William Farren - 1914-18
In 1915, after graduating with a First Class Honours in Maths and Mechanical Sciences, and following a short spell with British Thompson Houston testing electric motors, William Farren joined a new team being assembled at Farnborough. He was quickly appointed as Head of the Aerodynamics Dept.
On a more personal note, during this time he got engaged to Carol Erica Washington whom he married in August 1917.
I have a box from Sir William containing hundreds of his negatives each in labelled packets, but space does not allow them all to be shown on this website! I have selected just a couple of family photos. Sadly, this photo (right) is the only one in the whole collection that shows William as a young man. A photo previously displayed on this web-page as Farren now turns out to have been Carol's brother, Frank Washington.
The photo(left) shows Carol Washington's family from one set labelled "The Family" July 1916. The photo of Carol and William in a rowing boat was taken from a set labelled "Paradise", also July 1916, during the summer when William learnt to fly.
Below is a set of William's photos taken during his first year at Farnborough, labelled as "The Factory". It was several years later when Farnborough was designated as an Establishment.
Sir George Thomson wrote, "Farren was an engineer by instinct. I have happy memories of hours spent sitting together in the big hall of the Perse School, Cambridge, nominally doing mathematics for scholarships but often discussing models we might make. At Farnborough in WW1 he was one of Mervyn O'Gorman's bright boys and with Lindermann, later Cheswell and Melville Jones with whom he later worked at Cambridge, successfully pressed for the four of us to be taught to fly." (personal correspondence)
So, in 1916, William Farren gained permission, against the arguments of scientific staff, to learn to fly. Along with friends, Lindemann and Lucas (later Thomson), he went to Netheravan and Upavon for their lessons. Tragically, Lucas died in a collision with another pupil (more information here) but Farren and Lindemann completed their training at and returned to their research at Farnborough. Frederick Lindemann (later Viscount Cherwell) is credited with being the first pilot to perform detailed observations whilst piloting a spinning aeroplane in 1918.
Here are four sets of Farren's own photos of learning to fly in 1916, taken in July, September and December.
Farren was known as "Bill" by his friends. He was one of a small group of young men at Farnborough known as the Chudleigh Mess. Of these, seven went on to become Fellows of the Royal Society and four were later knighted, another was the future Lord Cherwell, Churchill's scientific advisor in WW2. Farren achieved both distinctions - F.R.S. and a knighthood.
‘Chudleigh’ was a large house effectively run as a private mess by some members of the Farnborough staff, with F. M. Green, the Factory’s chief engineer, as the unofficial Mess President. The permanent members were H. Glauert, F.M. Green, W.S. Farren, H. Grinstead and R. M. Wood. Others at various times included F. W. Aston, B. M. Jones, F. A. Lindemann, D. H. Pinsent, G. I. Taylor, and G. P. Thomson.
S. B. Gates recalls of the ‘Chudleigh lot’ that “…they were said to play erudite games like three-dimensional chess when they were not analysing what the day’s inspiration and observation brought them. They were as wildly individualistic as any élite are - and about twice as hardworking." (Farnborough Air Sciences Trust)
You can read some Memories of the Chudleigh Mess here written by one of the group, R. McKinnon Wood. Farren was made an MBE in 1918 at the age of 26.
PHOTO (Right): Aerodynamics Department, Farnborough, 1918. Left to right up the steps; Glauert, Thomson, Lindemann, Grinstead, Farren, R. Hill, Pinsent. Centre foreground: Bairstow and R. M. Wood.
PHOTO (Below): W S Farren with D Pinsent in the cockpit of a warplane; RAE, 1918