The Hanning-Lees and White Hawk
The Giant-Killer That Couldn't


Jet –Boat Beached After Plunging Nose-First In Windermere Trial

External Links:
An interesting personal reminiscence about the White Hawk and the Hanning-Lees' first visit to the states can be found at The Drama of the Hanning-Lee WHITE HAWK.
Simon Lewis has written a very good history and update on the Hanning-Lees and White Hawk, based on interviews: White Hawk - 1952 Jet Hydrofoil

white_hawk_3_thumb.jpg (6487 bytes)White Hawk, the 14,000 jet-propelled speedboat, was beached on the shore of Lake Windermere yesterday.

It had bounced wildly after hitting the wash of a pleasure steamer while travelling at over 60 m.p.h. in the middle of the lake.

The cockpit went under the water as the boat dived nose first.

It bobbed up again and the pilot, ex-naval officer Mr. Frank Hanning-Lee, climbed out and got astride the fuselage.

Thousand lining the shores saw pleasure boats secure a rope and tow the White Hawk 300 yards to be beached in 4 ft. of water.

Slight damage

A crane lifted the boat out of the water after Mr. Hanning-Lee and holidaymakers had pumped water from the hull. There was only superficial damage.

Mr. Hanning-Lee said: "I expected to find a hole. When I struck the wash water entered the air intake and caused the boat to slew round and dive.

"It will take only about a couple of days to dry her out as the fresh water will not have damaged the engine. Then we will have another go" The White Hawk was on a second trial run.

Mr. Hanning-Lee had taken over from his wife, Stella, who had piloted it on a two-mile burst.

She hopes to beat the world water speed record of 178.4 m.p.h.

(Reprinted from the Daily Graphic, August 21, 1952)

# # #

Jet Boat Takes A Dive At 70 M.P.H.

This jet-propelled boat was tearing across Lake Windermere at about 70 m.p.h. yesterday when it began bouncing wildly over the swell. Before the driver could slow down the boat dived under the water. It re-appeared almost immediately but began sinking slowly. Pleasure boats rushed alongside and the waterlogged boat was towed to the beach. On Saturday, with Stella Hanning-Lee, 28, at the controls, it was to have made an attempt on the world water speed record — 178.49 m.p.h. — held by America. Frank Hanning-Lee, Stella’s husband, was driving at the time of the accident. He was unhurt. His wife was driving when this picture was taken, earlier in the day. After the accident, Mr Hanning-Lee said: "There is no damage done and she will dry out in a couple of days."

(Reprinted from the Daily Mirror, August 21, 1952)

# # #

Slight Mishap to White Hawk

Future trials only in the early mornings

White_Hawk_1_thumb.jpg (5888 bytes)Hopes were being entertained last night for a start early this morning of trials on Windermere by the jet propelled speedboat, White Hawk, preliminary to the attempt to snatch the world water speed record from America — 178.4 miles an hour.

White Hawk, new hope of ex-submarine lieutenant Frank Hanning-Lee and his wife Stella, was beached on Wednesday night after it had run into the wash of a pleasure steamer while travelling at 60 m.p.h. Although no mechanical damage was caused, Mr. Hanning-Lee revised his plans for water trials and announced that in future he would take the boat out on the lake only in the early morning hours.

The speedboat, the first to attempt the record fitted in hydrofoils, arrived at Windermere last week-end from the south but launching difficulties held up trial work until Tuesday when the craft was towed 500 years from its boathouse to the pier head at Bowness and lifted bodily into the water by mobile crane.

The First Run

Weather conditions were, however, against the trial — carried out mainly to test the boat's controls after its trip from the south — and Mr. Hanning-Lee made only a short run to Storrs Hall.

After he had turned the boat round only a few yards out from the shore, Mr. Hanning-Lee pushed back the cockpit cover, stood up and waved his hands to indicate to watchers that the water was too rough.

He did, however, make a second run on the opposite side of the lake and in the shelter of a wooded shore, but after covering only a few hundred yards the White Hawk was towed back in.

Later, Mr. Hanning-Lee said: It was far too rough to do anything and I doubt whether I managed to get above 60 m.p.h."

[text missing] passenger vessel and the violence of the swell had caused the hydrofoils to exercise a negative rather than a positive action with he result that they pulled the boat under the water.

At first it was suspected that the craft had been holed because it sank so quickly. When the boat was actually lifted from the water it was seen that there was very little underwater damage apart from the two fairly large dents near the prow.

These were caused by the violence of the impact when the boat struck the water.

As for a small dent on the starboard side of White Hawk, Mr. Hanning-Lee said "I don't know how that came to be there."

About the future, he said that the engine would have to be pumped out and overhauled, but there did not seem to be serious structural damage requiring attention.

"There is very little damage done and it is just a matter of drying out the engine," Mr. Hanning-Lee later added.

