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Roy Chadwick

(1893 - 1947)

Roy Chadwick was born on April 30th, 1893 at Marsh Hall Farm, Farnworth in Widnes, son of the mechanical engineer Charles Chadwick. He attended St Luke's church school in Weaste, and then St Clements Church School in Urmston, Lancashire. He made his own early model planes and flew them at night for fear of ridicule. At 14 he entered The British Westinghouse, Electrical and Engineering Works in Manchester, as a trainee draughtsman; and worked here for four years in the Design Office, and on the shop floor.

After work, on three nights a week, Roy Chadwick attended The Manchester College of Technology, built in 1903. It is now The Institute of Science and Technology, and part of Manchester University. A plaque to Roy Chadwick stands, high on the wall, in the Institute's Entrance Hall. Here, from 1907-1911, Roy studied Pure and Applied Mathematics Calculus, and the Design of Petrol engines, etc. At the end of 1911 he joined Alliott Verdon-Roe in his newly established firm, A.V.Roe and Co Ltd. in Ancoats, Manchester. Here, Roy was Alliott's Personal Assistant, and the firm's draughtsman.

The first job Roy Chadwick had at Avros was to take notes, from Roe, make sketches, and to proceed to the drawing board. Here to draft the Avro D, a two seated tractor biplane, and by 1912 had progressed to designing in collaboration with A.V. Roe. The Avro Type 504 was amongst the first types that Chadwick co-designed.

In 1915, by now chief draughtsman, Chadwick designed The Avro Pike, a twin engine, biplane bomber. It was the first bomber in the world to have internal stowage for bombs; and a gun turret, aft of the wings. Two later planes had 190hp Rolls Royce engines. The Pike was built at Avro's new, Experimental Station at Hamble, Southampton. Chadwick had his Design Office there and now lived in the area, but still went up to the Manchester works frequently, to liase at all levels.

After the Pike Roy Chadwick designed three more large fighting planes, and in 1918 he became, officially, chief designer. The same year he designed the world's first true, light aeroplane, the Avro Baby. It was in February 1921, while up on a test flight in a Baby, that Chadwick received severe injuries: he had gone up without his flying jacket and apparently fainted. He came to as he was crashing into trees beside the aerodrome. His right arm and left leg, and pelvis were severely fractured, and the joystick went through his neck! He later, made a full recovery, thanks to the skill of the great, WW1 surgeon, Sir Arbuthnot Lane, at his clinic in London.

After Avros was sold, Roy Chadwick returned to live near Manchester, and to his office at A.V. Roe and Co. Ltd, at Newton Heath, Manchester. There he continued to lead the design department through such aircraft as the Tutor, the Anson and perhaps his greatest achievement, the Lancaster, created from the ashes of the ill-fated Manchester.

As the war progressed, Roy Chadwick was very anxious that Britain should have its own Civil Aircraft, post war. He began to design an airliner, but due to wartime restrictions, could not design a completely new machine, but had to use existing aircraft parts, tools and jigs. A streamlined, low wing aircraft was the result. Using the Lincoln wing allied to a new, pressurized fuselage, he created the Avro Tudor.

Roy Chadwick's mind was now focused on jet flight, and the Air Ministry Specification B35/46, for a long-range bomber capable of carrying an atomic weapon. Roy Chadwick's thinking progressed to a Delta shape, and he sketched this in the winter of 1946/47, the aircraft that was to become the Avro Vulcan.

Roy Chadwick, CBE MSC FRSA FRAeS, did not live to see the Avro Vulcan fly. On Saturday, August 23rd, 1947, he went to Woodford to take part on a test flight of the Avro Tudor 2. There had been an overnight servicing in which the aileron cables were inadvertently crossed resulting in the machine’s port wing dropping toward the ground, just after take-off, when Avro Test Pilot, Bill Thorn, turned to starboard. The engines were cut, and the machine raced across a field in Shirfold Farm nearby. All would have been well, but there was a dewpond in the field, surrounded by trees. The Tudor ploughed into the trees and the nose broke off. The two pilots were, most sadly, drowned; and Roy Chadwick, who had been standing in the cockpit, behind the pilots, was flung out 60 yards, and died of a fractured skull.

Production References
  1. Architect of Wings: Biography of Roy Chadwick, by Harald Penrose (Airlife Publishing, 1985)
  2. Biography at http://homepages.manx.net/mdove/

V1.4.0 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated July 2019