Archive for the ‘Aviation History’ Category

A (not so) Brief History of Aviation at Shoreham. Part Four:- The Daily Mail £10,000 ‘Circuit of Britain’ race

June 28, 2017

 

Daily Mail Circuit of Britain pilots 1911. Flight magazine.

Hot on the heels of the Circuit of Europe air race, came the Circuit of Britain race, which had been announced by the sponsor, the Daily Mail, shortly after their famous £10,000, London to Manchester race between Claude Graham-White, and Louis Paulhan, a year earlier, during April, 1910. This epic encounter between the English and French airmen caught the imagination of the general public, virtually guaranteeing the success of any future great air race.

Some of the pilots entered in the £10,000 Daily Mail Circuit of Britain 1911. Flight magazine.

The Daily Mail Circuit of Britain would also be for a prize of £10,000, and would be using Shoreham Aerodrome as one of the control points, which is why I have included a good amount of the race details in this aviation history of Shoreham, but also to give an idea of just what a sensation these aviators and their flying machines were creating all over the country. Among the entrants were a number of aviators who had been associated with Shoreham, James Valentine, O.C. Morison, Gustav Hamel, E.C. Gordon-England, C.P. Pizey, Lieut. J.C. Porte, and C. Howard-Pixton, with the unfortunate Gilmour under suspension, missing out. For this race though, the emphasis would be on the durability of the machines, whereas in the Circuit of Europe, the aviators could change entire planes, or any parts thereof, as often as was felt necessary, now they had to finish the course in the aeroplane they started with. Added to that proviso, there were to be ten parts of the machine which would be marked by officials before the race, of which only 6 parts could be changed during the course of the contest. These conditions were intended as a test of the resilience of the various machines, something that had not yet been done in a race situation.

Flight magazine, July 22nd 1911, reports on the Shoreham flying ground:-

‘Great preparations are being made here for the reception of the racers in the Daily Mail second £10,000 contest, and for the accommodation and comfort of the public, who will have a splendid opportunity of seeing the men and their machines for 1s, 2s.6d, and 5s. each person, while cars, including the chauffeur, can enter at 5s. or 10s., according to the enclosure chosen. Holders of season tickets are admitted free.’

Daily Mail Circuit of Britain course 1911. Flight magazine.

 

In the Leeds Mercury, Monday 24th July, 1911, it reports on the scenes their correspondent witnessed on the first leg, Brooklands to Hendon:-

‘The whole of the twenty mile route from Brooklands to Hendon was crowded with spectators afoot and in conveyances, and at some points great multitudes assembled. In the immediate neighbourhood of the aerodrome at Hendon, there were fully 50,000 people. “Beaumont” was the first to arrive, the time being 04.20’

Entrant number 2, H.J.D. Astley taking off at Brooklands 22nd July 1911 in the Circuit of Britain race. Before chocks were used, the air machines were held back by human force until told to ‘let go’.

 

The Hendon and Finchley Times, Friday 28th July, 1911 describes the human sea descending upon the area to catch a sight of this highly publicised air race:-

‘The London crowds began to gather here before midnight. Thousands tramped through eight miles of long roads leading to the aerodrome. Cyclists streamed by all night. In taxi cabs and motor cars, by early trains and motor omnibuses, in costermongers’ carts and tradesmen’s vans, the army of sightseers passed north and west, through the black night and grey dawn. Scenes strange beyond experience resulted from this midnight gathering of the people. Within a mile of the aerodrome men and women slept by the wayside and on the sun baked earth of the fields, heedless of the throng which passed onwards chanting choruses.’

‘Every Hampstead tube station on the route to Golders Green had its crowd waiting for the first train at 2.45a.m. At the Golders Green terminus all the horse omnibuses available and at least 300 taxicabs were plying for hire, hooting and rumbling through the night, scattering the stream of wayfarers and rousing the sleepers by the wayside.’

Daily Mail Circuit of Britain 1911. 4a.m to see the aviators take off from Hendon for Harrogate. Flight magazine.

 

While the race itself was a rousing success, (it was estimated that around half a million people saw the start from the Hendon to Harrogate stage at 4a.m!), it also highlighted once more just how far behind France, Great Britain was in the aviation technology race. The first stage from Hendon to Brooklands, a mere twenty miles, whittled the field down from 29 starters, to just 16, with Vedrines and Beaumont already establishing a lead, with a further 9 entrants dropping out of the contest by Harrogate, where a crowd of between 70-150,000, (depending on which newspaper you read), were waiting for the first arrival, Vedrines, at 7.03a.m, very closely followed by Beaumont four minutes later. Only three more aviators made it to Harrogate, Valentine, Hamel, and Cody, with Hamel causing a great deal of concern on his arrival. The London Daily News, Tuesday 25th July, 1911, reports-

‘The 70,000 people who from daybreak till dusk thronged the fine green stretch of the Stray were perhaps most moved by the dramatic circumstances which attended the descent of Hamel, the young British flier. We saw his Bleriot monoplane gleaming in the sun five miles to the south east soon after half past eleven, and ten minutes later, having planed gradually down from a height of 1000ft, it was hovering over the Mayoral enclosure. A moment more and the machine had gently dropped in the centre of the ground. But there was no movement on the part of the flying man. Officials and mechanics hastened to the machine, and found to their dismay that the aviator was unconscious. Lifting him tenderly from the seat, they stretched him on the ground, and while some rendered first aid, others went in search of a doctor. Luckily a medical man was near and hurried to the spot. He found a man with faintly fluttering pulse, ashen cheeks, and hands and feet stiff and cold, and a quarter of an hour passed before there came a glimmer of returning consciousness.’

By the end of the second days flying, only Beaumont, on a Bleriot monoplane, Vedrines, on his Morane-Borel monoplane, and Valentine, flying a Deperdussin monoplane, had made it to Edinburgh, having stopped at the control point at Newcastle en-route. Gustav Hamel, having recovered sufficiently at Harrogate, later struggled on to Edinburgh, and then to Chryston, Glasgow, but he had been having engine problems for most of the race, and it finally gave out at Dumfries, forcing his retirement on Wednesday 26th July. Of the other Shoreham ‘associated’ aviators forced to retire, were;- Gordon-England, retired with engine trouble at the start at Brooklands, Lieut. Porte, crashed at the Brooklands start, Pixton, crashed his plane on a forced landing at Spofforth, while Pizey was forced to land at Melton Mowbray owing to propeller issues, only to damage the undercarriage when landing.

Gustav Hamel, Circuit of Britain, Chryston, Glasgow 1911

Gustav Hamel taking off from Chryston, near Glasgow. Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race 1911

 

Hamel at Stirling. Daily mail Circuit of Britain race 1911

Entrant number 24, Gustav Hamel, at Stirling. Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race 1911

The Yorkshire Post, Tuesday, 25th July, 1911, takes up the story from Edinburgh:-

‘Beaumont started off again from Edinburgh in the great flight at 03.10 this morning. He was closely followed by Vedrines at 03.25. According to one report, Valentine had also left, but another account states that up to 04.20 Valentine had not left. Large crowds had gathered to see the start, and the aviators, as they rose from the ground and soared off to the west, barely outlined on the grey sky, were very loudly cheered.’

