Roy Chadwick

Avro's Great Designer

1893 - 1947

Welcome! The biography below was written & designed by Margaret Dove, Roy Chadwick's daughter, in 2006.

Other useful links...

  • BBC Broadcast by Roy Chadwick - Monday, June 8, 1942
  • The new International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln, England, officially opened on April 12, 2018, and includes the Chadwick Centre: "The Chadwick Centre uses state-of-the-art technology and interactive displays to tell the story of Bomber Command, through the eyes of those who witnessed events first-hand. Interviews with veterans of both Air and Ground Crew, and support staff from around the world, come together to create an Orchestra of Voices. There are accounts from survivors of the Allied bombing campaign, members of the Resistance Movement, and people affected by the influx of thousands of service personnel into their communities." More info about visiting & events.

A passport photograph of Roy Chadwick at 23 years of age.

Artistic and with unbounded enthusiasm, Roy Chadwick embraced aviation as it began in 1903. When he was 10 years old. He was the fifth generation of engineers in the Chadwick family. Born on April 30th 1893 he attended St Luke's church school in Weaste, and then St Clements Church School in Urmston, Lancashire. He made his own early model planes and flew them at night for fear of ridicule. At 14 he entered The British Westinghouse, Electrical and Engineering Works in Manchester, as a trainee draughtsman; and worked here for four years in the Design Office, and on the shop floor.

The Institute of Science & Technology, Manchester.

After work, on three nights a week, Roy Chadwick attended The Manchester College of Technology, built in 1903. It is now The Institute of Science and Technology, and part of Manchester University. A plaque to Roy Chadwick stands, high on the wall, in the Institute's Entrance Hall. Here, from 1907 -1911, Roy studied Pure and Applied Mathematics Calculus, and the Design of Petrol engines, etc: At the end of 1911, at 18 years of age, he joined the great, pioneer aeroplane designer Alliott Verdon-Roe,in his newly established firm: A.V.Roe and Co Ltd. which was housed in the cellar of Alliott's brother, Humphrey's mill, in Ancoats ,Manchester. Here, Roy was Alliott's Personal Assistant, and the firm's draughtsman.

Roy now did the draughtsmanship for the three planes which led up to Alliott Verdon Roe's, famous light bomber and trainer, of World War One: The AVRO 504. These three planes were the Avro500, with a 50hp engine. The 501, with a 100hp engine,; and the 503. The famous AVRO 504, of which over 7,000 were built, during WW1 and after; had many variants, and Roy Chadwick designed these in collaboration with A.V. Roe. TheAvro 504k, seen here, which Roy designed, gave thousands, their first flights, post war. A flying school was established, and many people learnt to fly on the 504k. H.M. King George Sixth, when he was Duke of York, learnt to fly on this machine. It was the R.A.F. trainer for many years. Also, it was sold, worldwide: the very first machine, used by the Australian airline, QANTAS, was an AVRO 504K.

In 1915, when he was just 22years old, Roy Chadwick designed The Avro PIKE. A twin engine, pusher biplane bomber, with two, 160hp engines. It was the first bomber in the world to have internal stowage for bombs; and a gun turret, aft of the wings. Two later planes had 190hp Rolls Royce engines. Three AVRO "Pikes" are seen here, at Avro's new, Experimental Station at Hamble, Southampton; built by Alliott Verdon-Roe (Later Sir Alliott) in 1917; to be the Assembly Works, and Testing Station, for machines built at the Manchester Works;( Established by then, at Newton Heath Manchester. ) Roy Chadwick had his Design Office, at Hamble, where he now lived; and he went up to the Manchester works frequently, to liase at all levels. He also went to the Admiralty, in London;, which controlled aviation; and later, throughout his career, to The Air Ministry, in London.

