ID: WW01_182 / Winifred Hone

TitleEdward Phillip Paxman - Winifred Hone memoirs
AbstractThe sudden death of E.P. Paxman at the early age of 48 was a serious loss to the engineering world and a sad blow to his many friends. It is not saying too much to describe it as a national disaster, for he was a man of dynamic energy and personality and a brilliant pioneer in diesel engineering.

Paxman was the son of James N. Paxman, founder of the firm of Davey Paxman & Co., Ltd., of Colchester. He was born in Brussels in 1901 and came from Oundle to St John's in 1921 where he took a first in Mechanical Sciences in 1923. After training with Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Company he joined the family firm in 1926 and in a very few years transformed it from a small agricultural engineering business into one of the largest and most progressive diesel engine producers in England. The firm produced the diesel engine which was to propel more than half the submarines built in England during the late War besides an engine which was adpated for use in Tank Landing Craft and in the Gay Viking Class of blockade runners which penetrated the Baltic to Sweden.

At the outbreak of hostilties Paxman was engaged in the design of a light-weight high speed diesel engine of revolutionary pattern. Shortage of aluminium prevented production of this engine, but it was adapted to other metals and produced in vast numbers as a light-weight diesel power unit. Edward Paxman was a considerable engineering genius with a clear vision and the ability to instil into others the urgency of his message. In many different directions in the technical field he brought new and startling ideas to bear. Only a few days before his death he attended the trial of a ship containing an accoustic hood for the engines which will prove of immense value in damping the sound from the high-speed diesels and in one more triumph for the designer.

Apart from his engineering and business exploits Paxman's phenomenal energy was expressed in many local activities in Colchester and Essex. He was a Justice of the Peace besides being Chairman of several, and a member, local social or industrial Committees. He was a leading member of the Grand Council of the Federation of British Industries, and at the time of his death Master of the Farriers Company.

To his friends Ted Paxman was a loyal, generous, kind hearted companion and an irrepressible leader of any light-hearted fun that was going, yet always able to illuminate any conversation, however casual, with a profound gleam of philosophical truth. We were always amazed at his energy and at the variety of his interests. Perhaps many casual acquantances who met him did not realise his stature as an engineer but no one could ever fail to be impressed by his dynamic personality. Had he lived there is little doubt that he would have become one of the foremost Englishmen of his age, and even now we can safely leave him to join a fellow Johnian, Sir Charles Parsons, whose name is linked with another form of power production unit, the Parsons Steam Turbine. For, living a generation apart these two made themselves masters of parallel forms of engineering development and their names are fit to be remembered together as pioneers of power production in their respective fields.

AuthorWinifred Hone
SourceMersea Museum / Wendy Brady