Further on it reports the arrival of the leaders at Stirling:-

‘It was 03.40 when the great crowd assembled on the aviation ground outside Stirling caught sight of the first aviator. At first barely visible by telescope, the great Bleriot soon became visible to the naked eye. The machine came right over the town, not by the castle, as expected, made a gliding half circle, and then came down. Vedrines, 18 minutes later, came from the same direction, and also alighted. As the first to arrive, Beaumont was presented by the Provost with a silver inkstand. Both aviators met with a tremendous cheering when they descended.’

Vedrines at Kings Park, Stirling. 25th July, 1911. Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race

Beaumont flew that stage just three minutes faster than Vedrines, they were still neck and neck, with Valentine not too far behind them, while Cody, determined to finish, hadn’t yet reached Newcastle. The next stage for the leaders, was from Edinburgh to Bristol, via control points at Stirling, Glasgow, Carlisle, and Manchester, both having decided they were going to try and complete the stage that same day. The Western Daily Press, Wednesday 26th July describes this stage:-

Keenness of the Frenchmen

Later in the day the race resolved itself in to a struggle between the two great French aviators. Leaving Edinburgh at fifteen minutes behind Beaumont, Vedrines was, roughly, 16 minutes behind at Sterling, 54 minutes at Glasgow, and 44  minutes at Carlisle. Beaumont it will be seen, had gained substantially on his opponent, and the latter, when stopping at Glasgow to take refreshment, made no secret of his chagrin in not being able to maintain his original lead. Nothing apparently happened to Beaumont or Vedrines until they had passed Carlisle. Some 60,000 people were waiting at that town to give them a hearty welcome. The first to arrive was Beaumont, who flew over the racecourse nearly due north. He planed down quietly and landed without the slightest difficulty.’

Crowds at Manchester use rolling stock freight wagons to get a better view of the aviators in the Circuit of Britain race 1911. Flight magazine.

Manchester received the French aviators as everywhere, with vast crowds and tremendous enthusiasm, and down at Filton, near Bristol, it would be no different, further on in the Western Daily Press article, it explains:-

‘The scene which greeted Beaumont’s arrival this evening baffles description. The crowds had thickened beyond proportion since the news was received of Beaumont’s departure from Manchester at 5.44, Vedrines following upon his tail at 6.11’

False sightings kept the huge crowds ever alert, until;-

‘Glasses were trained upon this tiny black point, and it seemed absurd to believe that a man could so appear. But the speck increased in size until it resembled nothing so much as a huge blackbird with long, outstretched wings. The cheers from the aerodrome grew in volume, and the great Bleriot monoplane, with its red wings, and Beaumont sitting serenely at the controls. The fire was situated at the back of the hangars, and Beaumont steered directly for it, planing down upon that strip of the aerodrome nearest Filton station, and coming to a standstill quite near the fire.’

Beaumont’s landing time was 8.37, having taken 2 hours, 55 minutes. Unfortunately for Vedrines, the British and Colonial Company, that build the Bristol aeroplanes, have their own aerodrome nearby, and he landed there by mistake, but to compound the error, he sustained damage to his aircraft too, holding him up even further. Eventually he made it to the correct control point, but it was now after ten, and dark, Vedrines had lost valuable time to Beaumont.

Bristol to Shoreham stage

When the race was devised, Shoreham was intended to be an overnight rest stop, but Beaumont and Vedrines had already used up a good deal of their allotted rest time, so opted for a short stop there and push on to the finish line at Brooklands. Flight magazine of  29th July 1911 gives details of the final stage:-

‘They were astir in the small hours of Wednesday morning looking over their machines, and at ten minutes to five, “Beaumont” was given the signal to start, and getting away sharply, was followed two minutes later by Vedrines. The latter again proved the Morane was the faster machine, and arrived at Exeter two minutes before “Beaumont” at ten minutes past six. He was away again at a quarter to seven, while “Beaumont” did not start again till twenty minutes after, his engine requiring a little attention. A straight course was set for Salisbury Plain, where Vedrines arrived at ten minutes past eight to be followed about twenty minutes later by “Beaumont”. No sooner was “Beaumont’s” machine reported to be in sight, then Vedrines was anxious to be away, and as a matter of fact he started for Brighton (Shoreham Aerodrome) after resting only thirty three minutes, just about ten minutes after his rival had landed. About nine o’clock there was a sharp shower of rain at Brighton (Shoreham), and this probably kept the general public away, so that when Vedrines arrived at three minutes to ten the crowd to welcome him was not very large.’

Vedrines waits at Shoreham, Daily Mail Circuit of Britain 1911.

Meanwhile, horse racing enthusiasts on a train to Goodwood had been keeping an eye out for a glimpse of these famous aviators, as reported in the Leeds Mercury, Thursday 27th July, 1911:-

‘On the journey up from Brighton to Chichester this morning, the chief topic of conversation was not the Goodwood Plate, or whether Mushroom would beat Sunder, but the great air race. It was known that Beaumont and Vedrines were expected to arrive at the Shoreham Aerodrome during the morning. The aerodrome is only a few miles out of Brighton, on the way to Chichester, and is close to the railway. We saw plenty of people in the Aerodrome, but no flying machines. Just after passing Ford Junction, however, about 10.30, a fellow traveller, who was keeping a look out on the side facing the sea, shouted, “Here you are”, and in the distance we saw one of the air monarchs approach. The machine was at a great height, and travelling at a great speed. As if to give us a better view the train happened to come to a standstill just at the moment, and from every carriage window appeared the heads of eager and delighted sightseers. The aeroplane was having a very smooth journey in spite of the fact there was a good breeze, and it would arrive at Shoreham soon after half-past ten. We afterwards learned that this was Beaumont’s machine, and that Vedrines had arrived nearly an hour before.’

Vedrines and his mechanics waiting in a hangar at Shoreham Aerodrome. Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race 1911. Flight magazine.

Flight magazine, Saturday 29th July, 1911 details the finish of the race, Wednesday 26th :-

‘ “Beaumont” did not leave Salisbury Plain until 09.47 and so was practically an hour after Vedrines in arriving at the Shoreham Aerodrome, which formed the control station at Brighton. He, however, had used up a good deal of his rest time and so was due to start before Vedrines on the last stage to Brooklands. He had 3 hours and 40 minutes to rest, and took advantage of this to have a little sleep and a rub down. Punctually at 1.28.15 he was in the air and winging his way to Brooklands Motor Course, where he landed after a flight of practically forty minutes. Vedrines was not due to start from Shoreham until 2.41, when punctually to time he was away, reaching Brooklands at nineteen minutes past three. On his arrival at Brooklands, “Beaumont” was carried shoulder high, and after the officials had examined the seals, &c., on his machine and found them all in order he was declared to be the winner of the race and the £10,000 prize.’

Beaumont at the finish line, Brooklands 1911, in the £10,000 Daily mail Circuit of Britain race. Flight magazine.

James Valentine on his Deperdussin monoplane, and S.F. Cody on his self-built Cody biplane, were doggedly continuing, determined to see it through, and still the crowds turned out in their thousands throughout the route, as the sheer noise of the machines advertised their arrival well in advance. The Gloucestershire Echo, Friday 4th August 1911 writes:-

‘Valentine arrived at the Shoreham Aerodrome at 7.30p.m, having covered the distance from Salisbury Plain in sixty eight minutes. He thus wins the gold cup presented by the Brighton Hotels Association to the first British aviator reaching Shoreham in connection with the British aviation circuit.’ It concludes:- ‘Valentine left Shoreham for Brooklands in the “Daily Mail” aerial race this morning.’

