Hawker Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

H.G. Hawker, Airman. His Life and Work

By Muriel Hawker



IMMEDIATELY after the war efforts were made by the Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Company to turn out domestic utensils from aluminium. Mr. Sigrist tells the tale of Harry walking into his office one morning after discovering the new object the firm was to produce, and sitting down, said : "Well, Fred, what do you think of it! Saucepans! Where do I come in? I never thought I should live to find myself in a job that Mrs. Beeton could do better than I."

I believe a good many saucepans were made, which, according to a contributor to a flying paper, "involved strenuous work on the firm's chief tester", and also a certain wooden toy was turned out in good numbers; but the firm commenced real post-war work in the production of the A.B.C. motor-bicycle.

The company continued with the production of this cycle for some time, but was eventually unable to weather the slump of 1920, and in the September of that year the Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Company closed down.

In November a new company was founded by Messrs. Sopwith and Sigrist and Harry, known as the H. G. Hawker Engineering Company, which started in the production of a 2-stroke motor-cycle and also special aluminium body-work. After the appearance of Harry's streamlined A.C. a considerable demand for like racing bodies appeared, until most of the best known racing light cars became furnished with Hawker streamline bodies.

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In practising for the Midsummer Meeting of the B.A.R.C. on June 25th, he had a very narrow escape from disaster. I was timing his lap speed from the stand, when, as he was about to enter the railway straight at about 100 miles per hour, he suddenly appeared to slide down the banking, and a huge cloud of dust concealed him from view. A man immediately behind me, who had been watching the A.C., exclaimed : "Hawker's off the track ! He'll need his luck now!"

Running down the steps of the stand, the first person I saw in the paddock was Mr. Coatalen just getting into his car. He took me round to the spot, where, as one would quite expect, Harry was standing up by the side of the track, waving his hands to denote his complete fitness. His appearance, however, was terrible, as his whole face was covered with blood, but, rubbing it with his handkerchief, asked for volunteers to help him out with the car, which could not at first be seen. It had completely hopped the three-feet concrete parapet that surrounds the track, and was reposing, right way up, in the long grass.

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After the sprint records he had put up, Harry's intention was to go for sustained and still greater speeds with the object of attacking world's records irrespective of size before the end of the year, but he was only destined to live three more weeks, leaving the car, his loved car on which he had spent so much of his interest and time during the last six months, at the height of its fame, for others to carry on to the 120 miles per hour goal.

During this time, Harry and Sopwith displayed much enthusiasm in their two-stroke motor-cycle production, and they entered and themselves rode machines in many competitions and trials, with a good amount of success.

Harry designed and made in the works a special racing two-stroke cycle, but although he had it out on the road on its maiden trip, he was never to have it out on the track, and after his death the work on this cycle was not continued.



"One moment stood he . . * high in the stainless eminence of air. The next he was not."

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Exactly what happened or what was the cause will never be known, but it seems probable that something serious, which, Harry realised, might cause a fire, occurred while he was fairly high over Burnt Oak, Hendon; and it was evident that he proceeded to land, but was unable to do so before the machine took fire. As the aeroplane struck the ground the petrol tank exploded. That Harry died instantaneously there is no doubt, for his body, terribly fractured, was found some 200 yards away.


AGED 31.

DIED, JULY 12, 1921.

I have said enough : but let the tributes which more learned judges have paid to the father of my Pamela and Mary be widely known.

"Hawker's one ambition was to get more from an internal combustion engine of given size than anyone else had succeeded in getting, and his perpetual success became a byword. ... It was in this particular that Hawker shone most brilliantly, and never an engine passed through his hands but it showed an increased power capacity of from 20 per cent, to 100 per cent, when he had finished with it. The same applied to his work in aeroplane and motor-car design. He began where others had left off, and carried what they considered the final stage of development to a point that they had either not dreamed of or had definitely decided to be impossible of achievement. ... No one but Hawker could have avoided death at the end of that skid. It took place on a car which, originally capable of some sixty miles an hour, regularly accomplished, when he had finished with it, over a hundred."

"If ever there was a trier, Hawker was one. Once he made up his mind to do a thing, he would try, and try, and try again until he succeeded. Failures served to spur him on to new effort. ... He loved to do things that were worthwhile, and did them for the sake of doing them, not with any sort of gain in view."

"The nation has lost one of its most distinguished airmen, who by his skill and daring has contributed so much to the success of British aviation." - H.M. KING GEORGE V.

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