After "The Pike" Roy Chadwick designed three more large fighting planes, one of which became the first Avro Manchester, in1918. In 1916, Roy began to consider single seated fighters, and small aircraft; and in 1918 he designed the world's first true, light aeroplane The AVRO BABY. This won a section of the Aerial Derby in 1919, and Avro Test Pilot, Bert Hinkler, flew his machine to Turin; 650 miles from England. Hinkler also made the long flight from Sidney to his home in Bundaberg, Australia, on this little machine. Seven types of the "Baby" were made; the last being The Antarctic Baby, a floatplane with folding wings, for the last Expedition of the great, Antartic Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, in 1921. In the photo here, are Alliott Verdon -Roe, Roy Chadwick, the Russian pilot Gwaiter, Bert Hinkler, and another pilot, at Hamble, with an Avro Baby sold to Russia; and flown there by the pilot. At this time, while up on a test flight, in an AVRO "Baby", Roy had gone up without his flying jacket. It was a cold February day, and he fainted. He "came to" as he was crashing into trees beside the aerodrome. His right arm and left leg, and pelvis were severely fractured, and the joystick went through his neck! He later, made a full recovery , thanks to the skill of the great ,WW1 surgeon: Sir Arbuthnot Lane, at his clinic in London.

Roy Chadwick beside the Avro Baby.

Roy Chadwick's Avro BABY can justly claim to be the ancestor of THE LIGHT AEROPLANE. It had a 35hp water cooled engine, a wing span of 25ft and a gross weight of only 870 lbs (395kg) It had a maximum speed of 80 mph.

Roy Chadwick (right) with the Avro Antartic and pilot of the Shackleton Expedition, Major Carr (centre).

At Hamble, with The AVRO "Antarctic" Baby; Roy Chadwick seated far right, after his accident (he used a stick, for several years), with R.J. Parrot the Avro, General Manager, and Major Carr, the pilot of Sir Ernest Shackleton's "Shackleton-Rowett Expedition" to the Antarctic, in1921. This machine, whose wings could be folded, was winched aboard Sir Ernest's vessel, The "Quest", where it lay at anchor in London, before the voyage. Five more types of machine followed, including a racing machine, and a small cabin machine.

Early in 1920, Roy Chadwick designed the world's biggest, single engine bomber: The AVRO ALDERSHOT. A three bay, biplane, with a crew of 4: two pilots, a gunner, and a radio operator/bomb aimer. One prototype was shown at an R.A.F. display At Hendon in June 1922; His Majesty King George the Fifth, and Queen Mary, attended the display. Aldershot's equipped the RAF 99 Squadron in 1923.

Here at Hamble, are Roy Chadwick, two Avro staff members, Alliott Verdon- Roe, a staff member, and Jock Ratcliffe, who was a member of Roy Chadwick's Design Office, beside THE AVRO ALDERSHOT, in 1923.Its wingspan was only 20ft less than the Avro Lancaster.

Members of the Expedition.

About this time, too, Roy Chadwick was designing a seaplane to compete in the Schneider Trophy race. Then he designed a Fleet Gunnery, Spotting machine, which was a variant of the Aldershot, for Coastal defence, or Troop carrying (The Avro AVA.) Followed by an Ultra light monoplane in 1923,and an Ultrahigh biplane. Then a training seaplane, a direct variant of the Avro 504k, of which large numbers were sold. At this time, some members of the Oxford University Air Squadron, under George Binney, formed the Oxford Arctic Expedition, and took with them Roy Chadwick's AVRO ARCTIC,In the photo are Messrs Tymms,Taylor and Ellis ,at Base Camp, Reindeer Peninsula, Liefde Bay, Spitzbergen;in the summer of 1924. Their plane, The Avro Arctic is seen below. George Binney, wrote a book "By Seaplane and Sledge in the Arctic" a copy of which is in the University of Oxford Library.

Aeroplane competitions were in full swing, at this time, and Roy Chadwick designed the lightweight, Avro Avis; upon which, Bert Hinkler won The Grosvenor Challenge Trophy, in1924. He also designed a variant of The Aldershot; which was called The Andover, to be used as an Ambulance Plane, in the Middle East. It could take twelve passengers or 6 stretcher cases. These planes were used by the R.A.F. Now, also, in 1925, Roy Chadwick; thinking ahead, as he always did, designed an all metal aeroplane; The Avenger. This was a single seater fighter. It came second in the Open Handicap Race at Blackpool with a speed of 180 mph. Roy believed in all metal construction, but it took a while before he could convince the authorities. Many of his subsequent machines, though, had partial steel tube construction.

