Robert Eric Swift

Patent Robert photographs Dollis Hill GPO Research Station 1914-1975


Robert Eric Swift


my dad



Born in Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire on August 4th, 1904 at 5 York Terrace, Akroydon.




(Akroydon was a 'model' town.  Not that I ever appreciated the concept as a 2-8 year old visiting the place (cold, wet, aunties telling one what to do)).  But I now - as a much wiser - and older - guy -think Akroyd was a genius in his context.  I suspect there are some excellent town planners around today, but, even so, one has to say Akroyd had a vision and a community that he built.  Ground up. There is a challenge for us all.


Robert died on 20th February 1995 in Hinchley Wood, Surrey

So, what went on between these dates?  Good question! ....

1904, 4 August  : born

Robert Swift at school

Halifax is strictly a Wesleyan religious area (Methodists)

and, at the age of 12, he signs a pledge

not to drink alcohol:

Educated at Halifax Secondary School (West Yorkshire)


(Halifax) Municipal Technical College


1919 - October 1923: Halifax Municipal Technical College

BSc Engineering (London)


1923-27: Assistant Engineer,

Research Branch, General Post Office

(Dollis Hill)

engaged on transmission problems and the measurement of sound.


1926, 3 June, aged 21, attends the wedding

 of his brother Harold Edgar

Robert Eric Swift aged 21

1927-1930: Post Office Tests and Inspection Branch,

Assistant Engineer

invloved in the design and inspection of Anglo-Irish submarine cable.


1930: living in Wembley, London

at 65 Barnhill Road (the house no longer exists)



1930, 12 June, aged 25 marries

Mabel Catherine Days (aged 24, a secretary)

in St Andrews church, Kingsbury, Middlesex, London

(he keeps this marriage secret from my sister and I)




1930: living at 65 Barnhill Road, Wembley, Middlesex, UK


1930-1936: Research Branch, Assistant Engineer

(GPO Dollis Hill)

engaged on transmission problems, development of test equipment

and deaf aid amplifiers.


1931, 11 September

his father, Louis dies in Epsom, Surrey

Robert was 27; his father 62.


July 1933: he submits for a Patent on

'Apparatus for Testing Telephones'


1933/34: lives in Wembley, 44 Oxenpark Avenue

(the house no longer exists)


May 1936:  Sectional Engineer, Tunbridge Wells


July 1936 - December 1937: Sectional Engineer, Canterbury

responsible for all GPO engineering work in Kent

including 500 staff.


Dollis Hill


1937-1940 Executive Engineer, Head of Circuits Laboratory,

Engineer-in-Chiefs Office

(link: Dollis Hill GPO Research Station)

main work assessment of new designs in equipment and circuits;

responsible for some special projects associated with early warning radar stations and defence of London.

Staff about 100.


(Historical setting: in the 1930s Great Britain wanted to develop a counter measure to the potential threat of German airplane bombers

 and one of the ideas developed by a sub committee chaired by Henry Tizard and implmemented by Robert Watson-Watt

was, what would become known later as, the radar. They faced numerous challenges. 

Getting one 'radar' station working was difficult enough, but building an array, starting at 2 and then 5 and then dozens

required a new level of real-time communications between the electrical data they were handling. 

In 1937 this challenge was passed the the General Post Office (GPO) research team at Dollis Hill to solve. 

As far as I know theirs was one of many critical roles in the radar project and Robert was a leading member of the team.)


1938: living at 55 St Augustine's Road, Canterbury, UK


1939: living at 2 Vicarage Way, Harrow, London, UK


(1939-1945: World War II)


1940-1947 Assistant Director

Aircraft Equipment Production Branch

Ministry of Aircraft Production

(later Ministry of Supply)

responsible for planning and progressing production of airborne and ground equipments.

Some design and production work for USAAF.


1942 Deputy Director

(Aircraft Equipment Production)


1945; 16 January:

his mother, Alice, dies in Halifax, Yorkshire.

he is 40, she is 69


August 1945 he travels on official business to Berlin.

  Member of the UK Task Force examining industrial personnel.


1946 Director of Radio and Instrument Production



??:  living at 28 Mahlon Avenue, South Ruislip, London, UK


1946: living at 108 Preston Road, Middlesex, London, UK


1947: Medal of Freedom (USA)

(The Presidential Medal of Freedom was

established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize civilians for their efforts during World War II.

1947: living at Montrose Court Hotel, Clapham, London, SW4, UK


1947-1950: Director

Radio Production Branch

Ministry of Supply


1948: Director of Aircraft Radio Production

Ministry of Supply and visits the

Convair Plant of General Motors (US)

to view the B-36.


  Robert is the one signing something !


November 1950 - 1964:   Director of

Aeronautical Inspection Directorate,

Ministry of Aviation

Leatherhead Road, Chessington, Surrey

- inspection of aircraft, engines and guided missiles.




1952: he is living in Esher at 58 The Woodlands

aged 48


1952, 18 October he marries

Hjordis Elsa Lagerberg

(a Swedish girl)

he was 48; she 26.



1954, 14 April, their first child is born

Annika Margaret Swift




1955: C.B.E.

(the same year as Alec Guinness, the actor)


1958, 14 May, their second is born

Hans Eric Swift (me)


February 1959 promoted to Director General



May 1964: he becomes a Fellow of

The Royal Aeronautical Society

4 Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, London


(his sponsor was:  Arthur WOODWARD-NUTT (1902-80)
Aeronautical engineer.

WOODWARD-NUTT was the 7th member of the secret

British Technical and Scientific Mission to the United States

in September 1940 which, amongst other things took Britain's

new invention - the cavity magnetron - to show to the then

neutral Americans.  This device would give the UK a great

technical advance in radar capability.  The team was led by Henry Tizard

and included Dr Edward George 'Taffy' Bowen- see above historical

note regarding Dollis Hill and radar)


August 1964 left Inspection Branch to become

Personnel Manager, Ministry of Supply



1966: Robert joins the Institute of Electrical Engineers


August 1969 he retires, aged 65.



In about 1984 his health

starts to suffer mildly.



1995, 20 February he dies

aged 90.



and, later, his ashes were scattered over a hill

overlooking Halifax, Yorkshire


I don't think he would mind me saying that he came from a respectable, but financially challenged, family.  But not poor.  His grandfather owned (I think, but could have rented) a tailors shop in the mill town of Halifax.  Part of my evidence for this is the following letter head. 



And Robert's father (Samuel's son), Louis Edgar Swift, continued the trade:



   Unexplained photographs (can you help?) (is the plane the B-36?):


pdf of Robert Eric Swift's chronology

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