The Leeds Mercury, Friday 4th August, 1911, updates Cody’s progress:-

‘Cody, who is still trying to complete the course of the great air race, left Clifton, Bristol, en route for Exeter, at 7.25 last night. He arrived at Weston-super-Mare at 8.15, effecting an easy landing on the sands in the presence of  a large crowd. He expected to Leave for Exeter at three o’clock this morning.’

Valentine finishes!

Nearly two weeks after setting off from Brooklands, and nine days after the Frenchmen, Beaumont, and Vedrines, had crossed the finish line, James Valentine finally completed the Circuit of Britain course, but not without mishaps even on the final leg from Shoreham to Brooklands. In the Globe, Saturday 5th August 1911, is announced his valiant effort:-

‘Mr Valentine, after being detained near Horsham by a broken stay, reached Brooklands at 6.49 last evening. He was cordially greeted as the first English competitor to complete the distance.’

Cody over the line at last, beats the telegraph.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Monday 7th August 1911, gives account of S.F.Cody, as the last competitor to finish what was considered to be the greatest air race to date:-

‘Telegraph service put to shame

Leaving Salisbury at four o’clock on Saturday, Cody landed at Shoreham Aerodrome at 06.15, and after partaking of breakfast, considerately provided for him by the manager of the aerodrome, left again at 08.25 for the final flight to Brooklands, which he reached at nine o’clock. Valentine when flying from Salisbury to Shoreham on Thursday evening beat the telegraph by twelve minutes, but Cody did still better on Saturday, the telegram announcing his departure from the Cathedral City at four o’clock not being received at Shoreham till 9.16.’

 

 

For a more full description of the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race, 1911, follow the link below for an excellent summary.

http://www.thosemagnificentmen.co.uk/britain/

 

 

Next up in part 5;- Horatio Barber’s Valkyrie School at Shoreham, Miss Trehawke Davies flies in to Shoreham, James Valentine flies down the river and over the Adur bridges, Chanter school comes to Shoreham, and Piffard’s seaplane trials.

 

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A (not so) Brief History of Aviation at Shoreham. Part Three

June 16, 2017

 

 

 

Aviation cartoon in ‘The Sphere’ 8th July 1911, showing the dangerous nature with which observers regarded the flying craze.

Returning to May 1911, the aviators based at Shoreham were keeping busy flying all across the south coast, testing their machines, honing their aviation skills, and entertaining the local populace. Of these aviators, judging by the news reports of the time, D.G. Gilmour and O.C. Morison were among the busiest of these young men. Going through the old newspaper archives, it seems barely a day goes by without one aviator or another taking up column inches in the publications around the country. Britain had aviation fever, and any news of these intrepid airmen was eagerly digested.

Douglas Graham Gilmour, aviator, based for a time at Shoreham Aerodrome.

Of these two aviators, Gilmour was blazing a trail which would result in a bill being rushed through parliament by none other than a certain Winston Churchill, to “provide for the protection of the public against dangers arising from the navigation of aircraft”. On the 1st April, 1911, a number of aviators had taken the opportunity to fly over the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge, reported in the Reading Mercury, 8th April, 1911:-

‘Huge crowds and several aviators witnessed the annual race between Oxford and Cambridge from Putney to Mortlake on Saturday.’ Further on it writes:-

‘The race was accompanied for the first time in its history by an aeroplane, which circled over the rival crews at a height of about 300ft. There were several other aeroplanes over the course. The aviators who had a view of the boat race from their aeroplanes were, Mr. Graham-White, who carried a passenger on his biplane; M. Hubert (biplane), and Messrs. G. Hamel, C.H. Gresswell, and Prier (monoplanes). These all started from Hendon. Mr. D.G. Gilmour, flew from Brooklands over the course.’

The Framlingham Weekly News, Saturday 8th April, 1911, reported:-

‘The presence of the aeroplanes pleased everybody, and one aviator, accompanied by a passenger who took several photographs while in full flight, responded to the hearty cheers of the huge crowd at Putney by waving his hands’

Further on it describes Douglas Graham-Gilmour’s exploits:-

‘The Bristol biplane, driven by Mr. Gilmour, followed the boat race from start to finish. In great circling sweeps Mr. Gilmour crossed and recrossed the river, and in this way kept fairly level with the crews, although he was travelling at about thirty five miles an hour. “I wanted to see the race” said Mr. Gilmour in an interview, “so I went straight down to Brooklands, jumped into my machine, and came right away. I was in such a hurry that I had no time to fill up my petrol tank. I had four gallons, and that lasts about an hour. I should not have come down at all but for that. Yes it is a novel way of seeing the boat race, and I was the only aviator to follow the crews all the way up to Mortlake. It is far the best way to see the struggle, and I was able to follow all the changes of position easily. The distance between the two boats can be gauged as easily as between two points on a map. It is a curious site to see the swing of the crews and the sweep of the oars from above, and it was the dark blue of the Oxford oars that distinguished the two boats.”

 

On May 15th, Police Inspector Marsh of Shoreham was given the task of arresting Gilmour at Shoreham Aerodrome, to face charges relating to the death of a young boy in a motor accident. Having been bailed, he flew from Shoreham to Salisbury to face trial on the 26th May, circling Salisbury Cathedral on his arrival. After evidence, he was acquitted by the jury after just ten minutes of deliberation. This was also the day that Churchill tried to have his ‘Aerial Navigation Bill’ rushed through Parliament.

Between the arrest and the trial, Gilmour flew from Shoreham to Hove, reported in ‘Flight magazine’, 27th May 1911, it states:-

‘Mr Gilmour at Brighton. (Hove actually)

‘While flying with Mr Gordon England from Shoreham to Brighton on Sunday last, Mr. Graham Gilmour steered his biplane out to sea. When still at a good height the engine suddenly stopped and the machine commenced to glide down. Fortunately before it touched the water Mr. Gilmour got the engine going again, and rising for a short distance was able to land safely on the Lawn Gardens. Later in the day the two aviators successfully made the return journey to Shoreham.’

Douglas Graham-Gilmour at Hove lawns. May 21st 1911

In the same edition of Flight magazine, 27th May, it relates more flying activity at Shoreham:-

‘Doings at Shoreham 

Apart from the visit to Hove by Mr. Gilmour and Mr. England, a good deal of flying was seen at the Shoreham Aerodrome on Sunday last. Shortly after Mr. Gilmour left for Brighton, Mr. Morison was out on his Bristol biplane and made a circular trip over Shoreham and Lancing College. He then visited Brighton in his motor car, but soon after the return of Mr. Gilmour he was back at the aerodrome giving passenger flights. Mr. Gilmour and Mr. England also took up some passengers, heights attained being well over 1000 ft.’

 

The Great Aviation Race, June 1911.

Otherwise known as the ‘Four Kingdoms Race’, and the ‘European Circuit’, this was the biggest air race to date, with total prize money of £20,000, starting in Paris, and finishing at Hendon. Only two English aviators were entered, O.C.Morison, and Mr. James Valentine, both flying French built aeroplanes, although Morison appears not to have actually started. The Courier reported on Thursday 15th June 1911:-

‘Sixty aviators will start from Vincennes, near Paris, on Sunday morning next to compete in the great aerial race across France, Belgium, Holland and England, known as the European Circuit. The course is via Rheims, Liege, Verloo, Utrecht, Breda, Brussels, Roubais, and Calais to London. The competitors are due to arrive at Calais on June 26th. On June 27 they leave Calais early in the morning and fly across the channel to Dover, thence to the Shoreham Aviation ground at Brighton, and finally to the London Aerodrome at Hendon. There they will be met by a distinguished committee, and entertained on the following day in London. On the 29th they start for the final stage of the journey from Hendon to Paris; proceeding via Brighton and Dover.’