A famous AVRO aeroplane of the 1920s was The AVRO AVIAN, of 1926. Earlier, Roy Chadwick had collaborated with the Spanish Inventor of The AUTOGIRO; the forerunner of today's Helicopters. Senor Juan de la Cierva; who's Rotors was mounted on an Avro 504K body. Many Avro "Autogiros" were built in the following years, and used worldwide. For the AVIAN aeroplane, this type of fuselage was used; and the whole was of strong construction. It was destined to become a well-known, light, touring aeroplane, and was produced in large quantities. In this photo, Roy Chadwick, Bert Hinkler and R.J. Parrott stand beside Avian G-EBOV. On this machine, Hinkler won three races at Bournemouth in 1927. He then bought the machine, and made a non-stop flight to Riga in Latvia in 1927, a long flight of 1,200 miles. It was wonderful on such a small machine. It had an 85hp Cirrus engine. Then he made a spectacular, solo flight to Australia on it, in February 1928. Bert Hinkler is a National Hero in Australia today. Seven Marks of the Avian were built, and over 400 machines produced, which were sold, worldwide. The Whittlesey Manufacturing Co: in America, made Avians under licence. The Australian, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, a great, Aviation hero, also, made a famous, Solo flight to Australia on his Avian "Southern Cross Junior" in1930. This plane had a 120hp Gipsy engine.

After the Avian, Roy Chadwick designed a fighter and a day bomber. Then, in1928 Avros was sold to the Midlands Industrialist, Sir John Siddeley, who owned among other companies, the aircraft company, Hawkers. Manufacturing rights were purchased from the Fokker Co: for a high wing, commercial monoplane, and Roy Chadwick designed The Avro Ten, to use 3 Siddeley Lynx engines, and to carry eight passengers, and a crew of two. A smaller version: the Avro Five carried 4 passengers. A famous Avro Ten, was "Faith in Australia" owned by the Ace, Pioneer, Australian Pilot Charles Ulm. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith bought five Avro Tens for his Australian National Airways, and Avro Tens were supplied also, to Imperial Airways and Indian State Airways.

Charles Ulm (2nd left) and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, (third left) after a record flight in the 1930s. They are Australian Heroes.

Roy Chadwick with the winner of the Schneider Trophy, Fl Lt Boothman; (later AVM, Sir John) who was touring aircraft factories, at Avros in the 1930s

Roy Chadwick at Woodford with the Avro Test Pilot and W. R. Andrews standing beside the Avro Tutor.

After Avros was sold, Roy Chadwick returned to live near Manchester, and to his office at A.V. Roe and Co. Ltd, at Newton Heath, Manchester. The company had bought, in the late 1920s a large piece of land, not far from today's Manchester Airport, to be the company's aerodrome. Also, in 1929, the Air Ministry decided to replace the Avro 504 type training aircraft, which had been in use with the RAF since 1917; and a competition was held, to decide which company would build a replacement. Machines were tested under service conditions for 3 years, and Roy Chadwick's Avro Tutor (Seen here, flying upside down, in formation) was chosen as the RAFs AB Initio Trainer. Roy Chadwick also designed a variant of the Avro 626 with a Cheetah engine, upon which all flying personel could be trained. 380 Tutors were built, and exported to 7 countries, and also, as civilian versions to Australia and Tanganyika. The Avro 626 was exported to 15 countries.

Roy Chadwick's next design was a smaller version of the Tutor, for instructing RAF pilots; this was the Avro Cadet. The flying School at Hamble: Air Service Training bought many Cadets; and The Royal Australian Air Force, bought 34 machines. Flying Clubs in Britain, bought Cadets, also. The Avro Commodore, followed, which was an enclosed version of the Cadet. Next followed the Avro Eighteen, a variant of the Avro Ten, with a welded steel tube body; and from this came the Immortal Avro Anson.( A line up of these versatile aircraft is seen here). Nearly 11,00 were built, and used in WW11 as transport aircraft, and for training Air Crews, in the Empire Air Training Scheme. Originally designed for Imperial Airways in 1933 by Roy Chadwick, he adapted it for The Air Ministry, to be a Coastal Reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used for Air Sea Rescue, and extensively by Air Transport Command during the war.

