Kenneth William Gatland

(1924 – 1997)

Ken Gatland, BIS President (1973 - 1976)

Ken Gatland, BIS President (1973 - 1976)

Ken Gatland was born in Richmond on 20th October 1924, and lived briefly in Twickenham. The family moved to Tolworth where Ken attended Tolworth Junior School and later Hollyfield School in Surbiton.

On leaving school, he attended the Hawker Aircraft Technical School prior to joining the Hawker Design staff in 1941 under Sydney Camm. He worked on wartime aircraft such as the Hurricane, Typhoon and Tempest and later on the Hunter, Harrier and Hawk.

While working for Sydney Camm, Ken was encouraged by Camm’s brother Frank, who edited “Practical Mechanics,” to write articles on Rocket Propulsion. He went on to write his first book “Development of the Guided Missile” (Iliffe, 1952), and others, published by Wingate, Blandford, Salamander and a few books for children by Macdonald. In 1983 he was given one of the earliest of the History Awards of the IAA for “The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Space Technology” as consultant and principal author.

After leaving Hawkers in 1957 he worked for “The Aeroplane” as Editor of the Astronautics Section (1959- 1962) and as contributing Editor (Astronautics) for Iliffe Books Ltd. (1962-1964). Working as a freelance journalist and author he wrote for The Sunday Telegraph as Space Correspondent and provided articles on other subjects for The Sunday Telegraph Magazine.
Aged 17, during the War, Ken organized the Astronautical Development Society with other Space enthusiasts in Surbiton.

Meanwhile, in Manchester, in 1936, Eric Burgess had formed the Manchester Interplanetary Society and the two groups merged, calling themselves the “Combined British Astronautical Societies”, in 1944. They were later incorporated into the BIS in 1945.

Ken was elected member of the BIS Council in October 1945. He left the Council in 1983. He also acted as the British delegate at IAF Congresses in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Rome and Madrid: he was Press Officer, Vice President and President from 1973 – 1976.

At the 2nd International Congress in London, 1951 he presented the paper “Minimum Satellite Vehicles” to which he, Anthony Kunesch and Alan Dixon had contributed. He edited and wrote for Spaceflight, which he took over from Patrick Moore in 1959, handing over in 1981 to Gerald Groves.

Following the decline in Space programmes he returned to BAe in 1981 and joined the SAAB 25 team and then moved to Technical Publications at Kingston until his retirement in October 1989.

Because of his love of writing and desire to preserve the memory of the Aircraft Industry in Kingston and the people he felt deserved recognition for all they had contributed towards it, he wrote to the Surrey Comet in December 1992 suggesting a monument to be created in Kingston. Bob Marsh responded to this letter and with his help Ken contacted John Fozard, Cliff Bore, Trevor Jordan and Chris Ferara. They formed a small group calling themselves “The Planemakers”. Ken was chairman.

He died in December 1997. At his death, he had hoped to finalize two books on which he was working – “Britain in Space” and “Spaceship Earth” – the latter being a study of the Earth’s ecology, pollution and climate change of which he said “If our civilization is to survive its childhood, the time is surely coming when we must begin the task of re-adapting our environment”.

In 1952 he married Doreen Powles who had also worked at Hawkers (1948 – 1952).

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