 

18th June 1911 Start of the European Circuit. Stage one, Paris to Liege.

R.Dallas Brett sets the scene in his, History of British Aviation 1908-1914, page 78:-

‘It was an imposing array of forty-three aeroplanes that lined up in three rows at Vincennes, ready for the start at 6 a.m. Since midnight a vast crowd, estimated at more than half a million people, had waited in driving rain to see the departure. A guard of 6000 soldiers and police had all their work cut out to keep control.’

Further on he continues:-

‘The perilous nature of the contest was shown up in terrible fashion on the first day. Before the control at Rheims was reached, three pilots had been killed and another badly injured.’

Flight magazine of  24th June 1911, writes:-

‘Altogether 43 of the 52 competitors who figured on the official programme were started, and 21 got through without trouble to Rheims, the “halfway” control for the day. Unfortunately, a fatality occurred during the starting operations to Lemartin on one of the Bleriots. He had made a good start, and was heading off to Joinville at a height of about 80 metres, when the machine seemed to suddenly collapse and fall to the ground, the aviator being so terribly injured that he died very shortly after admission to the hospital. Almost at the same time that this accident occurred came the news that Lieut. Princeteau, one of the officers who had received permission to follow the course, had met with a fatal accident while starting from Issy for Rheims. He had only risen to a height of about 30 metres, when apparently the carburettor of his machine caught fire, and in the sudden landing rendered necessary the monoplane capsized. The wrecked machine at once burst into flames and before anything could be done the unfortunate officer was burned to death. The third fatality occurred at Chateau Thierry, where Landron met his death in somewhat similar fashion to Lieut. Princeteau. The machine fell from a great height and the wreckage immediately burst into flames, making it impossible to rescue the pilot.’

Tabuteau flying at Dover, European Circuit 1911

Arriving at Calais on Thursday 29th June, the competitors were told that the stage across the channel to Dover had been postponed until first thing Monday morning, which allowed the stragglers to catch up. Flight magazine continues its coverage:-

‘At four o’clock exactly, as soon as the starting rockets were fired, Vedrines was in the air, and shaping his course by the great arrow laid down at Les Baraques, he soon disappeared out to sea. At three minute intervals he was followed by Vidart, “Beaumont”, Kimmerling, Gibert, Garros, Renaux, Train, Tabuteau, Barra, and Valentine. After the last of the aviators had gone, the crowd still remained at the arodrome awaiting news of the cross channel flyers, and at six o’clock a message was received by wireless telegraphy that ten of the aviators had arrived.’

 

The Courier, Tuesday 4th July 1911 reported the arrivals at Dover:-

Aviators Make Safe Passages

Leaving Calais at four o’clock yesterday morning, and subsequently at four minute intervals, the competitors engaged in the ‘Standard Journal Europe Aviation Circuit’ made safe and speedy passages across the channel to Dover, from whence, with a stop at Shoreham Aerodrome, the journey to Hendon Aviation Ground, in the north of London, was to be made.’

It seems amusing now, but was doubtless deadly serious at the time, but to be sure the aviators would find their way on the course, as stated in The Sphere, 24th June 1911:-

‘The organisers of the forthcoming European aviation circuit have sought the assistance of the Automobile Association and Motor Union in connection with the work of marking the course to be taken by the competitors in the English portion of the circuit. The route is chosen from Dover to Shoreham and from Shoreham to Hendon. The route will be marked by a series of large white arrows, 72 ft. in length by 12 ft. in width, placed at intervals on the ground in conspicuous places; smaller arrows, 36 ft. in length, will be used intermediately. Captive balloons are also being utilised at certain points along the route.’

(Authors note:- The imp in me wonders if they had to hurriedly turn those arrows round ready for the trip back after the last competitor had passed on his way to Shoreham?)

Cartoon in ‘The Sphere’, 8th July 1911, depicting the arrows laid out for the contestants in the European Circuit

 

Preparations at the Brighton-Shoreham Aerodrome

In the same edition of Flight magazine, (Saturday 1st July 1911), which announced the official opening of the Brighton-Shoreham Aerodrome at Lancing, it reports on the work carrying on to ready the aerodrome for the first arrivals of the European Circuit race:-

‘Owing to the very bad weather this week, nothing has been done in the way of flying, though the inventor of the Valkyrie, (Horatio Barber), has been down here all week with a machine waiting for the first reasonable opportunity to get into the air. Although nothing has been done in the way of flying, great progress has been made on the ground itself in preparation for the large crowd which is expected to witness the arrival of the aviators in the great European Circuit on Friday this week. During the last few days the grand stand and ten new hangars have been completed. Refreshment booths are in the course of erection, and the band stand is nearly complete. Visitors to the aerodrome during the week, therefore, will be well catered for; they will be able to see exhibition flights every day by the Valkyrie, and the arrival and departure of those flying in the European Circuit, both on their way from Europe and on the return journey to France, which is down for tomorrow (Sunday).’

Barber's Valkyrie at Marble Arch on the way to Shoreham July 1911

Horatio Barber’s Valkyrie monoplane by the Marble Arch, London, on its way to Shoreham Aerodrome, July 1911

 

 First in at Shoreham on the European Circuit: 7th and 8th Stages

Only two weeks after the official opening of the Brighton-Shoreham Aerodrome, it has the prestigious honour of being one of the control point stops in the world’s greatest air race to date, not once, but twice, as the race continues up to Hendon, then returns on the way back, back across the channel, before the finish line at Paris.

The Courier, Tuesday 4th July 1911, relays the latest race details:-

‘There was great interest and excitement at Dover, where people were astir at an early hour, and each arrival was the signal for outbursts of cheering. Leaving again at 6 a.m, Vedrines was first in at Shoreham at 07.16, and all the other competitors, with the exception of Train, who, losing his bearings, injured his machine in a descent at the village of Heighton, had reached Shoreham by 07.55.’

Train at Newhaven after experiencing problems on the European Circuit, July 3rd, 1911

Aviator, Monsieur Train, (identified by his racing number, 67), at Newhaven after experiencing problems on the European Circuit, July 3rd, 1911

The Aberdeen Press and Journal, Tues 4th July, 1911, picks up the story:-

‘Vedrines led off in the stage to Hendon at 07.33, and, was the first to receive the congratulations of the officials and the general public at Hendon, in which there was a large sprinkling of the French element. He effected a graceful landing at 08.34. Vidart, who left Shoreham at 07.43, was the next in at 09 o’clock. Kimmerling, who departed at 07.50, followed at 09.04. Altogether, seven completed the journey yesterday morning.’

 

Regarding the aviators that had been held up on this short stage, the Aberdeen Press and Journal remarks:-

Mishaps to Airmen

Tabuteau lost his way, and came in from the north, and in addition to Train, Barra, Gibert, and Renaux carrying a passenger, met with minor mishaps. Barra had to descend at Heathfield, near Eastbourne, and eventually arrived at Shoreham at 5.45 p.m. He left again at 6.25, and ultimately reached Hendon at 7.40 p.m. Gibert, who won the trophy for the fastest cross channel flight, 37 minutes odd, was found in a hayfield near Dorking. The machine was removed to Holmwood Common, which he left at 5.35 p.m. and gained the goal at Hendon at 6 p.m. Renaux, who had to come down at Bodiham Park, just over the Kentish border, obtained mechanical assistance from Shoreham, and took two hours and a quarter in the flight from there to Hendon, which he reached at 8.33 p.m. still carrying his passenger, M. Senouques. Train, the only competitor failing to finish, sent a message from Newhaven saying it would take him a day at least to repair his machine, damaged by collision with a wire fence at Heighton.  Renaux was cordially greeted by the few remaining spectators at Hendon, among whom was his wife in a state of considerable anxiety.’