Wife at Controls

Until the mishap all had gone quite well with the trials. Both Mr. Hanning-Lee and his wife Stella — who intends to pilot White Hawk when a record bid is made — have admitted that very little is known about hydrofoils.

Mrs. Hanning-Lee accompanied her husband in the cockpit of the boat and was seen to be at the controls for the first trial runs. First test was made towards the southern end of the lake and later Mrs. Hanning-Lee handed over to her husband and left the boat.

Mr. Hanning-Lee said that the mishap would not interfere with plans for further trials.

He gave no figure of the speed at which his boat travelled during yesterday's tests.

(Source?, Late August, 1952)

# # #

Attempt On Water Speed Record To Go On

It was stated yesterday that Mr. and Mrs. F. Hanning-Lee intend to carry on with their attempts on the world water speed record of 178.4 m.p.h. on Windermere. At present their 3,000 h.p. jet-powered speedboat White Hawk is confined to the boathouse while minor alterations are being made to the stern hydrofoil.

(Reprinted from The Times, October 1, 1952)

*  *  *

[Pic of the Hanning-Lees in the White Hawk (already uploaded)]

Record attempt. Mr. and Mrs. Hanning-Lee in their jointly designed jet-propelled speedboat at Lake Windermere, where they hope to set up a new world water speed record when weather permits.

(Reprinted from the Telegraph October 6, 1952)

# # #

White Hawk, Jet Challenger, Flashes By —
With A 28-Year-Old Mother At The Wheel

White Hawk, jet challenger for the world's water-speed record of 178.49 miles an hour swishes across the waters of Lake Windermere at more that 100 miles an hour in a test run — with Stella Hanning–Lee, 28-year-old mother, at the wheel. She and her husband Frank have been seven weeks at Windermere. Yesterday it was said there would be a five-day delay in trials while further modifications are carries out to try to correct "porpoising" tendencies of the boat while travelling at speed.

(Reprinted from the Express, October 10, 1952)

# # #

Frank & Stella Hanning-Lee

Ready For An Attempt on the World Water-Speed Record : Mrs. F. Hanning-Lee With Her Husband Aboard White Hawk on Lake Windermere.

Mr. and Mrs. F. Hanning-Lee have been waiting for some weeks to attempt to raise the world water-speed record in their 3,000-h.p. jet-powered speedboat White Hawk on Lake Windermere. They designed the aluminium boat themselves and expect to reach 200 m.p.h. in her. On October 3 Mr. Hanning-Lee stated that his wife would pilot the boat when the attempt was made.

(Reprinted from the Illustrated London News, October 18, 1952)

#  #  #

New Engine for Speed Boat

A new jet engine is to be fitted to the boat White Hawk, with which Mr. and Mrs Frank Hanning-Lee hope to break the world's water speed record on Windermere. The new engine is a 6,000 h.p. Rolls-Royce Derwent Mark V. Further modifications will also be made to improve the boat's stability at speed

(Reprinted from The Times, October 18, 1952)

#  #  #

Still They Wait at Windermere

Bad Weather Delays Jet-Boat Trials

White Hawk, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hanning-Lee's jet-propelled speedboat, has been confined to her Bowness boathouse all this wee, because of the rough weather. The boat has not had a trial since being refitted with a new engine last week. Mr. Hanning-Lee said yesterday (Thursday) that he is determined to wait until there is an improvement in the weather.

Following the stormy weather there is a possibility of much driftwood having found its way into the lake. Although Mr. Hanning-Lee has decided that the course should be thoroughly "combed" before any trial run, there remains the fact that larger pieces of timber, when thoroughly waterlogged, float just beneath the surface and are invisible from a boat.

(Reprinted from the Gazette, November 1, 1952)

# # #

Mr. Frank Hanning-Lee who has been waiting at Windermere for the weather to improve to test the new 6,000 h.p. jet engine installed in his speed boat White Hawk has denied rumours that he is postponing trials until next year and that he and his wife, Stella, intend leaving Windermere in the near future.

(Reprinted from the Barrow News, November 1, 1952 )

# # #

Water Record Bid Put Off

Speed Trials hampered

An attempt on the world water speed record on Lake Windermere by Mr. and Mrs Frank Hanning-Lee, in their jet-propelled speedboat White Hawk, has been postponed. Bad weather has hampered the trial. Mr. Hanning-Lee, whose home is in Chelsea, S.W., has not officially abandoned his record bid, but his friends believe he will soon take the White Hawk south and return next summer.

(Source?, November 10, 1952)

#  #  #

White_Hawk_2_thumb.jpg (5806 bytes)Jet-Propelled Speedboat in  Test Run: The Whitehawk [sic], which looks like a seaplane, streaking along at 100 miles an hour [sic] on Lake Windermere, England. Test was made in preparation for the attempt on the world's water speed record by Frank Hanning-Lee and his wife. The official world mark is 178.497 m.p.h.

