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Captain Frank Barnwell - Aircaft Designer - 1880 to 1938

Frank Barnwell was born of a North Country family in Lewisham, Kent in 1880. He was sent to Fettes College public school in Edinburgh, and at eighteen left to serve a six-year apprenticeship in marine engineering with the Fairfield Shipbuilding Co. of Govan. Taking a BSc in engineering at the University of Glasgow, he went abroad for two years, returning to join his brother Harold in a motor business in Stirlingshire, which they ran to support their joint, and greater interest, flying.

From their garage they produced three flying machines between 1908 and 1910, gaining confidence and skill with each. Wishing to progress, the brothers headed south to join the new aviation enterprises that were beginning to spring up and build aeroplanes. Harold took a position with Vickers, but after rising to become their Chief Test Pilot he was killed in an aircraft accident in 1917

Frank was about to accept an offer from A.V. Roe when Sir George White of Bristol made him a much more exciting offer. He joined Filton in March 1911, a place he would remain at for most of his life.

Along with most of his generation, Frank joined up for service in the First World War. He became a wartime pilot in the Royal Flying Corp and rose to the rank of Captain. In 1915 he was stationed in France with No. 12 Squadron and saw at first hand the ease with which the newly introduced German Fokker + E-type was disposing of the British BE2. The BE2 was poorly armed and lacked manoeuvrability. The Flying Corps was losing pilots almost as fast as they could be replaced. Not wishing to lose more pilots, and at the same time not wishing to lose valuable engineering and design capability, the General Staff released Frank Barnwell from duty in 1915. He was sent back to Filton on indefinite unpaid leave to resume his position as Chief Engineer. Frank immediately began to assemble a team of engineers to produce a suitable combat machine to counteract the enemy's superiority on the Western Front.

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Captain Frank Barnwell

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