An interesting mostly unknown fact about the Airspeed Company is that it was founded in 1931 by Neville Shute Norway who shortened his name as novelist Neville Shute. Having introduced the world to the Airspeed Oxford, Shute continued working as a engineer/inventor as well as fostering his thriving career as a novelist. When World War II broke-out, he was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy working in the government’s Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Projects he worked on included the Panjandrum, the giant wheeled cart device designed to destroy concrete fortifications on the beaches of Hitler’s Atlantic wall and the Rocket Spear, an anti-submarine
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 027 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
Aircraft - The Airspeed Oxford
Oxford Aircraft in flight 1944, 32 Service Flying Training School, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
BCATP Schools Using the Airspeed Oxford Aircraft for training:
No. 32 Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (Oxford)
No. 34 Medicine Hat, Alberta (Harvard and Oxford)
No. 35 North Battleford, Saskatchewan (Oxford)
No. 36 Penhold, Alberta (Oxford)
No. 37 Calgary, Alberta (Oxford, Harvard and Anson)
No. 39 Swift Current, Saskatchewan (Oxford)
Oxford was configured full time to facilitate wireless operation generally with the third member of the crew being a wireless operator. The Oxford was a truly versatile offering for training in navigation, bomb-aiming, wireless training, gunnery and camera operation. The Oxford also saw duty as an air ambulance, anti-submarine warfare aircraft and for communications support for RAF and USAF operations.
Initial manufacturing specifications called for two models – the general purpose Mark I with a dorsal gun turret and the Mark II with dual controls but lacking a gun turret. The first Oxford aircraft flew on June 19 1937.
In Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Force ordered 25 Oxfords in 1938 which were shipped to Canada and assembled by Canadian Vickers in Montreal. They were used by the RCAF initially in the Central Flying School but were transferred to the BCATP RAF Service Flying Training schools which brought many more from Britain. The Airspeed Oxford saw service in one form or another in 23 air forces across the world.
Maximum speed for the Oxford was 192 mph with an ability to remain airborne for 5.5 hours while flying up to 23,550 ft. When armoured, the Oxford had one Vickers K machine gun mounted in a dorsal turret and up to 16 11.5 lb. bombs externally on its wings.
The Airspeed Oxford is an advanced twin-engine, three-seat, monoplane aircraft chosen by the Royal Air Force to provide training in navigation, bombing and gunnery and radio operation during World War II. Oxford training was particularly relevant to students to be assigned to bomber aircraft. The aircraft was used by the RAF until 1956. It was based on Airspeed’s AS.6 Envoy, a eight-seat commercial aircraft. A total of 8,586 were built in Great Britain by Airspeed in Portsmouth (4,411), Airspeed in Christchurch Dorset (550), de Havilland in Hatfield (1,515), Purcival Aircraft in Luton (1,360) and Standard Motors in Coventry (750). Alan Butler, chairman of Airspeed and de Havilland revealed at a stockholders meeting in 1946 that Oxford production peaked in the spring of 1942 at 75 per month.
The normal crew for the Oxford consisted of three airmen. The cockpit had dual controls for a pilot and either a second pilot or navigator. Seating for a navigator was pushed back in the cockpit to give access to a chart table. The extra control set was removed for bomb-aimer training and the space configured for bomb-aiming. The
missle proved to be successful in naval combat. His writing talents were not overlooked by the Ministry of Information which sent him to the 1944 Normandy Allied Landings and Burma as a war correspondent. He retired from military service as a lieutenant commander. Twenty-four of his written works have been published.