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Martin-Baker Aircraft Company Ltd.
Martin's Aircraft Works
Martin-Baker Aircraft

James Martin, Francis Francis, Capt Valentine Baker

Martin-Baker Aircraft was established on August 17,1934, when Mr James Martin joined forces with Capt Valentine Henry Baker (and Mr Francis Francis, who provided the finance) to form the new company at Higher Denharn near Uxbridge in Buckinghamshire. The three men all became directors of the firm, which initially operated under the name "Martin's Aircraft Works".

The first objective was to build the experimental M.B.1 two-seat light aircraft. The original offices and works buildings at Denharn were destroyed by fire on April 26, 1940, but by mid-1941, some new modern buildings had been built to replace them. A July 1941 Air Ministry report noted how the conduct of the company's affairs was characterised by the usual indifference to accounting detail, often found when technical men with outstanding ideas were financed by a wealthy man, all of whom were following an ideal rather than making a profit. The Ministry found no evidence of slackness or extravagance at Martin-Baker, but an air of quiet efficiency about the offices and factory and all connected with them.

Martin was born in September 1893, Martin went on to become an engineer and inventor, designing and building a wide variety of machines when a teenage. In 1929 Martin established his own engineering firm but when he became chief designer and managing director of Martin-Baker in 1934, aviation became his chief interest.

Valentine Henry Baker was born in August 1888 and served with all three Services in the First World War (during which he was awarded the Military Cross and the Air Force Cross). In 1917 he became a flying instructor, and resulted in the establishment of his flying school at Heston, Baker's students included several members of the royal family and Arny Johnson. In Martin-Baker his main job was company test pilot.

James Martin had evolved a method of steel-tube construction and built experimental MB.1 two-seat light aircraft to demonstrate construction system, flown March 1935. In 1935, with a company employing 35 people, James Martin called for the latest Air Ministry Specification F5/34, to find out what the RAF would require of a new interceptor fighter. Private venture MB.2 eight-gun fighter with Napier Dagger engine flown 3 August 1938. MB.3 experimental fighter with Napier Sabre first flown 31 August 1942, followed by MB.5 with Rolls-Royce Griffon 83 driving contrarotating propellers, which made maiden flight May 23,1944.

Martin-Baker became a leading manufacturer of ejection seats, having made first live firing on May 11,1945.

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