Greville K Dawson collection

Scope and Content

Material documenting Greville Dawson’'s involvement with the proposed Bluebird supersonic vehicle, “CN8,” which includes: three periodicals containing articles by Dawson; a typescript history of the land speed record attempt written by Dawson; general information concerning land and water speed record attempts; photograph album of related images; research material re CN8’'s design/development; letters and other items concerning publicity and sponsorship of Bluebird.

Administrative / Biographical History

The following is an extract from an autobiographical piece written by Dawson.

Four factors combined to cause my involvement in the development of "CN8" to take place.

One - I was sponsored as an apprentice in mechanical engineering by the MoD at its Fighting Vehicle and Research Establishment (FVRDE) at Longcross near Chobham in Surrey. When taking final exams for my ONC in Engineering at Farnborough Technical College in 1966, our General Studies lecturer, Andy Swan, was very happy that I chose to write about the Land Speed Record for my dissertation. For me it was and still is the most fascinating and exciting element of motoring history. Andy was car mad too and owned a grey Mk1 Jaguar 3.4. Sometimes on a Friday evening I'd cadge a ride to Woking [S]tation just so we could blast across the ranges at Pirbright. It meant that I'd be in trouble when I got home as I was "late", but it was worth it.

Two - [o]ne afternoon, during the time when I had to write this essay, my best friend at college and I found ourselves on the college sports field. He called me over to show me his golf swing. I stood too close and he clouted me about the left eye on his follow through. This resulted in thirteen stitches, wearing dark glasses (very cool!) and having time off college. Thus, I had more time to work on my essay, which ended up being closer to 35000 words rather than 5000, on the history of the Land Speed Record, complete with photographs. In other words, I'd written a book.

Three - I sent the manuscript to Ken Norris, having read much about him in relation to "Bluebird CN7" and "Bluebird K7". He was impressed enough to invite me to Burrell Road in Hayward's Heath to have a chat. He even asked Tonia Bern Campbell if she would write the foreword to the book, should it be published. I duly arrived at Ken's door at the beginning of February 1967, just a few weeks after Donald Campbell's tragic accident. The offices were in a sombre mood and Ken showed me a piece of a sponson that had been recovered from the scene. Still, I spent a couple of enjoyable hours in Ken's company and was beside myself with excitement when I stood next to the full-size [mock-up] of the rocket car, which sat outside the main entrance to the admin. building. Ken struck me as being a lovely, modest and very clever man. This was confirmed many times during our association and, indeed, by others I've met who also knew him. Our meeting started an association that would last for six or seven years. During this time I was involved in all aspects of the development of "CN8". (I know that there has been correspondence in various places about the vehicle's name tag. For instance, it's been called "Mach 1.1" and "CNM8". (To the best of my recollection, Ken and I called it "CN8", which was logical as it was to follow "CN7".)

Four - [a]fter gaining my ONC I was "upgraded" to the status of Student Engineer. My Industrial Mentor was George Vernon Cleare. As I was the only student of my type in my year, I always had his full attention in regard to my further training. Mr. Cleare (or GVC - I never used his Christian names) was head of the tracked vehicle transmission section at FVRDE. He took great interest in my involvement with Ken and CN8, so much so that he arranged for me to be placed on an Honours Degree course in mechanical engineering at Thames Polytechnic in Woolwich. For half of each year I would be in college and for the other half I acquired industrial experience. This went on for four years. I thus had ample opportunity to work on the car's design and, as I was sponsored by the MoD, I was even paid for it! (Until he died, GVC and I always exchanged Christmas cards. He always asked what was happening to my manuscript - the magnum opus as he called it.) Anyway, to continue……...

These four factors conspired to make everything fall into place. So, during college time I was able to work on aspects of CN8's design and during industrial placements, arranged by GVC, I was able to get first-hand experience at MoD locations. These visits allowed me to work on both practical and theoretical elements relating to the vehicle.

Access Information

Open to researchers, by appointment. For further information, please see:

Custodial History

The material was donated in 2014 by Greville Dawson.