Among the many dangers faced by Second World War bomber pilots was safe landing of the aircraft. Landing a heavy bomber was extremely demanding on the tyres and on the pilot, who frequently couldn’t tell whether the wheels were locked; if they were, there was a serious danger that at landing speeds of around 100mph the tyres could flat-spot and catch fire.
The original anti-lock braking systems devised during WWII used a flywheel and complex hydraulic system. This automatically detected wheel speeds and applied brake pressure and allowed pilots to exercise some control over wheel speed and braking during landings.
Edward Dawson developed a unique process to manufacture a component for a newly-developed anti-lock braking system. As a result of this innovative solution the Government sourced a number of brand-new lathes from America for Dawson to carry out further development and wider implementation; unfortunately the ship was torpedoed and those promised lathes are now sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic.
Anti-lock braking systems weren’t used in cars until the late 50s, while the now familiar computer-regulated ABS systems came much later.