Ernest Hives, 1st Baron Hives
|Ernest Walter Hives|
21 April 1886|
Reading, Berkshire, England
|Died||24 April 1965
|Known for||Rolls-Royce Merlin|
|Awards||Companion of Honour (CH)
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
Hives was born in Reading, Berkshire. During the Second World War he was closely involved with the design of the Merlin engine as well as numerous later Rolls-Royce jet engines. He began his working life in a local garage. However, in 1903 he got a job working at C.S. Rolls' car company, after fixing Rolls' car.
After becoming a chief test driver in 1908, he led the RR team in the Austrian Alpine Trial in 1913. During the First World War the company designed its first aero-engine, the Eagle, and Hives developed it successfully, by 1916 he was Head of the Experimental Department. In 1919 the Eagle powered the twin-engined Vickers Vimy bomber on the first direct flight across the Atlantic. Other notable engines were later developed under Hives’ lead. Of these the Buzzard was the most important, leading to the ‘R’ series, which powered the Supermarine S.6 seaplanes that won the Schneider Trophy in 1929 and 1931 for Rolls-Royce, and most importantly the famous Merlin engine.
In 1936 he became the general works manager of the factory and a year later was elected to the board. Lived at 37, St. Chads Rd., Derby until around 1937. In 1937, thinking war would soon be inevitable, he prepared the firm for a massive production increase in Merlin engines by splitting facilities between engineering and production. As the Merlin powered Hurricanes and Spitfires, this was a decision of vital strategic significance when war did come. It was thanks to Hives that a total of a hundred and sixty thousand Merlins were produced by 1945. In 1941 Hives quickly decided ‘to go all out for the gas turbine’, ensuring the company’s leading role in developing jet engines for civil and military aviation.
Vice Chief of Air Staff Sir Wilfrid Freeman, one of the masterminds behind the dramatic advances in British aircraft production before and during World War 2, paid tribute to Hives's dedication in a letter to his wife:
That man Hives is the best man I have ever come across for many a year. God knows where the RAF would have been without him. He cares for nothing except the defeat of Germany and he does all his work to that end, living a life of unending labour.
Hives became managing director in 1946 and chairman of Rolls-Royce from 1950 till 1956. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1943 and on 7 July 1950 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Hives, of Duffield in the County of Derby. He died in April 1965, aged 79, and was succeeded in the barony by his son John.
His younger daughter, Philippa Hives, married Judge Alexander Morrison in 1978.
- Lumsden 2003, p. 9.
- Pugh 2000, p. 109.
- Pugh 2000, p. 287.
- Furse 2000, p. 337.
- The London Gazette: . 14 July 1950.
- Lumsden, Alec. British Piston Engines and their Aircraft. Marlborough, Wiltshire: Airlife Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-85310-294-6.
- Pugh, Peter. The Magic of a Name - The Rolls-Royce Story - The First 40 Years. Cambridge, England. Icon Books Ltd, 2000. ISBN 1-84046-151-9
- Furse, Anthony. Wilfrid Freeman: the genius behind Allied survival and air supremacy 1939 to 1945. Staplehurst. Spellmount, 2000. ISBN 1-86227-079-1
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|Baron Hives||Succeeded by
John Warwick Hives