Lionel Peter Twiss DSO. DSC and bar

(23 July 1921 – 31 August 2011)

Faster than the Sun.

Webmaster foreword:

Lionel Peter Twiss (born 23 July 1921) OBE DSC and bar is a British pilot, who held the World Air Speed Record.

He was born in Lindfield, Sussex and lived with his grandmother while his parents were in India and Burma. He was the grandson of an admiral and the son of an army officer. Twiss went to school at Haywards Heath and later at Sherborne School. In 1938 he was employed as an apprentice tea-taster by Brooke Bond in London, before returning to the family farm near Salisbury

He had been rejected by the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot but when the Second World War broke out, he was accepted as a Naval Airman Second Class. He served initially on catapult ships flying Hawker Hurricanes. During the Malta convoys in 1942 he flew with 807 Squadron, firstly on Fairey Fulmars, and then Supermarine Seafires from the carrier HMS Furious.

For these operations he received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). During Operation Torch (the Allied landings in Algeria and Morocco, he added a bar to his DSC. He then flew long range intruder operations over Germany from Ford Naval Air Station. During the war Twiss began to get opportunities to fly new aircraft and began test flying in 1944 in the United States. By the end of the war he was a Lieutenant-Commander. In 1946, Twiss joined Fairey Aviation as a test pilot and flew many of the company's aircraft, including the Fairey Primer, Fairey Gannet, Fairey Firefly, and the Fairey Rotodyne compound-helicopter. He worked two years on the Fairey Delta 2, a supersonic delta-winged research plane.

On 10 March 1956, he flew the FD2 to a world speed record of 1820kph (1,132mph). In 1959 Fairey Aviation was sold to Westland Aircraft which is a helicopter manufacturer, which was not Twiss's area. Twiss joined Fairey Marine in 1960 and was responsible for development and sales of day-cruisers. He appeared in "From Russia with Love" driving one of the the company's speedboats. He also appeared in the film "Sink the Bismark" in which he flew a Fairey Swordfish. Today Twiss is a member of Lasham Gliding Society.

Twiss's first three marriages to Constance Tomkinson, Vera Maguire and Cherry Huggins ended in divorce. His fourth wife, Heather Danby, died in 1988. He was survived by his fifth wife, Jane de Lucey. He had a son, three daughters and several stepchildren.

His Memorial service was held on June 14th 2012 at 2.00pm. Boscombe Down MOD.


This website was honoured to be in touch with Peter and he penned these words for the website.

I was born in Lindfield, Sussex on July 23rd 1921 and lived with my grandmother while my parents were in India and Burma.

School was at Haywards Heath and later Sherborne once at 16years of age. My first work took me onto a farm at Winterslow near Salisbury, which later became my home. My duties were various but mainly helping with the Guernsey herd, milking etc. This meant early starts every day and then out delivering milk as far as Southampton.

War came along so I joined the Fleet Air Arm, starting at HMS Vincent in Gosport, I was 17 and an Able Seaman, we had to learn all about the Navy signals, morse code and knots etc, after the fiirst 3 months we were sent to flying school at Elmdon near Birmingham flying Tiger Moths.

 

Fairey Fulmar

After this initial course we went on to fly Fairey Battles and Hawker Harts, by this time I was a midshipman. We went onto operational training at Naval Air Station Yeovilton flying Roc's, Skuas and Gladiators, formation flying was practised over and over again.

Bristol Blenheim of 107 Squadron

Then onto The School of Army Co-operation at Andover flying Blenheims as a twin conversion, from here I was posted to 771 Squadron in the Orkney Islands, this meant flying a variety of naval 19/c Swordfish, Skuas and Roc's.

Each day we had to do a Met flight climbing to 12000ft over the islands in Fairey Swordfish, open cockpit and very cold in the winter months.!

Fairey Swordfish

My total flying hours to date were 262 hours on 12 types, then onto my first operational squadron, 804 based in Belfast with Hurricane's on various Merchant Ships, perched on the bow! Our normal run was on convoys to and from Belfast - Gibraltar. If you were launched in the event of an enemy attack the flight ended with a return to Belfast or Gibraltar, or if in between the two, it was BALE OUT near the ship, I was lucky and fortunate never having to bale out!!

Hawker Hurricane of 3 Squadron

Being now based at Gibraltar we were available for escort duties on the carriers looking after ships on convoy to Malta, the aircraft carriers and most of the escort ships turned round 150 miles from Malta and returned to Gibraltar. They dare not risk the escort ships to the very strong German/Italian Air Fleets on Sicily and North Africa.

After the invasion of North Africa for which we provided air support we returned to Gibraltar and after the North African Invasion we returned to UK Yeovilton to reform for other operations.

