In the first of a two-part feature, heritage photographer and curator Nigel Gibson describes the early days of Hucknall’s Flight Test Establishment, its vital relationship with Rolls-Royce and the role of his grandfather, Ted Gibson
Back in the dark days preceding World War Two, near the small Nottinghamshire mining town of Torkard Hucknall, a team of civilian scientists, designers, pilots and aero engineers ‘quietly’ helped to change the course of the forthcoming conflict. Not only that, they also revolutionised air travel, and developed some of the most iconic pieces of engineering Britain has ever seen – or heard.
Ernest Hives, an enthusiastic young engineer, had been plucked from obscurity by Sir Henry Royce by sheer chance in 1908. When Sir Henry’s car broke down outside the bicycle repair shop where Hives was working, the younger man proceeded to repair the troublesome motor on the spot. After they’d chatted, an impressed Royce offered him a job.