French aviator, Barra’s, biplane awaiting repairs at Heathfield, Sussex. 3rd July, 1911

 

 

 Meanwhile, over the Thames:-

On the 5th July, Douglas Graham-Gilmour flew his Bleriot monoplane up and down the Thames, causing a sensation which filled column inches throughout Britain and beyond, the first time an aviator had dared to try such a thing. Two days later, he flew down the Thames over the Henley Regatta course, The London Daily News, Saturday 8th July, reported the incident:-

‘-there were a few moments of great excitement when a Bristol biplane appeared over the course between the two races. It was manoeuvred beautifully, descending so that the starting wheels touched the water and sent up a shower of spray. It rose again, and the cheering at least equalled that given to the closest race of the day. Mr. Graham-Gilmour is believed to be the aviator.’

Gilmour’s daring display was considered a step too far, and brought him in to inevitable conflict with the Royal Aero Club, who hauled him before their committee and issued him with a flying ban for one month. This proved a most unfortunate situation for the popular aviator, as it precluded him from taking part in the coming ‘Circuit of Great Britain’ air race, organised by Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail, which carried a prize of £10,000.

There was understandable concern regarding the possible dangers of aviation, especially where crowds were gathered. As recently as 21st May, 1911, the French War Minister, Monsieur Bertreaux was killed by an aeroplane whose pilot had lost control of his machine. ‘The Daily News, Monday 22nd May, 1911, reports the scene:-

‘The tragic event occurred at the aviation ground Issy-les-Molineux, where huge crowds had gathered from the early hours to witness the start of the Paris-Madrid flying race. M.Train, one of the aviators, was seen to be in difficulties from the moment he rose from the ground. He had turned back in the direction of the sheds, and was endeavouring to avoid a squadron of cuirassiers who had been clearing the course, when he lost control and dashed in to the Ministerial group of sightseers with appalling results. M. Bertreaux, the Minister of War, was killed instantly, his arm being completely severed. M. Monis sustained a double fracture of the leg, and is believed to have received internal injuries.’

 

The European Circuit race finale

The competitors were now closing in on the final stages of the Four Kingdoms/European Circuit air race, flying from Hendon to the control point at Shoreham, before heading east to Dover, and crossing the channel and on to Paris for the finish line. The Evening Telegraph and Post, Wednesday 5th July, writes:-

‘From a very early hour this morning a stream of motors and other vehicles conveyed spectators to Hendon Aviation Ground to witness the start of the ten competitors in their return flight via Shoreham and Dover to Paris.’

Later in this correspondence:-

‘As six o’clock approached the aeroplanes were brought out, and practically as the hour struck Beaumont got away in fine style. Garros, Vidart, and Vedrines followed in quick succession. Then came Gibert, whose red coloured machine had a striking appearance. Renaux, the only competitor to carry a passenger was next, and apparently found his burden no obstacle to his progress. Tabuteau, Valentine, and Barra got off in the order named, and thus nine men had started within half an hour. There was some little delay owing to Kimmerling’s machine requiring attention, but the last of the ten starters got away by a quarter to seven.’

Flight magazine of 15th July 1911 reports on the aviators at Shoreham as they await the European Circuit contestants:-

‘Mr Barber made several trial flights early in the morning of Tuesday last week with a Valkyrie (Type B), taking with him one of his mechanics as a passenger, and also Miss Meeze. Next day Mr Barber started about 5 a.m on a Valkyrie with Miss Meeze, to fly to Hendon, as mentioned last week. Messrs. Gordon-England, Pizey and Fleming, who had flown over on Monday on Bristol biplanes, gave exhibition flights, and some pretty glides were witnessed by the visitors, who were already assembled to see the arrival of the aviators in the European Circuit.’

The Times newspaper, 6th July 1911, takes up the story of arrivals at the Shoreham Aerodrome:-

‘Ten airmen left Hendon early yesterday morning for Dover on the final stage of the circuit of Europe air race, organised by the Standard, and the Journal (newspapers) of Paris, and the Petit Bleu, of Brussels, and nine of them succeeded in reaching Dover after landing at Shoreham. They will leave on the cross Channel flight for Calais and thence for Paris at 4 o’clock this morning. A feature of the days flying was the fine performance of Vedrines, who occupied just under two hours on the journey from Hendon to the Whitfield Aerodrome at Dover. He wins the Shoreham £200 prize for the fastest flight between Hendon and Shoreham.’

Further on it continues:-

‘Vedrines was the first of the competitors  to arrive at the Shoreham Aerodrome, where a considerable number of spectators had assembled before 7 o’clock. He was sighted at ten minutes to 7, travelling at a great speed, and in a little over five minutes had made a skilful descent amid hearty cheering. Without leaving his seat he signed the official record and was on his way to Dover. The next arrivals were Garros and “Beaumont”, the former alighting only 40 seconds before the latter, and before Vedrines had quite cleared the aerodrome. These were joined in about five minutes by Vidart. “Beaumont” was  next away at 07.10, and was followed by Vidart and Garros at 07.20. Gibert in his red monoplane, descended at 07.11 and within six minutes of his arrival had taken the air again. It was nearly 07.40 before the next airman, Tabuteau, had alighted, and he was quickly followed by Renaux with his passenger, while two minutes later Kimmerling was on the scene. Of the three machines then on the ground that of Kimmerling’s was first away at 07.52, and Tabuteau’s was only a minute behind. In the meantime Barra had arrived, and after resting for half an hour started for Dover at 08.16 before Renaux, who left two minutes later. All the ten competitors had now arrived at Shoreham with the exception of Valentine, who, on finding that his engine was misfiring, descended without accident at Brooklands.’

 

(Meanwhile, also at Shoreham on the 4th July, 1911, the world’s first air freight delivery is dispatched)

Aviator Horatio Barber made the news for the inaugural transport by air of goods- ‘The Sphere’ 22nd July, 1911, writes:-

‘Brighton and Hove’s people have had the distinction of witnessing what is believed to be the first time in the world’s history that aerial transport has been accomplished, the flight having been made on July 4 from Shoreham to Hove. Notwithstanding that a large number of people were disappointed at the flight not taking place on the 3rd, which was due to the absence of a searchlight arranged to be in Marine Park, Hove, to show the aviator where he should land, hundreds of people assembled in the park in the evening to watch the flight and descent. They were not disappointed either. The aeronaut was Mr. Barber of Hendon, and the novel and interesting exhibition was arranged in conjunction with the General Electric Company, LTD, of 67 Queen Victoria Street, London, E.C., Mr. Barber carrying on his powerful Valkyrie, type B, No.5, monoplane a consignment of Osram lamps for delivery to Messrs. Page and Miles, LTD, Western Road, Hove. Arrangements were to have been made to enable the monoplane to be illuminated with Osram lamps, but this was not carried out.’

Harold Barber 4th July, Osram lamps to Hove

European Circuit final stage, 7th July.

