joined HM Balloon Factory at Farnborough, which was to become the Royal Aircraft Factory. He sold his second aeroplane (which he had used to teach himself to fly) to his new employer for £400. It became the F.E.1, the first aircraft to bear an official Royal Aircraft Factory designation. For the next three years de Havilland designed, or participated in the design of, a number of experimental types at the “Factory”.In January 1914, de Havilland was appointed an inspector of aircraft in the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. Unhappy at leaving design work, in May he was recruited to become the Chief Designer at Airco, in Hendon. He designed many aircraft for Airco, all designated by his initials, DH. Large numbers of de Havilland designed aircraft were used during the First World War, flown by the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force.Airco was bought by the BSA Company, but BSA was only interested in using the company factories for car production.

Raising £20,000, de Havilland bought the relevant assets he needed and in 1920 formed the de Havilland Aircraft Company at Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware, where he and his company designed and built a large number of aircraft, including the Moth family. In 1933 the company moved to Hatfield Aerodrome, in Hertfordshire. One of his roles was as test pilot for the company’s aircraft, in all of which he liked to fly. He was believed to have said “we could have had jets” in reference to the ignoring of jet engine possibilities prior to the start of the 1939-45 world war.The company’s aircraft, particularly the Mosquito, played a formidable role in the Second World War.Until it was bought by the Hawker Siddeley Company in 1960, de Havilland controlled the company.

800px-De_Havilland_Comet_RAF_Museum_CosfordGeoffrey De Havilland also developed and built the The de Havilland DH 106 Comet which was the first production commercial  ljetliner  at its Hatfield,Hertfordshire, United Kingdom headquarters, the Comet 1 prototype first flew on 27 July 1949. It featured an aerodynamically clean design with four de Havilland Ghost turbojet engines buried in the wings, a pressurised fuselage, and large square windows. For the era, it offered a relatively quiet, comfortable passenger cabin and showed signs of being a commercial success at its 1952 debut.A year after entering commercial service the Comets began suffering problems, with three of them breaking up during mid-flight in well-publicised accidents. This was later found to be due to catastrophic metal fatigue, not well understood at the time, in the airframes. The Comet was withdrawn from service and extensively tested to discover the cause; the first incident had been incorrectly blamed on adverse weather. Design flaws, including dangerous stresses at the corners of the square windows and installation methodology, were ultimately identified; consequently the Comet was extensively redesigned with oval windows, structural reinforcement and other changes. Rival manufacturers meanwhile heeded the lessons learned from the Comet while developing their own aircraft.Although sales never fully recovered, the improved Comet 2 and the prototype Comet 3 culminated in the redesigned Comet 4 series which debuted in 1958 and had a productive career of over 30 years. The Comet was adapted for a variety of military roles such as VIP, medical and passenger transport, as well as surveillance; the most extensive modification resulted in a specialisedmaritime patrol aircraft variant, the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod. Nimrod remained in service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) until June 2011, over 60 years after the Comet’s first flight.

Geoffrey, de Havilland retired from active involvement in his company, in 1955, though remaining as president. He continued flying up to the age of 70.He died aged 82, of a cerebral haemorrhage, on 21 May 1965 at Watford Peace Memorial Hospital, Hertfordshire.

Throughout his life De Havilland garnered many awards. In 1918, de Havilland was made an OBE and CBE in 1934. He received the Air Force Cross in 1919, in recognition of his service in theFirst World War, and was knighted in 1944. He was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1962. He received numerous national and international gold and silver medals and honorary fellowships of learned and engineering societies.A statue of de Havilland was erected in July 1997 near the entrance to the College Lane campus of the University of Hertfordshire inHatfield. He was in effect a benefactor of the university, as in 1951 the de Havilland company had given land adjoining the A1 toHertfordshire County Council for educational use in perpetuity; the Hatfield Technical College then founded was a precursor of today’s university. The statue was unveiled by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh.

Happy birthday Robert Rankin

Having read a couple of his novels whilst in hospital I thought I would do a post on prolific British humorous novelist Robert Fleming Rankin who was born 27th July 1949. He started writing in the late 1970s, and first entered the bestsellers lists with Snuff Fiction in 1999, by which time his previous eighteen books had sold around one million copies. His books are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, the occult, urban legends, running gags, metafiction, steampunk and outrageous characters.

