AVIATION - the archive of George Carter, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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AVIATION - the archive of George Carter


[Wilfred] George Carter (1889-1969) was the chief engineer of the Gloster Aircraft Company (formerly Gloucestershire) from 1937 and is principally remembered as the designer of the experimental aircraft, number E28/39, to carry Frank Whittle's jet engine, although he had already designed 'a string of innovative aircraft, not just for Gloster but for Sopwith, Hawker, Shorts, de Havilland and Avro too' [Jet Pioneers, Gloster and the Birth of the Jet Engine, by Tim Kershaw, which gives the only comprehensive account of Carter's life and career]. The E28/39 was the first British and Allied jet aircraft to fly when it left the ground (unofficially) at Brockworth in Gloucestershire on 8 April 1941; the first official flight following at RAF Cranwell a week later. Carter went on to design the twin-engined Gloster Meteor, the first Allied operational jet aircraft of the Second World War and the Javelin, Gloster's last aircraft to enter production.
'Whittle's achievement as the inventor and developer of the jet engine has overshadowed that of the man who designed the airframe which first took Whittle's invention into the skies. It has been suggested that any of a number of designers could have come up with something suitable, but Carter's achievement was greater than that. The recognition he has received has been modest, in keeping with his character. ... His honours were few and his fame slight. He deserves more.' [Jet Pioneers, p. 65]

Sir Frank Whittle (1907-1996, inventor of the jet engine): ALS ('Frank') to Carter, 1 page small 4to, Steepway, Broom Close, Esher, Surrey, 16 August 1957. Written on the occasion of Carter's retirement:
'At long last the job which was promised you for life has terminated.
'I have enjoyed every day of our association together and wish you every happiness for the future.'

Carter evidently retained letters he received in relation to particular events, most notably the successful first flight of the E28/39 in 1941 and his receiving a C.B.E. in the New Year's Honours and the silver medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1947. Among the more significant are thirteen letters from 1941 to 1946 relating to E29/39, visits to Brockworth to see the aircraft, and the Gloster Meteor's breaking of the World Air Speed Record (November 1945). Correspondents include Roy Chadwick, William Farren, E[dward] Petter (designer at Westlands), F.R. Banks, B. Lockspeiser and H.E. Rowe of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, [Neil] Michael Daunt (test pilot - 8 November 1945 'I am glad that that day in December 1939 when you turned and said this is a designers dream, has now proved itself.'), George Bulman of Hawker Aircraft Ltd, M.C. Wilks of The Rover Company Ltd.,

Roy Chadwick (1893-1947, aircraft designer): TLS, A.V. Roe & Co, 14 May 1941, congratulating him on the 'successful test flight of the "Whittle"' ('... I am particularly glad to be able to congratulate you on being the first Aircraft Designer to produce a practical jet propelled aeroplane. ...')

W[illiam] Farren (research and development chief at the Air Ministry): TLS, Ministry of Aircraft Production, 19 June 1941, expressing his confidence in Carter's ability to make a success 'of one of the most difficult tasks we have ever attempted' despite the 'arguments and differences of opinion which are necessarily part of a collaboration such as we have been engaged in', and adding that 'the success of the Gloster Whittle I is, I am sure, all the reward for which you ask, and I know that it will strengthen you to press on with the Gloster Whittle II'.)

About eighty-three letters, 1 January to 9 July 1947, many congratulating Carter on his C.B.E., from colleagues at Gloster's, at other aircraft manufacturer's (e.g. Hawkers (from Bill Humble, test pilot), Bristol, Short Brothers, Vickers-Armstrong, A.V. Roe (Roy Chadwick again), Blackburn Aircraft, Westland, The English Electric Company and De Havilland (from the designer R.E. Bishop), the Air Ministry, [Sir Thomas] Sopwith (telegram), John [Grierson (test pilot)] (chatty letter of reminiscence from the Antarctic), Sir Richard Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production ('You have done a great work for British Aviation').

A further group of nine letters to Carter include some congratulating him on his appointment to the board of The Gloster Aircraft Company. A letter of 16 June 1954, heading 'covering TOP SECRET' from Air Chief Marshal Sir John W. Baker is of particular interest:

'... the Air Staff propose to issue a requirement for a new all-weather fighter of advanced design and performance. .. I thought that you would be particularly interested to have the enclosed [
no longer] RAE/RRE Report No. Aero 2513/G.W. 20 and gain value also from the accompanying A.C.A.S(O.R) Paper CMS.1539. ... You will note that the Air Staff and the Establishments' studies point to two different kinds of aircraft. ... In view of the important disclosures made in these documents I must ask you to control extremely carefully their circulation. ... For the same reason I will ask for the return of these documents. ...'

A few letters of sympathy survive from after Carter's death in 1969

Six diaries (one a pocket diary) for the years (or part years) 1940 (most pages removed), 1941 (July-December only), 1947, 1955-1958, all but the pocket diary for 1947 with the name 'W.G. Carter' or 'W.G.C.' in gilt on the covers. On the whole the entries are sparse and many may have been made by Carter's son, Wilfred Maxwell (Peter) Carter.

A large number of family photographs showing Carter and members of his family at various stages in his life, loose and in albums.

Drawing instruments

Four rulers and slide-rules, a box of perspex drawing curves (the box stamped underneath 'Mr Carter'), and two boxes of small instruments, one with the manufacturer's name of Norton & Gregory Ltd. of London.
[No: 25973]

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