My dad designed the first spy drone in the 30′s

Reading recently in the NY Times about the CIA’s involvement in spook-drones (from sneaky-bombers to hand-thrown flying paper-aeroplane-cameras) of various descriptions, I did a mem’ on me dad, Cecil Solomon Wills, BSc, (1905 – 1976) who had an interesting career,

From a bicycle round distributing his single mother’s ‘burnt custards’ (or creme brule [with an accent] in cockney) down Clapham High Street in 1918, where his brakes failed to stop him and he dumped the lot, to Clapham Grammar where he learned of Hengist and Horsa, and the poem about the Stonehenge Shepherd by Wordsworth, to his stint (1919 – 1923?) as a Boy Entrant in the RAF, where his studies included espionage…

Graduating to become a Private in the early RAF at the same time he was an engineering student at London University in night-class’,(1924 1928?). Then as a Lance Corporal in the RAF at Martlesham Heath experimental weapons programme (1929 – 1938?) where he worked on what was to be the drone, and on what was later to become the Horsa Glider

Cecil’s* years in the Boys service of the RAF and at London University were in the same years and class as that taken by one of the inventors of the jet engine, (Sir) Frank Whittle, who added that crucial curve to the turbine blades. Alongside Frank working on jets, Cecil was designing a spy-drone that could be towed behind a plane (which in pracice was often a Lancaster) and was originaly designed to carry a camera and be remote controlled.. Called a ‘Drone’ it was later used as target practice. This version was designed as a self propelled plane (as he also proposed for a version of the Horsa Glider, on the powered, ‘Hengist’ Troop Carrier).

The drone was similar in form to that used in a model aeroplane that we built in the early fifties on the kitchen table (ours was not radio controlled though], dad acused me of ignoring instructions, said I was too creative. He was proud of his aerodynamic knowlege and showed how the Horsa glider was able to manouver so adroitly. He was a master paper aeroplane maker too. The form of the drone which he designed was later used in the more familiar shape of the first ‘Meteor ‘jets in the RAF.

Cecil eloped with our mum when she was at Salisbury Teachers’ Training College, she was eighteen, he was thirty-one.

At school Cecil had become a crack-shot would-be sniper, later wining at Bisley, and a long distance runner. After turning down a sniper-scout-spy role in the Army during the war (1943?), he was summoned to the Isle of Man, where he was possibly later held as a security risk and perhaps destiined for incaceration in the DP camp there, all because he looked foreign, a Turkish-wrestling Jew perhaps? Plus he had been to Germany – as it happened spying on Goering’s gliders for the RAFin Nuremberg in 1932. But the guys at HQ interceeded in the f’up. His chess-partner, and boss on the Enigma spy-team, Alan Turing, hurriedly gave him good references as an engineer vital to war-work behind a desk, and so dad came home safely, with a big can of olive oil.

He became an aeronautical-engineer civil-servant in the 40’s, representing the RAF to Industry.

The dates are guesses, I realize Wills isn’t credited as a designer of the Horsa, but I think I am correct in that the designer credited based his designs on those my dad showed to a Churchill comission for a new glider in 1941 at Boscombe Down, Churchill decreed that the code names for gliders began with an H., hence Hengist and Horsa, named after quasi-mythical heroes from Saxon England, the names were suggested by Mr WIlls.

It might also be said that that the Dad Cecil was a bad tempered bastard at times, he drove my elder brother Robin to Australia when he was only seventeen, made him eat the Evening News, so you can imagine home life was a bit dodgy.

I relate all this as background and as an explanation for my own involvement in fuels invention, which we are currently attempting, successfully so far. I consider myself to be art-directing the changing of the color of the sunset by reducing, CO2, diesel soot and waste petroleum fumes into the atmosphere. We’re working to reduce all those pesky precursors to global climate-chaos and bright-red sunsets by redesigning and improving liquid fuel for heat engines. That’s crude-oil derived fuel in all its forms, from gas and diesel, to bunker fuel and jet fuel, and making them all with less waste fuel, increased power, more MPG and crucialy, lower emissions of the causes of global climate-chaos.

  • Nobody, except Aunty Whatsit (Aunt Rene, pronounced ‘Reen”), ever called Mr CS Wills, ‘Cecil’, mum called him ‘Mickey’.