According to the (largely fictional) biography printed in some Corgi editions of his books, Rankin refers to his style as ‘Far Fetched Fiction’ in the hope that bookshops will let him have a section to himself. Many of Rankin’s books are bestsellers.Most of Rankin’s books are set in Brentford, a suburb of London where the author grew up, and which, in his novels, is usually infested with alien conspiracies and/or ancient evil.In addition to his novels, Rankin held a position as the Writer in Residence of Brentford’s Watermans Arts Centre during the 1980s, and organised a regular poetry event there which he claims was the largest in Britain. He also has performed on stage with a variety of bands.Named after Rankin’s fixation with the vegetable, there is a fan club called The Order of the Golden Sprout who maintain a web site and arrange events, many around Brentford In 2009 he was created the first Fellow of The Victorian Steampunk Society in recognition of his unique contribution to the genre.

Happy Birthday Jack Higgins

Prolific UK novelist Jack Higgins was born 27 July 1929 Higgins is the principal pseudonym of Harry Patterson and he is the author of more than 6novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers fvarious types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers. The Eagle Has Landed sold over fifty million copies. Patterson was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland, with his mother after his parents’ marriage foundered, and was raised there amid religious and political violence. First in Belfast and later in Leeds, Patterson proved to be an indifferent student and left school without completing his studies.

He found a home in the British Army, however, and served two years as a non-commissioned officer in the Household Cavalry (the Blues and Royals) on the East German border during the 1950s. Patterson found, during his military service, that he possessed both considerable sharpshooting skills and considerable intelligence (scoring 147 on an army intelligence test. Patterson’s early novels, were written under his own name as well as under the pseudonyms James Graham, Martin Fallon, and Hugh Marlowe, and are brisk, competent, but essentially forgettable thrillers that typically feature hardened, cynical heroes, ruthless villains, and dangerous locales. Patterson published thirty-five such novels (sometimes three or four a year) between 1959 and 1974, learning his craft. East of Desolation (1968), A Game for Heroes (1970) and The Savage Day (1972) stand out among his early work for their vividly drawn settings (Greenland, the Channel Islands, and Belfast, respectively) and offbeat plots. Patterson began using the pseudonym Jack Higgins in the late 1960. The novels The Savage Day and A Prayer For The Dying became minor bestsellers, but it was the publication of his thirty-sixth book, The Eagle Has Landed, in 1975 that made Higgins’ reputation., . Its plot concerned a German commando unit sent into England to kidnap Winston Churchill and is reminiscent of Alberto Cavalcanti’s wartime film Went the Day Well?, which itself was directly based on the 1942 Graham Greene short story The Lieutenant Died Last). Higgins followed The Eagle Has Landed with a series of equally ambitious thrillers, including Touch the Devil, Confessional, The Eagle Has Flown.

The third phase of Patterson’s career began with the publication of Eye of the Storm in 1992, a fictionalized retelling of an unsuccessful mortar attack on Prime Minister John Major by a ruthless young Irish gunman-philosopher named Sean Dillon, hired by an Iraqi millionaire. Dillon is also Cast as the central character over the next series of novels. Among Jack Higgins best known novels are: Year of the Tiger,The Keys of Hell, Midnight Never Comes,Dark Side of the Street,A Fine Night for Dying,The Savage Day, Day of Judgement, The Graveyard Shift, Brought in Dead, Hell Is Always Today, The Eagle Has Landed, Touch the Devil, Confessional, The Eagle Has Flown, Night of the Fox, Cold Harbour, Flight of Eagles, Eye of the Storm, Thunder Point, On Dangerous Ground, Angel of Death, Drink with the Devil, The President’s Daughter, The White House Connection, Day of Reckoning, Edge of Danger, Midnight Runner, Bad Company, Dark Justice, Without Mercy, The Killing Ground, Rough Justice, A Darker Place, The Wolf at the Door, The Judas Gate, A Devil is Waiting, Sure Fire,Death Run, Sharp Shot, First Strike, Wrath of the Lion, East of Desolation, In the Hour Before Midnight, Night Judgement At Sinos, The Last Place God Made, The Savage Day,A Prayer for the Dying, Storm Warning, Solo, Luciano’s Luck, Exocet,A Season in Hell,Memoirs of a Dance Hall Romeo,Sheba,Pay The Devil, Sad Wind from the Sea, Cry of the Hunter, The Thousand Faces of Night, Comes the Dark Stranger, Hell is Too Crowded, The Dark Side of the Island, Toll For The Brave, The Valhalla Exchange ,To Catch a King and Dillinger. There have also been many Films adapted from the novels, including, The Violent Enemy, The Wrath of God, The Eagle Has Landed, To Catch a King, A Prayer for the Dying, Confessional Night of the Fox, Midnight Man, On Dangerous Ground, Windsor Protocol and Thunder Point