Monday, February 25, 2008

Harvey Heyworth 1910-1959

John Harvey Heyworth was expected to follow his father into medicine, but followed his heart instead to become a war hero and record-breaker.  
Canberra photo signed by Harvey Heyworth and Harry Bailey

A former Battle of Britain pilot, he became the first man in the world to record 1,000 hours in a jet aircraft.
Heyworth was born in 1910 in Belper and educated during the 1920s at Rugby School, where he excelled at sport, particularly rugby and hockey. He was also good academically and went on to obtain a place at Edinburgh University to study medicine.
It was generally expected by his family that, on graduating, he would follow in his father's footsteps and enter the medical profession.Instead, he made the decision to apply for a short service commission in the Royal Air Force, and train as a pilot.It was later seen as his destiny.

 Heyworth made his decision to join the RAF at a time when the service was undergoing a period of profound change. The four years of World War One had marked history's greatest technological leap forward in terms of military hardware.Yet, almost before the guns been silenced, Britain began dismantling her military assets without much thought for the needs of tomorrow.
Few so-called experts could see the influence on war that air power was to have, and it took a strident lobby led by Chief of Air Staff Sir Hugh Trenchard to prevent the Royal Air Force from falling into the clutches of the Army and Royal Navy.
With the RAF's independence preserved, it began to scour the country for young men with the potential to become pilots.
Heyworth, who had followed his short RAF stint by joining Rolls-Royce as a test pilot, was the perfect material and proved to be a natural at the controls of a wide variety of aircraft.
In the years leading up to the outbreak of war in 1939, he clocked thousands of hours in twin and single-engine planes including the new R-R-powered fighter the Hawker Hurricane.
Within days of war with Germany being declared, Heyworth had been recalled to the RAF and over the next two years became a notable participant in the Battle of Britain, rising to take command of 79 Squadron, equipped with those Hurricanes he knew so well.

In 1942 Heyworth was placed on the special reserve list and returned to Rolls-Royce to continue his life testing engines and new models of aircraft. Along with his younger brother Jim, another ex-RAF war veteran with Bomber Command, he was part of the birth and development of the jet engine.
He racked up the hours until, in December 1948 Heyworth took off in a Derwent-engined Meteor jet fighter bomber to carry out speed trials. He landed at Church Broughton one hour five minutes later having become the first man in the world to complete 1,000 hours' flying time in jet aircraft.
He was part of the Thrust Measuring Rig project at Hucknall, more affectionately known as "the Flying Bedstead".
He suffered a severe cerebral haemorrhage in the mid 1950s and a further stroke led to his death in September 1959.