(Caption with a photograph appearing in the New York Times, November 14, 1952)

# # #

White Hawk Trials

Decision this week-end?

Mr. Frank Hanning-Lee is expected to return to Windermere tomorrow (Saturday), but it is not yet known whether or not he intends to conduct further trials this year with his speedboat, White Hawk. for a fortnight the jet-powered boat has remained in the boathouse since having only one trial run to test her new engine.

Mr. Hanning-Lee, and his wife, Stella, who was to have made an attempt on the world's water speed record, came up to Windermere nearly three months ago.

(Reprinted from the Gazette, November 15, 1952)

# # #

Is White Hawk winter-bound?

It now seems unlikely that there can be further trials of the jet propelled speedboat White Hawk on Windermere.

Rapidly worsening weather conditions have so far prevented Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hanning-Lee taking the boat on the lake more than once since further modifications were made at Barrow and a new engine fitted a week or two ago.

Local opinion holds that the onset of November makes it far too late to hope for a calm lake or for any favourable weather conditions, and while there has been no statement from Mr. and Mrs. Hanning-Lee, who have been in London for a few day, it is thought that they will take their craft south very shortly.

Hitherto Mr. Hanning-Lee has denied that he and his wife intend abandoning their attempt on the world water speed record for this year, but the signs now are that the weather will defeat them.

(Source? November 15, 1952)

# # #

White Hawk may be "rested" till next year

Although Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hanning-Lee are still in London, their jet propelled speedboat White Hawk remains in the boat house at Bowness, where it was brought from the South of England for an attack on the world water speed record.

The Hanning-Lees' plans are unknown. Certainly White Hawk has not been on Windermere for tests for some time but whether the attempt to set a new record has been abandoned for this year has not yet been announce.

November is regarded as an unfavourable month because of the risk of mist and, with the advent of chill winds and frost, the chance that patches of ice may form on the lake surface.

It was reported recently that the Hanning-Lees might be forced by the weather to postpone further attempts until next year. This boat has been fitted with a more powerful engine and has been modified twice since being brought North.

It is understood that the Hanning-Lees' young son is attending school at Windermere.

(Source? November 29, 1952)

#  #  #

News in Brief

Mr. Frank Hanning-Lee said at Windermere on Saturday that he and his wife had postponed until next year their attempt to beat the world's water speed record.

(Reprinted from The Times, December 1, 1952)

# # #

Trials off until Easter

Windermere Jet-boat Decision

Mr. Frank Hanning-Lee returned to Windermere last week-end when he announce that he and his wife had decided to abandon trials with their speedboat White Hawk for this year. The boat is to be taken south and various adjustments will be made during the winter, but Mr. Hanning-Lee said he and his wife hope to resume trials at Easter.

On Monday, the jet-powered boat was taken up the lake to Calgarth where she was hoisted on a road trailer and brought back to Bowness to await the journey south.

(Reprinted from the Gazette, December 6, 1952)

# # #

Jet-boat has fastest trial run

Mrs. Stella Hanning-Lee (28), who is to pilot the 3,000 h.p. jet-boat White Hawk in an attempt on the world water speed record on Windermere, was not present yesterday when her husband, Mr. Frank Hanning-Lee, had his fastest trial run of more than 100 m.p.h.

Mr. Hanning-Lee said afterwards: "Although my air speed gauge was out of commission, I was certain that White Hawk travelled at well over 100 m.p.h. Recent modifications have proved successful, and today the boat rode perfectly.

"I intend to travel faster each day, and hope to call in the official timekeepers at the weekend.

[Date? Source?]

# # #

White Hawk does 110

Speed tests on Windermere

Jet-Boat "Steady"

White Hawk, the 3,000 h.p. jet boat, piloted by Mr. Frank Hanning-Lee, traveled faster than ever before in a test on Windermere on Sunday morning. This was her first real trial since modification at Barrow and Mr. Hanning-Lee is satisfied that the "porpoising" tendency has been remove. He estimated his speed on that run as in the region of 110 miles an hour.

The boat now travels with a steadiness which was conspicuous by its absence in previous trial runs.

Further modifications may be necessary to increase the directional stability of the revolutionary craft, but this is not likely to cause serious delay. Some defect in the fuel feed system has also to be corrected.

Mist Delayed Wednesday Trial

On Wednesday a heavy blanket of mist reduced visibility to an absolute minimum, and thought the mechanic had worked until 1 a.m. to get the boat ready, it was not possible to have a run until after 11 o'clock. The engine was started with difficulty, and the boat then did a run north of Hen Holme, after which she was towed back because of an air-lock in the fuel supply. It is hoped to resume trials on Friday.

