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Trying to avoid being hit by our own explosions


'Little did we know how dangerous these bloody rockets were!'
Ken Adam Artist
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The air force decided that we should change to air-to-ground rockets because, you know, the Typhoon at about 8,000 ft could fly straight and level at about 450 miles an hour, which was really incredible. And it was so big and powerful, it had that 24-cylinder Sabre engine. And so they equipped us for the first time with air-to-ground rockets, and we were all very excited about it. Little did we know how dangerous these bloody rockets were, not only for the enemy but also for us, because we didn't have a proper gunsight, we had to use our... the normal gunsight of the four Hispano cannons we had on the plane, and... so we used to scream down... we were training at Fairwood Common or somewhere in Wales, and so on and... it was very difficult to hit a target without a gunsight, you know? But eventually – I looked at my logbook some time ago – my average error was about 50 yards, I think, which is not bad but of course we had eight of these rockets and... each one had the sort of explosive power of a 6-inch naval gun shell.

Sir Kenneth Adam (1921-2016), OBE, born Klaus Hugo Adam, was a production designer famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. Initially, he trained as an architect in London, but in October 1943, he became one of only two German-born fighter pilots to fly with the RAF in wartime. He joined 609 Squadron where he flew the Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber. After the war, he entered the film industry, initially as a draughtsman on This Was a Woman. His portfolio of work includes Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George; he won an Oscar for both films. Having a close relationship with Stanley Kubrick, he also designed the set for the iconic war room in Dr Strangelove. Sir Ken Adam was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: RAF, Royal Air Force, Wales, Fairwood Common

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 15 August 2011