Sir Geoffrey de Havilland
Founder of the De Havilland Aircraft Company. Born at Magdala House (now called Terriers Green House), Terriers, High Wycombe.
Link with the Chilterns
Born at Magdala House (now called Terriers Green House), Terriers, High Wycombe.
27th July 1882
21st May 1965
Geoffrey de Havilland was the second son of Charles de Havilland, a village curate at Holy Trinity Church in Hazlemere.
In 1900 Geoffrey enrolled at the Crystal Palace Engineering School, Sydenham, where he designed a motorcycle powered by a 1.5 h.p. engine he built himself.
In 1905, Geoffrey joined the drawing office of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Co. in Birmingham, but became disillusioned and his grandfather gave him £1000 to pursue his declared intent to build an aeroplane. Geoffrey embarked on the project with his friend, Frank Hearle.
During his first attempted take-off, at Seven Barrows, near Newbury, in November 1909, his first aeroplane crashed, only the engine was salvaged.
His second design flew successfully on 10th September 1910.
In December 1910 the Army Balloon Factory at Farnborough agreed to buy his second aeroplane for £400, whilst taking him on as designer and test pilot.
In May 1914, Geoffrey joined “Airco” at Hendon and designed the first of a long line of aeroplanes to bear the “DH” prefix.
In 1920 Geoffrey set up the de Havilland Aircraft Company at Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware. His 60th design, in 1925, for which he suggested the name “Moth”, finally secured a sound business foundation.
Moving progressively to Hatfield between 1930 and 1934, the company expanded dramatically in time for wartime production of the innovative Mosquito (much of the wooden airframe for this aeroplane was built in Wycombe`s furniture factories).
The world`s first jet airliner the DH Comet was designed and built at Hatfield.
Geoffrey was awarded a CBE in 1934 and knighted in 1944 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1962.
He died peacefully on 21st May 1965.
His ashes were scattered over the field at Seven Barrows from a DH 121 Trident, flown by Group Captain John Cunningham.
Wycombe’s Contribution to Aviation by David Scott and Ian Simmons, published by Wycombe District Council and available from the Information Centres in Princes Risborough, Marlow and High Wycombe
Sky Fever – The Autobiography of Sir Geoffrey de Havilland ISBN No 0-905-778-405
What you can visit
“Terriers Green House”, Amersham Road, Terriers, High Wycombe. Birthplace of Geoffrey, identified by a green wall plaque erected by Wycombe District Council, unveiled on 27th July 2000 by Anne Essex (née de Havilland) Geoffrey`s grand daughter. The house is located opposite the Beech Tree pub. It is privately-owned and not open to the public.
The de Havilland Aircraft Museum (dehavillandmuseum.co.uk) London Colney, near St. Albans. Collection of de Havilland aeroplanes, including the prototype Mosquito. The collection is next to Salisbury House, where the Mosquito was designed in WW2.