Eric Greenwood is mentioned in the Village for a Thousand Years.
His name is now commemorated in Harwell Village, where Taylor Wimpey have named their houses “Greenwood Meadows“, and in Great Western Park, the main spine road will change from Sir Frank Williams Avenue to Greenwood Way as it passes the boundary between Didcot and Harwell.
Sir Frank Williams is known for his racing cars, while Eric Greenwood flew fast aeroplanes.
According to Kent History Forum:
There were two Gloster Meteors attempting to gain the World Absolute Air Speed Record on 7 November 1945.
EE454, flown by Group Captain Hugh Wilson RAF, and EE455, flown by Eric Greenwood, chief test pilot of the Gloster Aircraft Company.
Group Captain Wilson flew the three-kilometre course between Herne Bay and Reculver at a new air speed record of 606.25 mph, while Greenwood returned a speed of 603 mph.
The following account by Eric Greenwood is taken from the Argus (Aus) 9 November 1945.
How Speed of 603 MPH was Attained.
Greenwood Tells Amazing Story of Flight.
In this article Mr Eric Greenwood, chief test pilot of the Gloster Aircraft Co, who attained a speed of 603 mph in a Meteor jet plane at Herne Bay (Kent) on Wednesday, tells the story of his runs over the course.
As I shot across the course of three kilometres (one mile seven furlongs), my principal worry was to keep my eye on the pier, for it was the best guiding beacon there was. On my first run I hit a bump, got a wing down, and my nose slewed off a bit, but I got back on the course. Below the sea appeared to be rushing past like a out-of-focus picture.
I could not see the Isle of Sheppey toward which I was heading, because visibility was not all that I wanted.
At 600mph it is a matter of seconds before you are there. It came up just where I expected it. In the cockpit I was wearing a tropical helmet, grey flannel bags, a white silk shirt, and ordinary shoes. The ride was quite comfortable, and not as bumpy as some practice runs. I did not have much time to pay much attention to the gauges and meters, but I could see that my airspeed indicator was bobbing round the 600mph mark.
On the first run I only glanced at the altimeter on the turns, so that I should not go too high. My right hand was kept pretty busy on the stick (control column), and my left hand was throbbing on the two throttle levers.
Hurtled into sky
I had to get in and out of the cockpit four times before the engines finally started. A technical hitch delayed me for about an hour, and all the time I was getting colder and colder. At last I got away round about 11.30am. The Meteor first hurtled into the sky.
On the first run I had a fleeting glance at the blurred coast, and saw quite a crowd of onlookers on the cliffs. I remember that my wife was watching me, and I found that there was time to wonder what she was thinking. I knew that she would be more worried than I was, and it struck me that the sooner I could get the thing over the sooner her fears would be put to rest.
On my first turn toward the Isle of Sheppey I was well lined up for passing over the Eastchurch airfield, where visibility was poor for this high-speed type of flying. The horizon had completely disappeared, and I turned by looking down at the ground and hoping that, on coming out of the bank, I would be pointing at two balloons on the pier 12 miles ahead. They were not visible at first. All this time my air speed indicator had not dropped below 560 mph, in spite of my back-throttling slightly.
Then the guiding light flashed from the pier, and in a moment I saw the balloons, so I knew that I was all right for that.
On the return run of my first circuit the cockpit began to get hot. It was for all the world like a tropical-summer day. Perspiration began to collect on my forehead. I did not want it to cloud my eyes, so for the fraction of a second I took my hands off the controls and wiped the sweat off with the back of my gloved hand. I had decided not to wear goggles, as the cockpit was completely sealed. I had taken the precaution, however, of leaving my oxygen turned on, because I thought that it was just that little extra care that might prevent my getting the feeling of “Don’t fence me in.”
Normally I don’t suffer from a feeling of being cooked up in an aircraft, but the Meteor’s cockpit was so completely sealed up that I was not certain how I should feel. As all had gone well, and I had got halfway though the course I checked up my fuel content gauges to be sure that I had plenty of paraffin to complete the job.
I passed over Manston airfield on the second run rather farther east than I had hoped, so my turn took me further out to sea than I had budgeted for. But I managed to line up again quite satisfactorily, and I opened up just as I was approaching Margate pier at a height of 800 feet. My speed was then 560 mph.
Shook base of spine
This second run was not so smooth, for I hit a few bumps, which shook the base of my spine. Hitting air bumps at 600 mph is like falling down stone steps – a series of nasty jars. But the biffs were not bad enough to make me back-thottle, and I passed over the line without incident, except that I felt extremely hot and clammy.
At the end of my effort I came to one of the most difficult jobs of the lot. It was to lose speed after having travelled at 600 mph. I started back-throttling immediately after I had finished my final run, but I had to circuit Manston airfield three times before I got my speed down to 200 mph.
Two British Pathe films of the record breaking flight. The first shows the speed recording equipment being set up, the second the record breaking flight.
There’s also an ITN clip