Short Brothers Aviation Pioneers


The only person I specifically remember at Shorts was Cyril Bishop, charge hand in the detail section, No. 1 shop. A really nice chap, most helpful to us ” learners” and always called us ” Jim”!

It was quite a good canteen and main course was 1/- (5p) and desert 6d (2½p). We apprentices though, got both for 6d (tore the ticket in half for each).

Friday was always fish and chips and one day a week we had “slab” semolina pudding- cold, cut up into 4″ x 4″ and 11/2″ – 2″ thick and with a good dollop of treacle (yum for a young lad!).

Friends in my class (we went to Medway Tech., Gardner St., Gillingham one day and one evening a week on the O.N.C. [Ed: Ordinary National Certificate] course were; Roy Thomas- went to Blaw Knox; Jim Hayes- ditto- lives in Rainham  (spoke with him Aug.’14); Clive Freeman- ditto- lives near Doncaster (spoke July ’06).  Clive’s elder brother (son of one of the curators at Rochester Museum) started up a football team, mostly of Short’s lads, called the Medway Juniors. We played on the Lines between G’ham and Chatham on Sunday mornings, never won a match!

David Smith

My uncle Derrick, fourth of the ten children of Gus Smith (and the first boy) has just compiled a fascinating memoir which shows that during WWII his dad Gus and four of his children worked for Shorts. Gus was Salvage Operator in the Production Department but sadly had a heart attack and died in 1942. Of his children, Joan was a radiologist testing castings, Francis worked as a moulder in the foundry, Derrick worked in the chemistry lab testing materials, Peggy worked in the pay office.

I know that my mum and dad were both in Chatham Dockyard, Gus’ first child, Mavis (named by one of the Wrights after their mum) was in the Land Army. The youngest ones were evacuated.

Mark Fletcher

I forgot to mention that I recalled a conversation with my grandmother about one of the Short brothers, I think it was Horace, that to raise money for their aircraft manufacture, he had sold his head to science as he was thought to have an unusually large brain as his head was so large. I don’t know if there was any truth in this or whether it was just hearsay. If you have not heard of this, it might be worth investigating.

Roger Doucy

Incidentally, one memory I have and forgot to mention altho’ I THINK it might have been before I became an apprentice at Shorts- say ’44/45, was cycling across Rochester bridge & stopping when I heard an aircraft approaching. It was a Sunderland taking off and came right over the top of me (a couple of hundred feet), water still flowing down the side of the fuselage and running off.

White, so certainly an RAF Mk. IV or V. In general, they took off in the other direction- for obvious reasons- but when the wind was wrong and it had to go… Another remembrance has suddenly come to mind. Hector always said Lancaster [Lankester] Parker was a really nice chap and he got on well with him.

David Smith