The Avro Lancaster which has been called the best bomber of World War ll, was designed by Roy Chadwick, as a variant of the Avro Manchester. The Manchester, an all metal, mid winged monoplane, was begun in the late 1930s as Avros submission for the Air Ministry's Specification for a long range bomber. Rolls Royce Vulture engines were to be used. Roy Chadwick, with his extensive knowledge from the First World War, designed a graceful, but rugged aeroplane. His forward thinking led him to design the plane round a remarkable Bomb Bay, capable of housing ten tons of bombs, in many combinations. The new and untried Vulture engines proved to be completely unreliable; and over a few weeks from November1940 to January 1941, Roy Chadwick's inspired lengthening of the Manchester wing, and the installation of 4 Rolls Royce Merlin engines, led to the creation of the Avro Lancaster, Over 7,300 Lancaster's were built. 40,000 aircraft workers were engaged on its production. Over 6,000,000 feet of factory floor space was used, throughout the many subsidiary factories. The Lancaster could fly higher, and further than other aircraft; it was very manoeuvrable; easy to handle, and light on the controls. There are many Lancaster's in Museums in Britain, Australia and Canada, and two that fly, today: "The City of Lincoln" in Britain, and the Mynarsky Lancaster in Canada.

Almost immediately, in 1941, Roy Chadwick designed a long-range transport aircraft, named The Avro York. He used Lancaster wings, undercarriage and tail components, allied to a square fuselage, and mainly, Rolls Royce Merlin Engines. One famous York called "Ascalon" was made for Sir Winston Churchill to use during the war. It carried him to review the Troops in North Africa, and he went to The Yalta Conference in "Ascalon". King George VI th also flew to North Africa in "Ascalon" in 1943. Lord Louis Mount batten's personal plane was an Avro York, when he was Viceroy of India; and when The Duke of Gloucester was Governor General of Australia, his personal aircraft was the York "Endeavour". Yorks played a great role, later, taking supplies to Berlin, during The Berlin Airlift in 1947. Its range was 2,700 miles.

As the war progressed, the Air Ministry called for a larger, long-range bomber, for service in the Far East, and Roy Chadwick designed a variant of the Avro Lancaster, with a larger wing span of 120 ft, and a longer fuselage and an ability to fly at 35,000ft this aircraft was named The Avro Lincoln. A pilot wrote that this could be said of the Lincoln: "I change my body but not my spirit" Lincolns saw service in the Far East, post war, and the Argentine Air Force ordered 30 machines in 1947.

In 1944 Avros, at their Waddington factory, began a conversion of the Lancaster, to follow that, which had been made by Victory Aircraft in Canada. This was to make an aircraft for long-range navigational flights. The nose and tail sections were modified and extra fuel tanks added. The new machine was named the Avro Lancastrian; and was delivered to The Empire Air Navigation School at RAF Shawbury.The first plane was called Aries, and it set off on the first, circumnavigation of the world. QANTAS airline of Australia used Lancastrians, on their London to Australia flights. BSAA also used Lancastrians on regular flights to South America; as did Flota Aerea Mercante Argentina. The Canadian Authorities had established a regular route from Canada toBritain earlier. This plane had a range of 4,100 miles with a 7,500 lb payload.

