Hawker Aircraft was formed by Sir Thomas Sopwith, Harry Hawker, and three other investors in 1920 following the bankruptcy and collapse of the Sopwith firm. Besides building aircraft of its own design, it embarked on a spree of acquisitions during the 1930s, and by 1935 had acquired Gloster, Armstrong Whitworth and Avro. Most enthusiasts today are unaware that these companies, which are always depicted as separate firms in aviation history books, were but divisions of one company. By the 1950s, the company was calling itself Hawker Siddeley, no longer presenting the products of its divisions under separate brands. In 1977, the British government nationalized its aerospace industry and Hawker Siddeley, merging it with other companies under the name British Aerospace (BAe).
The last vestige of Hawker that exists in 2014 is that of BAe’s business jet unit to Raytheon in 1993. Raytheon revived the Hawker name in merging this unit with Beechcraft, and after further transactions the brand is still alive in that form.
Corporate history aside, Hawker and Hawker Siddeley created many of the great British aircraft under the leadership of Sopwith, who remained active until 1980 and survived to the ripe age of 101 in 1989, and Sidney Camm (1893-1966), who designed the beautiful series of prewar biplanes, the important Second World War fighters, and the first few generations of the company’s jets.