This race had highlighted how far ahead France were from Britain in aviation design, construction, and piloting, with James Valentine, the only Briton who actually started, and despite his valiant efforts to continue in the race, eventually gave up after encountering problems on the Hendon to Shoreham leg. So Britain’s only involvement at the final stage was Maurice Tabuteau, who was flying a Bristol biplane, built by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, Ltd, at Filton, Gloucestershire. Flight magazine of 15th July, 1911, describes the Paris finish:-

‘At Vincennes there was another huge crowd, among whom was General Roques and several other highly placed Government officials. At half past eight an extra sharp eye detected a speck in the sky, while an expert ear caught the sound of the unmistakable hum of a Gnome motor. Within a few seconds the news had spread round the concourse, and the cry went up, “They are here!”. The next question was “who could it be” as the news of  Vedrine’s accident had come through, and it was realised he could not be the arrival. It only needed a few minutes, however, to bring the monoplane nearer in to view, for it to be seen that it was the Deperdussin monoplane, and of course piloted by Vidart. He landed at 8.37, and was at once carried shoulder high to the Deperdussin shed to the strain of the Marseillaise. There was then a delay of seven minutes before the arrival of Gibert, who it should be remembered is the only monoplanist who had completed the full distance on the one machine, whereas the others have changed their machines several times. The third to arrive was Garros, at 9.15, and then the others came in at fairly lengthy  intervals, “Beaumont” being fourth at 9.26.’

‘The overall winner was Andre Beaumont, with a total race time of 58 hours, 38 minutes, followed by Roland Garros*, on 62hrs, 17 mins, 3rd place was Vidart, on 73hrs, 32 mins, and Vedrines, who had led for much of the race, came in fourth with a time of 86hrs, 34 minutes, having damaged his machine while landing on the next to last leg. 

* (This was the Roland Garros whose name would be given to a rather famous tennis arena in Paris).

Beaumont wins the European Circuit 1911

Oscar Morison flies from Paris to Shoreham.

While the  worlds press followed the race around Europe, aviators elsewhere continued to push the boundaries of what could be achieved in their fragile looking aeroplanes, and O.C.Morison was one of these intrepid aviators. He had hoped to race his new Morane monoplane in the European Circuit, but it wasn’t ready in time, and actually picked it up from the factory in Paris just after the race had finished. ‘The Daily News’, Monday 10th July, 1911 reports:-

Paris to Shoreham in 5 Hours

A remarkable feat was accomplished by an English aviator on Saturday (8th July), Mr. O.C. Morison (one of the most successful flying men in this country) getting from Paris to Shoreham with only two brief stops, and setting up what must almost be a record. Mr. Morison showed considerable pluck, for he did not announce the attempt, and there was consequently no tugs or torpedo boats out to render assistance should he require it. In five hours the aeroplane covered 250 miles, giving the high rate of 50 miles an hour, and this included the stops. Mr. Morison started his monoplane at Paris shortly before noon, and averaged a mile a minute to Calais. Stopping just long enough to replenish his petrol tank, he went on straight for Dover, and mounted at a great speed to a height of nearly two thousand feet, seeming through the heat haze to be almost among the lower clouds. The channel was crossed in half an hour, and, passing over Dover Castle, Mr. Morison made straight for Eastbourne, and descended in a field there at ten minutes to four. A quarter of an hour was occupied in once more taking in petrol, the engine was again restarted, and just before five p.m, the machine descended at Shoreham.’

Coming up in part four:- Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail, offers £10,000 as a prize for the aviator that wins a Circuit of Britain race. Shoreham gets busy, more top aviators set up at the newly expanded facilities.

 

A Brief History of Aviation at Shoreham. Part Two

June 11, 2017

Harold Piffard and friends with his own designed and built hydroplane at Bungalow Town, Summer of 1911

 

1911

 

In the summer of 1911 Piff was back in Shoreham, but this time he used a large shed on the shingle peninsula known as ‘Bungalow Town’, on the beach front, near Ferry road. Thanks to fellow local history enthusiasts, Howard Porter and Roger Bateman, the bungalow has been identified as ‘Palghar’, and the shed they used to house his hydroplane, was the old Lifeboat House.

Piff’s next designs were forerunners of the seaplane, but the challenge now was to be able to ‘unstick’ from the sea. Flight magazine of 22nd July 1911 reports:-

Hydro-Aeroplane at Shoreham.

Mr Harold Piffard, who last year experimented at the Shoreham Aerodrome with an aeroplane, has now had another machine built, and this is fitted with airbags so that the experiments may be made over water. On Saturday evening Mr Piffard had it out on the sea at Shoreham for the first time, and although no flight was attempted, six people took their place on the machine and successfully tested its buoyancy. Motive power is provided by a 40-h.p. E.N.V. engine’

Piff, at the front, wearing the Boater hat, on Bungalow Town beach (Shoreham) with the latest hydroplane design. Summer 1911

 

A month later, Flight magazine of 19th August 1911 writes:-

Mr Piffard’s Hydroplane Capsizes.

After making one or two alterations to it, Mr Piffard had his hydroplane taken down to the sea at Shoreham on the 8th inst. Almost as soon as it was launched however, it capsized; but this was an emergency for which Mr Piffard and his assistants were well prepared, as they are all expert swimmers, and they soon had the machine ashore.’

Before Piff and his band of friends returned to carry on their hydroplane trials at Bungalow Town, on Shoreham beach, the nascent Shoreham Aerodrome had already become ever more popular with the British flying fraternity, with a number of aviators making it their base. 1911 was also turning out to be a ground breaking year for British aviation.

One of Harold Piffard’s hydroplane designs capsizes at Bungalow Town, Shoreham. August 1911

Earlier in 1911:-

Brooklands to Brighton Flight, Harry Preston get a Memento, 14th Feb

The Northern Daily Mail reported on Thursday 15th Feb, 1911, that Oscar Colin Morison flew his Blériot monoplane from Brooklands to Brighton, a distance of 40 miles, in 65 minutes the day previously. The flight would have been quicker had Morison not gone via Worthing, although he insisted, “there was not a hitch throughout the journey”. He had only intended to fly to Cobham, but as the weather was so fine, on arrival he phoned up Harry Preston, (owner of the Royal York, and Royal Albion, hotels), to let him know he would be landing in front of the Royal Albion that afternoon. Descending on to the beach between the Palace, and West Piers, he mistook the pebbles for sand, and his plane crumpled under him on landing, damaging the undercarriage and prop. No injury was incurred, but Harry ended up with the broken propeller hung up in his hotel smoking room as a memento of the landmark occasion. A reporter on the spot informed Morison that, “you are the first aviator to drop down on Brighton beach”, to which he replied, “So I am told. I have no particular impressions about the flight except that it has been a jolly fine trip” .

In Harry Preston’s book, ‘Leaves From My Unwritten Diary’ 1936, page 79, he recalls:-

“In my smoking room I have many air mementoes, among them a broken propeller. Oscar Morison gave it to me- he smashed it on Brighton beach, on an historic day in February, a quarter of a century ago, when he flew from Brooklands to Brighton”

He continues:-

“The intrepid aviator told me at luncheon at the Royal York that followed, that he would have made better time, only he had got off his line of flight. He was circling to land, when he noticed that there was only one pier, and he knew Brighton had two. “Wrong town,” said he, and flew along the shore line until he sighted a town with two piers. It was Worthing he had mistaken for Brighton. Air navigation was not quite what it is now’

This lunch at the Royal York had been quickly arranged by Harry as a member of the Sussex Motor Yacht Club, in Morison’s honour. Afterwards they presented the aviator with a silver cigarette case in memory of his historic flight.