In November 1946, The Avro Lancastrian fitted with Rolls Royce Nene Jets, was the first JET "Airliner" to fly between two countries: (London to Paris) and its designer, Roy Chadwick was on board.(seen here in the cockpit)

As the war progressed, Roy Chadwick was very anxious that Britain should have its own Civil Aircraft, post war. He began to design an airliner, but due to wartime restrictions, could not design a completely new machine, but had to use existing aircraft parts, tools and jigs. A streamlined, low wing aircraft was the result. Using the Lincoln wing, and 4, Rolls Royce 1,760hp engines. This aircraft was named the Avro Tudor, and it was Britain's first, pressurised airliner. Many modifications were made, to suit the company, which would use the Tudor, and a Tudor Mk 11 was designed to carry 60 passengers. Eventually, the Tudors were used, very successfully, in the Famous Berlin Airlift, in which food and fuel were airlifted into Berlin.

Throughout his career, Roy Chadwick had always had several machines on his drawing board at a time; and now was no exception. The RAF asked him to tender for a long range Coastal Command aircraft, with the Lincoln wing, and 2,450 hp Rolls Royce Griffon Engines. He set up a large area of the Chadderton factory, where a Mock-Up was made which was of a plane large enough to hold all the equipment needed, for the surveillance task, it was to undertake. This was in 1946, and Roy Chadwick named it theAvro Shackleton, after Sir Ernest Shackleton the great Antarctic Explorer, and also after his wife's grandmother Agnes Shackleton, who was a distant relative of the explorer. The Shackleton did major work for the RAF in many parts of the Commonwealth, and during the Cold War; and it had an exceptionally long life in the service of Britain.

Roy Chadwick was always keen to encourage young people to be interested in aircraft: he had always taken his sisters to the Hamble aerodrome, and then his daughters to Woodford.

Roy Chadwick, seen here, at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys in 1944, as Guest of Honour at an ATC Rally, judging model Lancaster's; with ATC Cadet, Peter Bamford. Also, (seen left) At The Institute of Science and Technology, Manchester, in November 1946; with (left to right) The Chancellor of Manchester University; who had made Roy Chadwick an Hon: Master of Science; and Sir John Cockcroft (Atomic Science) and Sir Harold Hartley. Sir John and Sir Harold were students with Roy Chadwick at the Institute in the early days; and all three were receiving Honorary Fellowships of the Institute. A plaque to Roy Chadwick is installed high up on the wall of the Entrance Hall at the Institute of Science and Technology.

Roy Chadwick's brilliant mind was now focused on jet flight, and the Air Ministry despatched Specification B35/46, for a long-range bomber capable of carrying an atomic weapon. Roy Chadwick's thinking progressed to a Delta shape, and an Airliner based on the same shape, upon which, Avros subsequently produced a Brochure, and called it the Avro Atlantic. It foreshadowed "Concord" Roy Chadwick sketched this in the winter of 1946/47. On the left, is a photograph of the original model built as part of the specifications taken to the Air Miinistry by Roy Chadwick in May 1947, 3 months before he was killed on a test flight, for a delta wing bomber which subsequently became the Avro VULCAN. This aeroplane, had a brilliant career as Britain's Front line bomber, and it is beloved for its wonderful lines and extraordinary performance. But, sadly Roy Chadwick did not live to see the Avro Shackleton or the Avro Vulcan, fly. On Saturday, August 23rd, he went to Woodford to take part, on a Test flight of The Avro Tudor 11. Overnight there had been a service to the ailerons; and an undetected error in reassembling the chains over the control column, resulted in the machine 's port wing dropping toward the ground, just after take off; when Avro Test Pilot, Bill Thorn, turned to Starboard. The engines were cut, and the machine raced across a field beside the aerodrome. All would have been well, but there was a dewpond in the field; surrounded by trees. The Tudor ploughed into the trees; the nose broke off. The two pilots were, most sadly, drowned; and Roy Chadwick, who had been standing in the cockpit, behind the pilots, was flung out 60 yards, and died of a fractured skull. All the newspapers headlined the tragedy, and one editorial said that Roy Chadwick had died like any Soldier, Sailor or Airman, in the service of his country. Bibliography: An Avro Brochure of 1935. Avro an Aircraft Album. E.A. Harlin and G.A. Jenks. Architect of Wings, a Biography of Roy Chadwick by Harald Penrose. December 2001. Vulcan photograph Avro Heritage Centre.