A.A. Griffith

Working at the RAE, Farnborough he published a paper in July 1926 showing that, until then turbines and compressors were running 'stalled'. He proposed adopting an aerofoil shape for the blades. The paper went on to promote the idea of a turboprop - he failed to realize that a pure jet could do the job.

In 1930, the ARC decided not to recommend the Air Ministry to develop a jet of the type proposed by Griffith, but recommended a test-rig to test some of Griffith's ideas, particulary on compressors. But nothing appeared to actually have been done - the project was not carried thru.

Frank Whittle

Frank Whittle, in 1929, was the first to propose the idea of jet propulsion in the modern sense. He was an RAF pilot - he had worked his way thru the RAF, starting as an apprentice and ending as an officer.

The British Government did not immediately recognise the potential of Whittle's ideas, and in 1929 actually described them as 'impracticable'. Frank Whittle

His ideas on jet engines were delivered to Griffiths in 1929, but his ideas were dismissed by Griffiths, for reasons which are not exactly known.

He received great encouragement from within the Air Force from "Johnny" Johnson. Johnson persuaded him to patent his proposals in 1930.

In 1935, he had to let his patents lapse because he could not afford the 5 pound renewal fee. Whittle, however, continued to develop the engine and set up his own company called Power Jets Ltd in 1936. He produced the first working engine, but had great difficulties getting the idea treated seriously.

Power Jets

Power Jets was set up in March 1936 with a nominal capital of £ 20.000, but an actual capital of £ 2000, loaned by the investment bankers OT Falk and Partners, thru the agency of R.D. Williams.

Maurice Bonham-Carter became chairman and Frank Whittle was the Honorary Chief Engineer. Although Whittle was an RAF officer, the Air Ministry allowed him to accept the post, so long as he spent no more than 6 hours a week working on it.

The Air Ministry initially decided there was no need for secrecy because it was unlikely that jet engines would ever be of any military use. This 'lack of secrecy' worked to the financial benefit of Whittle - if the project had been classed as secret, the governemnt would have retained all rights by virtue of Whittle being an RAF officer.

The anticipated first engine was designated the WU. The contract for the development of the WU went to the British Thomson-Houston turbine factory in Rugby. The combustion chamber appears to have been a major cause of concern, but luckily one firm, Laidlaw, Drew and Co. of Edinburgh, were prepared to experiment.

Cash was always a problem. Power Jets were involved in a vicious circle, with private sources being unwilling to provide finance to what was a secret project, which they might have expected the government to back more readily.

Power Jets performed the first ever jet engine ground run on 12 April 1937. After this successful demonstration the Air Ministry signed a contract on 30 June 1939 for a flight engine, to fly in a new aircraft.

Via the agency of Henry Tizard, the rector of Imperial College and chairman of the Aeronautical Research Committee (ARC), details of Whittle's engine were handed over, in October 1936, to Griffiths, just before the run of his own engine. Griffiths appeared warmer than before but was highly critical of some features, seemingly ignoring the fact that its performance at high speed at height was the crucial aspect of the program.

Power Jets moved to the BTH Ladywood works on 16 April 1938. Working engine 17 June 1939.

In 1939 Von Ohain was well ahead of Whittle, whose efforts were bogged down, first by official indifference and then by national crisis.

At the outbreak of war, Power Jets had a payroll of 10.

In 1940, they moved to Lutterworth.

The W1X first ran on 14 December 1940. The W1 on 12 April 1941.

Attitudes in Britain were changing. The British Air Ministry financed a factory. In October 1940, a contract was drawn up for the Gloster Meteor, to be powered by the Whittle W2B.

Whittle was disllusioned with TFH and turned to the Rover Car Company. On 2 January 1941, he decided to contract the W2B engine to Rover. In April 1941, The Air Ministry decided that Rover would produce the engine, whereas Power Jets would be a research company only. Initial plans for this project had envisaged 80 Metors per month being produced, and engines being produced by Rover, BTH and Vauxhall. In reality, Rover became the sole contractor for the production of the engine, and the project stalled.

In 1941, Tinling became chairman of Power Jets, replacing Lance Whyte.

Their first jet to fly flew in a Gloster E28/39 which first flew on May 15 1941. The W1 engine was producing a thrust of 390 kgs, and had a weight of 283 kgs.

1942 Whetstone

Whittle perfected the W2/500 engine (and then the W2/700 engine), but Rolls-Royce went ahead with their own improved versions.

On 6 January 1944, Whittle and his work had been disclosed to the press.

In April 1944, Power Jets was nationalized, becoming the National Gas Turbine Establishment.