Mr. Hanning-Lee confirmed this week that the actual bid on the world's water speed record would be made by his 28-years-old wife, Stella.

[Date? Source?]

# # #

White Hawk

Mr. and Mrs. Hanning-Lee have taken their jet-propelled hydrofoil boat White Hawk to the U.S.A. They hope to make an attempt on the world speed record.

(Reprinted from Motor Boat & Yachting, March 1953)

When they arrived in Massachusetts they had plans to renew their attack on the water speed record "at Lake Mead or some lake in Florida, sometime next month."

[Thanks to Brian Millin for help in preparing the above reprints. This is where the narrative in the press seems to end. If anyone has information as to what happened to either the boat or the Hanning-Lees after they took the White Hawk to the U.S., please let me know. --LF]


[In 1951], work was in progress on the White Hawk (registered K5), the jet-powered hydrofoil of a former submarine lieutenant in the British Navy called Hanning-Lee. Supported by his beautiful 28-year-old wife Stella, Frank Hanning-Lee may have inherited the blind daring of his ancestor, Horatio Nelson, when he decided to embark on the highly experimental task of fitting a 1943 Whittle turbojet engine of 2,000 lb. thrust into the cigar-shaped fuselage of a hydrofoil configuration, and take a patriotic crack at the water speed record.

In the September of 1951, having collected a substantial amount of data about hydrofoils from both the Admiralty and Professor Christopher Hook of the Hydrofoil Association, the Hanning-Lees invited Ken Norris 'to do their sums for them' and before long Norris found himself doing the entire design work himself, until he realised that he was not going to be paid for his labours.

The 25 ft White Hawk was built and after flotation and engine tests out on the sea at Margate and on the Thames at Tilbury, the 14,000 hydrofoil was transported up to Lake Windermere for trials in the August of 1952. Apart from a fortnight in September when they went south to replace the old engine with a Rolls-Royce Derwent Mark V unit, the Hanning-Lees stayed at Windermere for three months but were totally unsuccessful in getting their craft to lift at speeds much over the 70.86 mph, which Graham Bell's Hydrodome IV had set up over thirty-three years before.

Ken Norris, who pulled out of the project before the craft went up to Windermere, explained what happened:

'I concluded that above a speed of 70 mph, the hydrofoil would be subject to cavitation. Unlike a hydroplane, which generates lift by being on top and skating over the surface, the hydrofoil is immersed fully, generating lift on both the top and the bottom surface. As the speed increases, so the pressures round the foil change until eventually the pressure on the top surface can become so low that the aerated water tends to create a complete bubble and break down the lift on the top surface. At that point one might lose as much as two-thirds of the lift and at that speed the vessel will drop back into the water. So it rides up for a start, gets up to surface speed and then drops down, rather like a stall with an aeroplane. I believe that this is what happened to the White Hawk, although this doesn't mean that their achievement wasn't pretty good.'

The most cynical comment about the project was that the Hanning-Lees were really waiting for Lake Windermere to freeze over so they could then perform on ice-skis!

(Reprinted from The World Water Speed Record by Leo Villa and Kevin Desmond, 1976)


Jet Hydrofoil Shoots at World Record

Speed is relative. Man has gone 700 miles per hour in an airplane, 400 miles per hour in a car, only 178 miles per hour in a boat. But any boatman knows that there’s nothing dawdling about 178 miles per hour on water!

However, two Britishers, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Henning-Lee (sic), aim to break that speedboat record with their jet-powered craft, the White Hawk, on Lake Mead, Nev., this fall. The man-and-wife team collaborated on the design. Mrs. Henning-Lee (an American by birth) is the driver.

The have made a hobby of hydrofoils. Therein is the secret of their craft. These hydrofoils correspond to the airfoils or wings of an airplane, lifting the hull clear of the water to reduce drag at high speeds. The 20-foot boat has a 12-foot beam. Its Rolls-Royce Derwent jet airplane engine develops 4000 horsepower.

A propeller-driven boat tends to lift its bow because of the low position of the thrust. A jet boat tends to push its bow down into the water. To overcome this tendency, the designers broadened the forward hull. At top speeds, the hydrofoils keep the nose from burrowing into the water.

Another Englishman, John Cobb, went after the record in a jet boat in 1952 and was killed when it exploded during a speed run. His boat was a flat-bottomed hydroplane with heavy surface drag. The Henning-Lees say their hydrofoil design eliminates this danger.

Top speed of the boat to date is 125 miles per hour. But that was loafing along on a stability run in England. When Stella Henning-Lee opens it up on Lake Mead, she is certain that the speed record (now held by Stanley Sayres and Slo-Mo-Shun IV) will be held, for the first time, by a woman.

(Reprinted from Popular Mechanics, August 1953, pp.70-71.)


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