 

Fairey Gannet

For these operations I received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). During Operation Torch, the Allied landings in Algeria and Morocco, I added a bar to my DSC. We then flew long range intruder operations over Germany from Ford Naval Air Station. and had opportunities to fly new aircraft and began test flying in 1944 in the United States. By the end of the war I was a lieutenant-commander.


Fairey Rotodyne

In 1946, I joined Fairey Aviation as a test pilot and flew many of the company's aircraft, including the Fairey Primer, Fairey Gannet, Fairey Firefly, and the Fairey Rotodyne compound-helicopter and worked for two years on the Fairey Delta 2, a supersonic delta-winged research plane. On 10 March 1956 this aircraft broke the World Speed Record raising it to 1,132 mph (1811 km/h), an increase of some 300 mph (480 km/h) over the record set in year before by an F-100 Super Sabre, and thus became the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph in level flight.

In 1959 Fairey Aviation was sold to Westland Aircraft a helicopter manufacturer, which was not my area, I therefore joined Fairey Marine in 1960 and was responsible for development and sales of day-cruisers. I was in From Russia with Love driving one of the company's speedboats and also appeared in the film Sink the Bismark in which I flew a Fairey Swordfish.


Fairey Delta 2 - World speed record holder WG774 -Type high-speed research aircraft - Fairey Aviation Company

Maiden flight 6 October 1954 -Retired 1966 (WG777), 1973 (WG744) - Primary user Royal Aircraft Establishment

Number built 2

The Fairey Delta 2 or FD2 was a British supersonic research aircraft produced by the Fairey Aviation Company in response to a specification from the Ministry of Supply for investigation into flight and control at transonic and supersonic speeds.

Design and development

WG774 with the original polished-metal finish. It later received yellow "go faster" stripes, followed by a purple and yellow scheme, before conversion to the BAC 221.The design was a mid-wing tail-less delta monoplane, with a circular cross-section fuselage and engine air-inlets blended into the wing roots. The engine was a Rolls-Royce Avon RA.5 with an afterburner. The Delta 2 had a very long tapering nose which obscured forward vision during landing, take-off and movement on the ground. To compensate, the nose section and cockpit drooped 10 degrees, in a similar way to that used later on Concorde. Two aircraft were built: WG774 and WG777.

The FD2 was used as the basis for Fairey's submissions to the Ministry for advanced all weather interceptor designs leading to the Fairey Delta 3 for the F.155 specification, but it never got past the drawing board stage.

Testing

The first FD2 was aircraft WG774 which made its maiden flight on 6 October 1954, flown by Fairey test pilot Peter Twiss. On 10 March 1956, this aircraft broke the World Air Speed Record raising it to 1,132 mph (1811 km/h), an increase of some 300 mph (480 km/h) over the record set in August 1955 by an F-100 Super Sabre, and thus became the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph in level flight.

BAC 221

The first Delta 2, WG774, was later rebuilt by British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), who had absorbed Fairey, in 1960 as the ogee-ogive wing form aircraft BAC 221. This was for aerodynamic research as part of the Concorde development programme. It featured a new wing, engine inlet configuration, modified vertical stabiliser and a lengthened undercarriage to mimic Concorde's attitude on the ground. It flew from 1964 until 1973.

Survivors

WG774, in BAC 221 form, is now on display alongside the British Concorde prototype at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. The second FD2, WG777, is preserved at the Royal Air Force Museum at RAF Cosford, alongside many other supersonic research aircraft.

Specifications (Fairey Delta 2)
General characteristics
Crew: 1
Length: 51 ft 7 in (15.7 m)
Wingspan: 26 ft 10 in (8.2 m)
Height: 11 ft (3.4 m)
Wing area: 360 ft² (33 m²)
Empty weight: 11,000 lb (4,990 kg)
Loaded weight: 13,884 lb (6298 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 13,884 lb (6,298 kg)
Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce RA.5 turbojet, 10,000 lb (4536 kg)
Performance
Maximum speed: 1,132 mph (1,811 km/h)
Range: 830 mi (1,340 km)
Service ceiling: 48,000 ft (14640 m)
Rate of climb: 15,000 ft/min (76.2 m/s)
Wing loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²)

References
Taylor, H. A. Fairey Aircraft since 1915. London: Putnam, 1974. ISBN 0-370-00065-X.
Twiss, Peter. Faster than the Sun. London: Grub Street Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-902304-43-8.
Winchester, Jim. Concept Aircraft: Prototypes, X-Planes and Experimental Aircraft. Rochester, Kent, UK: Grange books plc, 2005. ISBN 1-84013-809-2.

 


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