WILSON, Gp Capt Hugh Joseph ('Willie') (1908-1990)

Scope and Content

Papers and photographs relating to Wilson's career, 1928-1990, especially his service as test pilot for British and captured German aircraft, 1937-1945, setting the world air speed record, 1945, and his role as Commandant, Empire Test Pilots' School, 1945-1947, including three flying log books, 1928-1944; typescript copy of unpublished memoir entitled 'Icy calm. Recollections of a wartime test pilot', written in [1972]. One hundred and seventy four official and personal photographs relating to Wilson's career, 1930-[1950], including damaged Bristol Bulldog fighter, crash landed by Wilson, UK, 1931; captured German aircraft Heinkel He111, Junkers Ju88, Messerschmitt Me109, Messerschmitt Me110 and Italian Fiat CR42 [1941-1945]; testing of CAM (Catapult Assisted Merchantman) aircraft launch apparatus and tests on Fairey Fulmar, Blackburn Shark and General Aircraft Hotspur gliders with RATOG (Rocket Assisted Take-Off Gear), 1941-1942; Empire Test Pilots' School students under instruction and in flight, 1945-1947; photographs of De Havilland Mosquito, Avro Lancaster, Hawker Tempest, Supermarine Spitfire, Gloster Meteor and De Havilland Vampire, 1945-1947; prototype of Planet Aircraft Satellite, 1948-1949. Contemporary reports, memoranda and official and personal correspondence, 1937-1990, including typescript memorandum by Wilson entitled 'Pilot's impressions of the [Blackburn] Botha', 1940; typescript report by Wilson entitled 'Observations of fighter requirements', 1940; typescript report by Wilson entitled 'Tactical trials and other observations on the De Havilland E6/41 (known as the DH100 Spider-Crab, later renamed Vampire) with Halford H1 engine', 1944, and Empire Test Pilots' School student's confidential report for Sqn Ldr J G Mann, RAF, Course No 3, 1946; typescript report by Cyril Francis Caunter entitled 'A historical summary of the Royal Aircraft Establishment 1918-1948', 1949; correspondence with potential publishers for Wilson's memoir, 1972-1990. Publications, 1946-1972, including two editions of The Times, 1946 and 1947, edition of The Aeroplane with article on the Empire Test Pilots' School, 1946, and booklet entitled 'Empire Test Pilots' School Personnel Supplement. List of graduates 1943-1972 and present staff' [1972].

Administrative / Biographical History

Born 1908; educated at University School, Hastings, Merchant Taylors and City of London School; served apprenticeship in cotton trade, 1925-1929; joined RAF on short service commission, 1929; posted to No 5 Flight Training School, Sealand, Flintshire, 1929; served with 111 Fighter Sqn, Hornchurch, Essex, 1930-1932; Flying Officer, 1931; posted to Fleet Air Arm, 1932, and served with School of Naval Co-operation, Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire, 1932-1934; released from RAF, 1934; conversion course on flying boats while on Reserve, 1934; qualified as Flying Instructor, 1935; Chief Instructor and Manager, York County Aviation Club, 1935; Flying Instructor, RAF Reserve School, 1935-1936; Flying Instructor, Blackburns, Hanworth, Surrey, and Brough, Yorkshire, 1935-1937; Civil Test Pilot, Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, Hampshire, 1937-1939; recalled to RAF as Sqn Ldr, 1939; Commanding Officer, Aerodynamic Flight, Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, Hampshire, 1939-1941; served in World War Two, 1939-1945; temporarily attached to 74 Fighter Sqn, Biggin Hill, Kent, to assess fighter requirements, 1940; Wg Cdr, 1941; awarded AFC, 1941; Chief Test Pilot, Royal Aircraft Establishment, responsible for initial test flights on all captured enemy aircraft, 1941-1945; Test Pilot, British Air Commission, Washington DC, on loan to US Army Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps, 1943-1944; Assistant Director (Flying) Special Projects, Ministry of Aircraft Production, 1944-1945; seconded to 616 Fighter Sqn to train pilots on the Gloster Meteor jet fighter, 1944; acting Gp Capt, 1945; Commandant, Empire Test Pilots' School, Cranfield, Bedfordshire, 1945-1947; set new world air speed record of 606 miles per hour in Gloster Meteor IV, 1945; awarded CBE, 1946; Officers Advanced Training School, 1947; Wg Cdr Administrative, RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, 1948; retired from RAF, 1948; Managing Director and Chief Test Pilot for Planet Aircraft, 1948-1949; appointed Sales Manager (Engines), Blackburn and General Aircraft Limited, 1953; employed by Rolls Royce Limited, Small Engine Division, 1968; Associate Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society; Member of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators; died 1990.


The chapters of the draft typescript memoir 'Icy calm. Recollections of a wartime test pilot' are arranged into files with relevant contemporary photographs. Other papers and photographs are arranged chronologically in files.

Access Information

Open, subject to signature of reader's undertaking form.

Acquisition Information

Placed in the Centre by the family in 1996.

Other Finding Aids

Summary guide available on-line at http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lhcma/top.htm, and in hard copy in the Centre's reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Trustees of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, attention of the Director of Archive Services.