Rover (under Wilkes) did briefly enter the aircraft engine field as proposed manufacturers for early Whittle W2B engines. This appears to have been an unsuccessful move and their job was taken over by Rolls-Royce in early 1943.

Two factories had been built in Lancashire - at Clitheroe and Barnoldswick. These were both converted mills.

Rover did attempt to modify the engine, producing an axial flow engine - the B26. According to most sources, they lacked the aerodynamic know-how to make a success of this axial-flow version.

Power Jets was forbidden to interfere in the design of production engines.

By the end of 1942, the situation had become desperate. Over the space of two years, Rover had only managed to produce twenty engines - the original plan had been for production to reach 2000 a year from 1943. Once Rolls-Royce took over, things did get moving.

RAE - Royal Aircaft Establishment (Farnborough)

In 1936, they started tests with axial compressors. In 1941, Hayne Constant became Head of Program Development. They collaborated with Metro-Vick.

The 28/49 continued to be tested at the RAE. In July 1943, one of the aircraft lost lost aileron control. The pilot, D. Davie, parachuted out from 9000 meters, setting a world altitude record for parachuting.


They produced an axial jet which first ran in December 1941. On 29 June 1943, it flew in the tail of a Lancaster. In October 1943, two F2 engines were finished, which powered a Gloster Meteor into the sky on the 13 November 1943, becoming the first axial-flow engines to fly.

They decided to name their engines after precious stones, the F2 being called the Beryl.

The F2/4 reached thrust by the end of the war.

They were given a government contract for an advanced turbojet to give 3200 kg thrust.

In 1947, the F9 Sapphire was transferred to Armstrong Siddeley Motors on the orders of the Ministry of Supply, as a means of reducing the number of engine firms.

Ministry for Aircraft Production

Max Aitken. Under his leadership, the Ministry introduced discord into the early jet program, by delineating lines of responsibility between Power Jets and Rover.

Moore-Brabazon When after the Second World War, Churchill wished to reward Moore-Brabazon for his extraordinary help as Minister of Aircraft Production, he recommended him for a barony. Moore-Brabazon accepted with pleasure. "To be made a Peer," he wrote, "is a great privilege because we are still a very snobbish people."

Stafford Cripps had been expelled from the Labour Party in 1939 over an issue which started with advocating opposition to the fascists in Spain. He became, along with Aneurin Bevan, the main opponent of Churchill's war government, and according to opinion polls at the time attracted considerable popularity. Churchill became concerned about having one of his main critics so high in the polls and in 1942 appointed him as Lord Privy Seal in his government and put him in the War Cabinet. However, Cripps continued to question Churchill's war strategy and in October 1942 he was removed from the War Cabinet. He remained in the government and now became Minister of Aircraft Production.

Gas Turbine Collaboration Committee

In November 1941, Roxbee Cox became Head of a deputy directorate - the Gas Turbine Collaboration Committee.

Early in 1942, there were eleven companies engaged on jet projects.

National Gas Turbine Establishment

Rolls Royce

Rolls Royce had been working on gas turbines since 1939. Stanley Hooker joined the company. AA Griffith had left the RAE in June 1939 to take part in this program .

Hooker at first worked on improving the Merlin piston engine, but in January 1940 he took a trip to Power Jets, and was impressed by this new form of engine. In August 1940, Hooker enticed Hives, the Rolls-Royce Chief executive to visit Power Jets.

On 12 January 1942, Hives did make overtures to Whittle about building a Whittle engine. They had actually done some work on the engine, sorting out the surge problem with the W2, under Hooker. In the spring of 1942, Power Jets sub-contracted six jets to Rolls Royce, leading to the WR1, which turned out to be a dead end.

In early 1943, they took over production of the Whittle engine, which had previously been going so badly under Rover. The takeover was engineered by the government, but the actual agreement between Rolls-Royce and Rover appears to have been carried out in the Swan and Royal pub in Clitheroe. Hives of Rolls-Royce offered an exchange - Rolls-Royce would take over Rover's jet plants and Rover would take over Rolls' tank-engine factory in Nottingham. The jet project appears to have incurred less risk to Rolls than might be thought - government subsidy was considerable.

Rolls-Royce actually took over production on 1. January 1943, although officially they took over several months later. Testing and production was immediately stepped up. The previous December, Rover had tested the engine for 37 hours - in January, Roll-Royce tested it for 390 hours. The W2B passed its first 100 hr test at full design performance of 725 kg on 7. May 1943.

Hives closed the Clitheroe factory and concentrated everything at Barnoldswick, employing 1600 workers.

