Sunday, 28 June 2009
Ralph was born in Radlett, 18th August 1914.He was the oldest of eight children. At the age of 14, Ralph started work at the De Havilland factory at Stag Lane,working in most of the various assembly shops, with a variety of activities from metal bashing to working with wood which was his favourite occupation. Not only did he have a seven-mile bike ride twice a day but he also stayed on at Night-school from which he earned a scholarship.
In 1939, Ralph was one of the original 9 strong design team who under R.E. Bishop started work in secret, at Salisbury Hall, South Mymms, on the versatile aircraft bomber and fighter, the Mosquito,where he was in charge of overall loads and wing strength caluclations,often working 12 hour days, for seven days a week.The Mosquito was known affectionately as the “Mossie” to its crews and was also known as “The Wooden Wonder” because the bulk of the aircraft was made of laminated plywood and balsa wood.He had to move from Baldock to London Colney to be closer to the Hall and it was near his digs that four goats lived in a field. They were nicknamed, Hitler, Himmler, Goering and Hess. Unfortunately, in a German bombing raid, three goats were killed outright but the fourth, Hitler survived for just a few days more until he succumbed to his injuries: this was thought by local folk to be a good omen for the future. Over the years Ralph worked on many different types of aircraft, initially with De Havilland, then with Hawker Siddeley and lastly with British Aerospace. These included the Vampire which was de Havilland’s first jet aircraft, the Hornet, the Comet, the Trident and the Airbus. However, his love of working with wood made the Mosquito his favourite plane of all.He was appointed Chief Structural Engineer in 1971 and took control of the four structural departments in Hatfield. Ralph also lectured in the De Havilland Technical School from 1936 until 1952, so many younger aircraft designers were able to benefit from his knowledge and experience. He retired in 1979 after 51 years service in the aircraft industry.