William Shackleton

(1894 - 1974)

William Stancliffe Shackleton was born June 28, 1894 in Keighley, the son of Ernest and Alice Shackleton. By age sixteen he was an apprentice draughtsman and was eventually employed by the Bleriot company. This was to become the Air Navigation and Engineering Company in August, 1919 and it was for this company that Shackleton designed the ANEC I and II series of light aircraft in 1923.

The following year Shackleton joined William Beardmore and Co., Ltd as Chief Designer, when that company restarted aircraft production. His first creation for the new company was another light machine, the W.B.XXIV ‘Wee-Bee’ intended for the forthcoming light aeroplane trials at Lympne that September, ending the competition well ahead of its nearest rival, winning the Air Ministry first prize of £2,000. This was followed by the W.B.XXVI, the prototype of a fighter built especially for Latvia. Only one prototype was built. When it was delivered to Latvia it was found to handle very well, but to be very much underpowered. In Latvia it flew a total of three times before it was rejected and returned to the manufacturer. Shackletons work at Beardmores culminated with the giant ‘Inflexible’ which, although it owed its inception to the German designer Dr. Rohrbach, the design staff at Dalmuir did a large amount of the detail work.

Shackleton’s health had been getting increasingly poor during his time at Dalmuir, so in an effort to improve made the decision to emigrate to Australia, leaving England on January 21, 1928 aboard the S.S. Ceramic with his wife Constance and children Allen and Keith. Almost immediately upon arrival in Melbourne, he found employment as Chief Engineer for the Larkin Aircraft Supply Company. Larkin Aircraft Supply Co. or Lasco, had been founded on 1 July 1921, eventually embarked on aircraft construction at Coode Island west of Melbourne. During his three years with Lasco, Shackleton designed the Lascoter, which first flew at Coode Island on 25 May 1929 and was the first Australian designed aircraft to receive a full certificate of airworthiness. This was followed by the similar Lascondor and finally the Lark glider in December 1930. Shackleton was also responsible for the re-design of the ANEC IIIs in an effort to improve their performance, substituting Armstrong - Siddeley Jaguar IVA radials for the Rolls-Royce Eagles and increasing the seating capacity from 6 to 10. When rebuilt to this new design, the two surviving ANEC's were dubbed Lasco Lascowls.

Shackleton returned to England in June 1931 and, in conjunction with Australian pilot Lee Murray (Lee Cameron Lathrop Murray, b - 1904, Melbourne (?), d – 1980, Tasmania), established a business as consulting engineer, initially primarily concerned with advising on the suitability and purchase of aircraft from England by Australian, New Zealand and New Guinea operating companies or private individuals. Shackleton and his family returned home by boat, while Mr. Lee Murray flew his Desoutter monoplane across Canada and the United States, flying from Vancouver to Montreal via Los Angeles, San Diego, St. Louis and New York, studying aircraft designs and manufacturing processes on the way.

Shackleton and Murray started business at 175 Piccadilly, London, in September of 1931. The partnership could not have begun at a more difficult time, for there was then a period of worldwide depression. For the first two years figures were in red but, in the third year , no salary or expenses to the two principals, a profit of just under £1 was recorded—and that was ploughed back!

In 1932 the two partners decided to design a small two-seater aircraft utilizing a pusher propeller and powered by a 60 h.p. Hirth engine. This, the Shackleton- Lee Murray S.M.1, was based largely on the ideas formulated by Murray after flying the Curtiss Junior, a similar type, in the U.S.A. during his journey to England. With no production facilities of their own, construction was entrusted to Airspeed and the S.M.1 first flew early in 1933. That same year, Shackleton and Lee Murray formed Forward View Aeroplanes, Ltd to acquire “an experimental aeroplane known as The Shackleton Murray Pusher Monoplane S.M.1, with registered designs, letters patent, and drawings, and to carry on the business of aeronautical experts and consultants, etc.” In addition to Shackleton and Lee Murray, Thomas H. Cloustor was also a director.

Towards the end of 1933 Lee Murray left England for Canada to take up the position of General Manager of the de Havilland Co. of Canada, Ltd., at Toronto. Shackleton was now on his own but, in 1934, the economic tide began to turn and the first big orders came in from New Guinea. Four Ford Trimotor 4-ATs and 5-ATs, together with big stocks of engines and spares, were shipped out from the United Kingdom to Lae. The four Fords continued in service, amassing over 50,000 flying hours, until the Japanese invasion of New Guinea.

Business continued to prosper and, early in 1935, a limited company was formed with W. S. Shackleton and John H. C. Beard as directors. During this pre-war period, the firm handled most types of British light aircraft and mong the more interesting aircraft supplied were a large number of ambulance versions of the Fox Moth for the Australian Flying Doctor Service and, in 1934, a Fairey Fox flown by Ray Parer and Geoffrey Hemsworth in the 1934 MacRobertson Race.

W. S. Shackleton, Ltd represented several American companies in Great Britain, including the American Armament Corporation and the Uppercu-Burnelli Co. In connection with the latter, when the Scottish Aircraft and Engineering Co. began development of a Rolls-Royce powered Burnelli aircraft (eventually to see light of day as the Cunliffe-Owen OA-1), Shackleton acted as technical advisor.

During the Second World War Shackleton worked in the Directorate of Scientific Research at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, where he was associated with Dr. Roxbee Cox in connection with the development of troop- and cargo carrying gliders. On completion of this work he was engaged by the Indian Tata company as consultant for their repair and maintenance depots throughout India.

Post-War, the firm quickly got into its stride again and many pre-war and wartime aircraft were sold in Europe and exported to all parts of the world. Bill Shackletons second son Keith Hope Shackleton (the first son, Allen Ernest, having been killed during World War II), already a well-known ornithologist, artist and author, joined as sales manager and demonstration pilot in 1947, becoming a director in 1951.

In 1960 Mr Raymond Way, a well-known car dealer, acquired the share capital of W. S. Shackleton Ltd. Bill Shackleton retired from the board but assumed the office of president, continuing to work for another ten years in that capacity and as technical consultant. Following the takeover, the company became known as W.S. Shackleton (Aviation) Ltd and later simply Shackleton Aviation Ltd.

William Stancliffe Shackleton died in October 1974 in Itchenor, Sussex,

Biography References

  1. Flight January 19, 1928
  2. Flight May 29, 1931
  3. Flight December 4, 1931
  4. Flight November 9, 1933
  5. Flight August 8, 1935
  6. Flight October 22, 1936
  7. Flight September 21, 1956
  8. Flight 9 Sept 1960

V1.4.4 Created by Roger Moss. Last updated August 2020