The W2B engine was soon ready, and managed to power a Meteor on 12. June 1943. Rolls-Royce called it the W2B/23, and eventually the RB23 (B after Barnoldswick). The engine started coming off the line at Barnoldswick in October 1943, although this was not to be the main production center - it was inadequate for this purpose and was destined to be used for research and development only, under Stanley Hooker. A new production center was built in a new factory in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The W2B/23 was developed and, as the Welland 1, it was supplied to operational aircraft of the RAF from May 1944.

500 Derwents by the end of war. Stanley Hooker

Spurred on by what he saw of the rapid development of the jet engine in America, Stanley Hooker developed the RB41 Nene engine (originally B40, and B41) with a thrust of 2200 kgs, but unfortunately there was no aircraft that could immediately use it. This engine had been designed and built in six months in 1944, running for the first time on 27 October 1944 (work had started on 1 May 1944).

Hooker became Chief Engineer of jet project

The B37 which Rover had developed from the Whittle engine became the W2B/26, which was tested in July 1943 at 800 kg, and 500 were produced at 900kg. These were built from April 1944 at a factory in Newcastle-under-Lyme and from April 1944 powered the Meteor 3, being known as the Derwent.

The Derwent II reached 950 kg. and the Derwent IV reached 1100 kg.

A scaled-down Nene was under a suggestion from Whittle. This was rated at 1655 kgs, first ran on the 7 June 1945, and was known as the Derwent 5.

The RB44 became known as the Tay. This was built under license as the Pratt and Whitney J48 (in America), and the Hispano-Suiza Verdon (in France). The problem with both the tay and the Nene appeared to be that the government considered centrifugal engines to be obsolete.

Axial engines gave more thrust per unit frontal area.

The AJ65 project (later called the Avon) was envisaged to deliver an axial engine of 2900 kg, and was inaugaurated in close collaboration with the Canberra jet bomber project.

Originally Griffiths was involved. Problems developed which Hooker was having difficulty with. The problems developed to such an extent that it appears this was the reason that Hooker left the company in 1948, after brushes wuith management.

The Avon 200 series was able to produce 4500 kg, and later versions with cooled blades produced 5100 kg. By 1960, with afterburners the engine was producing 7700 kg, whereas the civil version was producing 5700 kg.

De Havilland

In 1944, the De Havilland Engine Companuy was set up, with Halford as chairman.

In January 1941, as the government became more aware of the potential of jet aircraft, De Havilland was asked to produce a fighter and an engine for it.

Frank Halford developed the H1 engine, which entered production as the Goblin, on the Vampire. This had beenn developed with help from Power Jets and the GTCC, and developed a thrust of 1360 kgs. It ran for the first time in April 1942.

On 5 March 1943, Goblins rated at 900kg actually powered the first Meteor to fly (W4041/G). This was just a test flight as the engine was really too wide for use in nacelles. It had a single-sided compressor which used the ram effect and thus had a larger diameter than other British engines.

For use in the DH100 Vampire, the engine was rated at 1040 kg thrust.

The H2 Ghost first ran on 2. May 1945. This engine was basically a scaled up Goblin, and went on to power the original Comets, as well as the De Hvilland Venom.

The H4 project was inaugaurated on 3 January 1953. This engine was planned to deliver 9000 kg thrust to supersonic aircraft - with afterburners it was to produce 12200 kg.

The H6 Gyron Junior delivered 5000 kg thrust for the Buccaneer.

Armstrong Siddeley

In 1947, Armstrong Siddeley of Coventry took over the Metrovik F.9 Sapphire. Armstrong Siddeley improved the engine's thrust from 3400 kg to 5000 kg over its production life.

It was first used for the Hunter, although few were actually used, despite the plane being a Hawker Siddeley product, and Rolls-Royce Avons were favored instead.

The 200 series powered some Victors and the Gloster Javelin.

Otherwise, its main efforts (apart from turbojets) was in producing the Viper of 740 kg thrust, for use in missiles and target aircraft.


Roy Fedden, the Chief Engineer of the Bristol Engine Department, set up his own company in 1946.

Gloster E28/39

The Gloster E28/39 was designed by George Carter and first flew on 15 May 1941, piloted by Gerry Sayer, Gloster's chief test pilot.

It was flown from Cranwell with a W1 engine, and apparently reported a similar performance as for the Heinkel 178. Within days it was reaching 600 km/hr at 7600 meters, exceeding the performance of the Spitfires of the time.

Only two were ever built.


On 8 October 1943, supersonic research had been started by Miles Aircraft, who eventually developed a design for an aircraft called the Miles 52. The program was stopped in January 1946, when details of German high-speed technology were becoming available.

Nevertheless, aswept wing model flew in 1947 quarter-size 1.5+ s/sonic speed

English Electric

1949 EE needed a new type of wind tunnel. Meteor and Vampire then slower than experimental Spitfire in dives, and therefore of limited use in research

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