In 1932, Raymond Quilter formed a partnership with James Gregory to construct parachutes to their own design. Arthur Dickinson joined them to manage the commercial and financial side of their venture. Initially the business operated from a rented floor of the RFD Company’s factory in Stoke Road, Guildford.
In 1934, the firm was incorporated as GQ Parachute Company Ltd. As orders began to come in from the Air Ministry, the firm needed larger premises and moved to Portugal Road, Woking. By 1938, the company had built a two-storey factory on the same road.
During World War II, the GQ Parachute Co Ltd designed, developed and manufactured parachute systems and associated equipment for aircrew, paratroops, ordnance and supply dropping for allied forces.
In 1953, the GQ Parachute Co became one of two UK organizations to receive ‘Ministry approval’ for the design of parachutes and associated equipment. In the late 1940s to the early 1960s the company was involved in the design, development and manufacture of the first generation of brake and anti-spin parachutes for aircraft. They were the principal agency for the design and manufacture of supply dropping parachutes for the Ministry of Defence, and developed the largest cargo parachute ever used by UK forces. They also developed and manufactured an advance ejection seat parachute system for Folland Gnat; Ministry of Defence parachutes for sonobuoys and torpedoes, and automatic opening devices for parachute systems.
In 1963 the GQ Parachute Company was acquired by the RFD Group, marine and aviation safety equipment designers and manufacturers. Following the RFD Group takeover of Mills Equipment, a new company was formed in 1970, RFD-GQ Ltd.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, GQ continued to develop parachutes. Their Aeroconical parachute was selected for the Martin-Baker Mk 10 ejection seat in 1973, and between 1974 and 1978 a parachute system for the Stringray torpedo was developed. Part of the RFD-GQ operation moved to Blackmill, South Wales in 1978.
The 1980s saw the development of a new generation of high-glide parachutes. In 1987 the RFD Group was taken over by Wardle Storeys plc. The following year all manufacturing facilities were relocated to the South Wales factory and the Woking factories were closed.
See a brief history of the GQ Parachute Company and Records of the Woking business, including publicity material and photographs, held at Surrey History Centre.
For photographs of employees 1942-3 and details of oral history recordings of two employees, Eileen Higgins and Eileen Bunyon, see Surrey History Centre archive catalogue ref Z/432.
The success of the company has continued. The GQ Aeroconical Type 5000 parachute system was selected in 1990 for the next generation of fighter aircraft by the US Navy, the Euro fighter consortium, and Aerospatiale.