Oscar Morison flies from Brooklands to Brighton to see Harry Preston. Feb 15th 1911

The Daily Graphic, Wednesday 1st March 1911, writes about Morison’s exploits, and his patronage of the new aerodrome at Shoreham:-

‘Brighton for the past week has been entertaining her first visitor to arrive by air, in the person of O.C. Morison, who safely landed  upon the beach at Kemptown after a surprise flight from Brooklands. The aviator is now stormbound, and his 50 h.p Gnome Bleriot is causing great interest among the visitors and residents who have inspected it in its temporary home in a local garage. When the present gale has blown itself out- and to judge by the “glass”, this will not be for some days- the Bleriot will be wheeled along the front to Hove lawns, and from this spot Mr Morison intends to fly to Brighton and Hove’s new aviation ground, where during the coming summer the town hopes to have the pleasure of receiving all the air’s conquerors.’

After repairs had been carried out, Morison took his Bleriot to Shoreham, on 7th March 1911 becoming the first aviator to fly in to the Aerodrome, from there, flying above Bungalow Town, and over to Lancing College at the invite of the Headmaster, Reverend Henry Thomas Bowlby. He put down on the College cricket field but the bowling green surface meant the plane hurried on a tad more than he expected, running the Bleriot in to a grass bank, breaking the elevator and thus rendering the machine temporarily inoperable. Morison put this opportunity to good use, showing the captive audience of schoolboys over the aeroplane, and the explaining the purpose of the controls. Given their former pupil, Piffard’s, exploits the year previous, a foundation of lasting aviation interest had surely now been cemented.

Bungalow Town resident, and regular columnist for ‘The Daily News’, John Frederick Macdonald, of number 2, Coronation bungalow, Beach Road, described the scene of Morison’s arrival at Shoreham, giving a wonderful first hand account of not just how he saw it, but also a reporters eye view of how some of the other residents reacted to this novel event, for ‘The Daily News’, Tuesday 14th March 1911:-

‘At eleven o’clock this morning I behold Shoreham-on-Sea, a simple and picturesque little town of three thousand inhabitants, in a state of excitement and delight. Out on their doorsteps come the trades people of the inevitable High Street, and, shading their eyes with their hands, they look eagerly upwards. More ardent interest in the skies on the part of the weatherbeaten old boatmen; still more rapturous gazing at the heavens from the maidens of Shoreham- and all kinds of incoherent exclamations from a group of small boys. “What,” I ask timidly one of the Shoreham maidens, “what is the matter?”, “we’re waiting for Mr. Morison”, excitedly replies the maiden- most radiant of blondes. “He’s left Brighton. He may arrive at any moment. He-“ , “Who is Mr. Morison”, I ask ignorantly. Then as the blonde regards me blankly- “I’m awfully sorry I don’t know Mr. Morison. In fact, it’s disgraceful of me. But I’m a stranger to these parts, and I’ve come here to lead the simple life, and-“

“That’s ‘im- no it’s not”, cries a boatman. “’Ere ‘e comes- no ‘e don’t”, shouts a small boy.

“You don’t know Mr. Morison?” exclaims the radiant blonde, with indignation. “Why we’ve been expecting him for five days. And I tell you he’s left Brighton at last. And I—“

“Here he is, here he is”, cries another maiden. “Coming along like mad”, declares a boatman. “Ooray”, yells a small boy. A whirring noise in the heavens. All eyes strained upwards. The whirring becoming stronger, almost thunderous. And over the narrow High Street of Shoreham, at a height of six or seven hundred feet, an aeroplane flies by. “That’s Mr. Morison”, gasps the blonde. And she and the other charming maidens, and a few of the tradepeople and a number of battered boatmen and, of course, all the small boys, run off down the High Street, and over the Norfolk Bridge, and along the high road that leads to the field in which Mr. Morison, the flying man and the idol of the South Coast, has descended.

“IT”

It was an admirable flight. I am informed that Mr. Morison (who has travelled successfully from Brooklands to Brighton in his Bleriot machine) came over to Shoreham from the”Queen of the Watering Places”, a distance of six miles, at a speed of a mile a minute. Admirable, too, are the flights he made twenty four hours later—over Lancing College and over Bungalow Town, that colony of villas, chalets, and other strange miniature habitations formed out of abandoned old railway carriages, which has sprung up, quaintly, amazingly, to the number of three hundred on Shoreham Beach. So is Mr. Morison, most justifiably, Shoreham’s hero. So does Shoreham flock to the field and surround the shed, in which the aeroplane is housed. So does Shoreham proudly  refer to the field as “OUR Aviation Ground”. So does Shoreham triumphantly allude to Mr. Morison as “OUR Flying Man”. And so—since Mr. Morison is stated to have declared himself satisfied with the field—so does Shoreham confidently announce that its fortune as a popular seaside resort is made.

“That’s what we wanted—a flying man, and I’m sure we’re most grateful to Mr. Morison for taking a fancy to our town”, a tradesman informs me. “With an aviation ground, and a flying man, there’s no reason Shoreham shouldn’t become a fashionable place. Flying, there’s nothing like it. Flying is what you London folk call the limit. Why, I can see Shoreham swelling and swelling in size, until Brighton and Worthing get green and yellow with envy and jealousy. To borrow another word from the Londoners, Shoreham is going to be  IT”

In “The Brass Bell”

I cannot exactly imagine the “face” of Worthing and Brighton discoloured with jealousy; but I do know that I myself am envious of Mr. Morison’s popularity. A week ago I made quite a little sensation by appearing in High-street. I was a newcomer—and the old boatmen saluted me, and the small boys stared and gaped at me, and the blondes and brunettes gazed–O exquisite moment—curiously at me as I passed by. Gone, those attentions. Now I am a nobody; only Mr. Morison counts—and so how I wish I were Mr. Morison the idol of Shoreham! The fact is, one ought nowadays to be a flying man. Once it was splendid to be a Caruso, or George Alexander, or Wilkie Bard, or Sandow, or Prime Minister, or King; but the hero-worship of the hour is reserved for the gentlemen who fly—a throne up in the air excites infinitely more respect and enthusiasm than a throne in a palace. Is not simple Shoreham, since Mr. Morison’s coming, a new town? The whirring of the Bleriot has shaken it out of its slumber, frantically modernised it—rendered it ambitious, feverish, hectic, delirious. The very children now babble of aeroplanes. Old Joe the grocer, aged seventy, mumbles about aeronautics, as he searches for tins of sardines and packets of tea behind the counter. At the bakers, the “Standard” bread gossip has given way to aviation gossip. And one talks and talks of nothing but flying at the chemists, at the tobacconist’s, at the bootmaker’s, at–.

“Two Bass—one dry ginger—yes, now that flying ‘as come to Shoreham it’s going to make a powerful bit of difference”, states the landlord of “The Brass Bell”. “There was at least forty motors come over from Brighton today”, says a customer. “As many more from Worthing”, states another. “People will be coming from everywhere—just get flying and you get the money”, declares a third. But the landlord of the “Brass Bell” goes even further. He vows that simple Shoreham must be advertised—“you know, great big posters in the railway stations, on the ‘oardings, in the papers; pictures of a bloke flying, with the sky painted all blue, and words written underneath it like this—‘Shoreham for Flying. Shoreham and Air. Shoreham the ‘ome of Aviation and the Centre of ‘appiness and ‘ealth. Shoreham for the English’ “.

