Beryl Platt, Baroness Platt of Writtle


A photograph of a board of directors containing 10 men and 1 woman in the centre

Image from the British Gas 1993 Report & Accounts (published 1994) showing Beryl Platt on what otherwise is an all-male board of directors. (Photo courtesy of Mark Smedley)

  • BORN 18th April 1923, Leigh-on Sea, Essex
  • DIED 1st February 2015, Hertfordshire
  • WORKED She worked for Hawker Aircraft during World War Two, and then moved to British European Airways, where she remained until her marriage in 1949. After that, she lived in Writtle, Essex and pursued an outstanding political career, first in local government in Essex, then nationally in the House of Lords.
  • HONOURS Her many honours include:
    • 1978 CBE
    • 1988 Freedom of the City of London
    • 1994-2001 Chancellor of Middlesex University
  • MINERVA SCIENTIFICA PROJECT Echoes from Essex 2020

Entry by Dr Patricia Fara, Emeritus Fellow of Clare College Cambridge and member of the British Society for the History of Science.

A logo for Minerva Scientifica Connections 2020. Both 'O's of the word connections are connected to a network pattern. The text is blue on a yellow background.


The 1st of our electric voice theatre “Echoes from Essex” October Podcasts. Trained at Cambridge University, Beryl Platt (1923-2015) was a distinguished engineer and campaigner for female education who worked on fighter aircraft during the Second World War. Her daughter, Vicky Platt, gives personal and intriguing insights into her mother’s life and her own adventures in mathematics, physics and sailing! For more information, click here.

Artistic Connections

Nothing recorded


Title: Now pray we for our country
Composer: ELIZA FLOWER (1803–1846)
For: SATB acapella chorus
Performed by: Alice Privett, Jenny Miller, Simone Ibbett-Brown, Margaret Cameron, David Sheppard, Julian Stocker and Gwion Thomas
Film: Jack Cornell
First Performed: Unknown (evt performance online was on 31st August 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic for a Soundings from Essex event)

A patriotic anthem well suited to Platt as she worked on aeroplanes for the RAF in WW2 which inspired the artist to create this beautiful animation.

“Now pray we for our country
That England long may be
The holy and the happy
and the gloriously free

Who blesseth her is blessed
So peace be in her walls
And joy in all her palaces
Her cottages and halls”

Beryl Platt aged 10 with her brother James Myatt (Image provided by Vicky Platt)

Title: Harp Song of the Dane Women
Composer: Elizabeth Machonchy
Words by: Rudyard Kipling
Written in: 1927
For: 2 Sopranos and Harp (substituted for piano on this recording)
Performed by: Frances M Lynch and Jenny Miller
First performed: for Soundings from Essex event in August 2020, virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The score for this work is now out of print, but was kindly provided by Maconchy’s daughter, Nicola LeFanu, who also gave us permission to record it. It is performed by electric voice theatre singers Frances M Lynch, and Jenny Miller. The piano was played by Frances M Lynch. They recorded their parts individually in their homes and the work was constructed at Birnam Studios, London.

“What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

She has no house to lay a guest in—
But one chill bed for all to rest in,
That the pale suns and the stray bergs nest in.

She has no strong white arms to hold you,
But the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you—
Out on the rocks where the tide has rolled you.

Yet, when the signs of summer thicken,
And the ice breaks, and the birch-buds quicken,
Yearly you turn from our side, and sicken—

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters.
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter-quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow,
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?”

Title: The Story of I Love You
Composer: Nicola Lefanu
Words by: Traditional rhyme
Written in: 1984
For: 7 singers.
Performed by: electric voice theatre singers Frances M Lynch, Alice Privett, Margaret Cameron, Jenny Miller, David Sheppard, Julian Stocker and Gwion Thomas.
First performed: for Soundings from Essex event in August 2020, virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is one of 13 acapella Rounds from “Rory’s Rounds” for young singers – published by Novello. We are grateful to the composer for permission to record the work.

“I gave my love a cherry with no stone
I gave my love a chicken with no bone
I told my love a story with no end
Gave my love a baby with no crying

How can there be a cherry with no stone?
How can there be a chicken with no bone?
How can there be a story with no end?
Can there be a baby with no crying?

A cherry when it’s budding it has no stone
A chicken when it’s pippin’ it has no bone
The story of I love you it has no end
A baby when it’s sleeping has no crying.”


Although her school education was disrupted by the War, she was an excellent student who was accepted to read maths at Cambridge, and then switched to engineering so that she could benefit from a wartime bursary. She was one of only five women in a class of 250, and the course was condensed into two years because of the War. Her education was disrupted not by a global pandemic but by a world war. She stayed calm, carried on and became Britain’s leading female engineer.

Beryl Platt 2nd row, third from right, at Hawker Aircraft (Image provided by Vicky Platt)


Aeronautical engineer
She worked on fighter planes at Hawker Aircraft immediately after graduating, but left after the War to develop air safety measures for British European Airways..

Local politician
After she married and moved to a small Essex village, she turned to local politics and was particularly involved in improving education.

Campaigner for Equality
As a life peer, she chaired the Equal Opportunities Commission and was the first chair of WISE, the national initiative to promote Women in Science and Engineering.

Scientific Achievement

For a woman to become an aeronautical engineer in the 1940s was in itself a huge achievement, but her major significance lay in promoting female education and career opportunities in science.

Beryl Platt and her husband at their wedding in 1949 (Image provided by Vicky Platt)

Did You Know?

‘WISE is the Word’ she said, when refusing to have a scholarship named after her personally.

She was happily married for 54 years, but when she first met her husband as a school girl he condemned her as a swot.

She emphasised to young women that they should never ever learn to type, because if they did they would be relegated to secretarial duties.

BP at Duxford Museum, Shuttleworth in 2007 (Image provided by Vicky Platt)

An Inspiring Woman

She was an outstanding role model who encouraged young women into science where they could have ‘such fun’. She was important not because of her scientific innovations, but because of her courage, determination and dedication to supporting younger women.