North Herts rocket men take pride in their achievements

Rocket men George Mitchell, David Rice and Peter Houldcroft take pride in the work that paved the wa

Rocket men George Mitchell, David Rice and Peter Houldcroft take pride in the work that paved the way for current technology. Picture: Dave Marsh - Credit: Archant

A Letchworth-based care provider has discovered that we have a number of rocket scientists in our midst – all within a short distance of each other.

Home Instead are caring for three retired scientists who played vital roles in the development of Britain’s rocket and supersonic capabilities.

Peter Houldcroft, a 94-year-old from Stotfold, worked on developing highly-specialised light alloys used in rocket technology.

Notably, he advised the development team for Concorde as they built the world’s first and only supersonic passenger jet, which could travel from London to New York in just two hours.

He said: “I remember flying on Concorde and chatting with the pilots, I explained to them how we influenced the decision to make the plane out of a specialised alloy material which could cope with the stresses of supersonic travel, flying at twice the speed of sound. I think they were grateful!”

In Letchworth is George Mitchell, who studied astronomy and astronautics before starting his career designing and testing rocket guidance systems.

The 97-year-old said: “I am so proud of the work we did, it was a great job. Looking back I never really thought about the history we were making, but I realise now how much we were paving the way.”

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David Rice, aged 88 from Hitchin, worked on the Blue Streak and ARIANE projects, making rockets that would deliver satellites into space.

“I just loved my job. Back then I probably didn’t realise the impact it would have for the future,” David said.

“I felt just fortunate that this wonderful opportunity came my way – I do think now about how our rockets made so much of today’s technology possible.”

Dave Marsh from Home Instead said: “As part of how we provide our care services, we build a biography of every client, so that we can get to know who they are and connect them with a caregiver that shares their interests.

“It’s always a treat to learn about what the older generation did in their working lives and I am constantly surprised and humbled by what I discover. These three men are phenomenal and have so much to tell about their very interesting careers.”

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