“What a time it will be!” exclaims a customer. “We shall have to have a theatre and a music hall, two shows a night”, says another. “You’ll have to enlarge your hotel. You know, a winter garden, and a band, and a garage, and an American bar—cocktails; and coffee beans placed handy on the counter for nothing”, advises a third. “Trust me”, replies the landlord. “Now that flying ‘as come to Shoreham, well, old Shoreham’s going to sit up”.’

 

James Valentine sets up at Shoreham

With a new railway station having been built at Shoreham airport, called the ‘Bungalow Town Halt’, the previous October, Shoreham Aerodrome was now attracting aviators of distinction, among them, James Valentine, who, as the Daily Graphic, Weds 1st March, 1911, reports further on from the previous article:-

‘Mr Valentine, who flies a passenger carrying machine of his own design, has decided to make the new ground his headquarters, and during the summer will conduct a series of week-end trips between Brooklands and Brighton, a distance of 34 miles, via Leatherhead, Dorking, and Horsham. The railway line will make a splendid guide, and prevent any chance of the machine and its occupants arriving at some rival seaside resort by mistake. Mr Valentine’s spare time is to be given to perfecting a machine of English make which will land and rise from the sea, so that he could not have chosen a better ground for his work.’

 

The Brooklands to Brighton Race, 6th May

The Brighton beach landing had inspired Harry and his brother, Dick, (Hugh Richard Preston, who helped run the two hotels with Harry, the Royal York, and Royal Albion), to put up a prize for a race from Brooklands to Brighton via Shoreham as the turning point, on the 6th May 1911, a large balloon was attached to the Palace Pier acting as the finishing marker for the competing aviators. The proprietor of the Palace Pier, Mr Rosenthal, put up £80 for first prize, while Harry Preston put up £30 for second place. There was also a third prize of £20.

There were 8 entries for the race, but for various reasons only four aviators started, Graham Gilmour on a Bristol biplane with Gnome engine, Lieutenant Snowden-Smith on a Farman biplane with Gnome, Howard Pixton on an Avro D type biplane with a Green engine, and lastly, Gustav Hamel on a Bleriot monoplane with Gnome. It was a handicap race, with Gilmour starting first, followed by Snowden-Smith 4 minutes later, Pixton ought to have been next, but was at the time trying to win another prize, while Hamel took off 12 minutes after Gilmour, who was already out of sight, and Snowden-Smith was disappearing in to the haze ahead. Pixton got going 8 minutes later, having completed his flight with passenger, competing for the Manville Prize.

The four aviators missing from the starting line up were:-

J Ballantyne (Farman biplane)

Mr Gordon England (Bristol biplane)

Mr C.H.Cresswell (Bleriot monoplane) Got lost in fog flying from Hendon to Brooklands.

Mr Hubert (Farman biplane) Also lost in fog flying to Brooklands.

 

Interest in the race had drawn crowds along the route, The Globe, 6th May, 1911, reported:-

 

“All the competitors made two circuits of the course before heading for Brighton. There was great enthusiasm among the spectators, and there were high hopes that a fine race would ensue. – Along the route- Holmwood (three miles from Dorking)- Four aeroplanes passed here at 3.40. Large crowds had assembled in the town, and loudly cheered as the machines passed. Lancing.- Three aeroplanes have passed here heading for Shoreham. Shoreham.- Mr Hamel passed here at 3.50. Another machine, a biplane at 4.7.”

 

The ’machine’ at 4.7 would have been Lieut. Snowden-Smith.

Spectators at Shoreham Aerodrome for the Brooklands to Brighton race, 6th May 1911

The Lichfield Mercury, Friday 12th May 1911, reporting a week later of the finish line at Brighton, stated:-

“Quite early in the afternoon an immense crowd gathered at Brighton, filling the front from pier to pier and even beyond. Just after four o’clock the first aeroplane hove in sight in blaze of the sun. It was flying high and dipping a little in the wind, which was evidently stronger at that height than on the ground, where the flags scarcely fluttered. Slowly as it seemed, but surely, and heralded by a burst of cheers that rippled along the front, it gradually dropped and crossed the pier accurately in the middle. One saw the number clearly, though it was scarcely necessary for identification, because it was known Mr Hamel was flying the only monoplane in the race.”

It continues:-

“From the terrace of the Royal Albion Hotel, Mr Hamel’s father “snapped” his son with a hand camera as he came sailing triumphantly past, and turned to congratulate his wife on the success of the young aviator.  After circling twice round the pier head, Mr Hamel flew back to the Shoreham Aerodrome, and afterwards departed for Brooklands.”

The ‘Sussex Express, Surrey Standard and Kent Mail’, picks up the story:-

“The first sight of an aeroplane renders one speechless for a time, but as Mr Hamel on his Bleriot monoplane gets nearer to the great mass of people the volume of cheers gets louder and louder. He is scarcely out of sight when Lieut. Snowden Smith, on his Farman biplane, arrives, and Mr Gilmour, on a Bristol biplane, comes next. The ease and grace which characterised the flying won great admiration. The times taken by these three competitors were:- Mr Hamel, 57 mins, 10 secs.; Lieut. Snowden Smith, 1hr. 21 mins. 6secs.; Mr Gilmour, 1hr. 37mins. 0secs.”

Explaining Pixton’s absence, it reports:-

“Mr Pixton, who descended on his all British Roe biplane on Plumpton Racecourse, received a warm welcome there. The people decorated his machine with primroses, and hundreds of names were written on it. He made the journey to Brighton after tea.”

Lieut. Snowden-Smith, who had finished second, it was pointed out, had missed the Shoreham turn, the competitors were supposed to keep west of the Adur Railway bridge before turning for Brighton, the Lieutenant had gone inside, to the east, so was disqualified, leaving Gilmour, who had finished in 1 hour, 37 minutes, promoted to 2nd place. From Shoreham later, Hamel flew back to Brooklands in just 34 minutes, suggesting a strong headwind may have held them up during the race. Gilmour stayed the weekend at Shoreham, possibly taking advantage of the entertainments along at Bungalow Town, when he left, he flew to Portsmouth, according to a report in the Jarrow Express, Friday 12th May 1911:-

“The first aeroplane to pass over Portsmouth made its flight on Tuesday from Brighton (Shoreham aerodrome actually) to Gosport, as a sequel to last Saturday’s aerial race from Brooklands to Brighton. The aviator was Graham Gilmour, who paid a visit by air to his brother in-law, Fleet Surgeon Capps, one of the staff  of Haslar Naval Hospital. Without alighting at Portsmouth, the aviator flew across the harbour to the hospital, and landed safely in the grounds, where it was reported that he had “shelled” a fort blockhouse at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour with oranges”

Douglas Grahame Gilmour, Shoreham to Black Rock race. May 13th 1911

 

Stuck in a Tree at Haywards Heath

Oscar Morison decided to fly to Haywards Heath on Tuesday 9th May, taking Eric Cecil Gordon England with him as passenger. It was an incredibly costly business maintaining their machines, especially when they crashed, so occasionally, when they turned up at a town or village, where crowds would very soon gather, they could charge between a pound and a fiver a time for a quick flight, which was not unknown among the aviators of the time. Reported in the London Daily News, 10th May 1911, it states:-

‘Mr Morison, the well known aviator, had a narrow escape from a serious accident tonight. Mr Morison arrived here from Shoreham yesterday on his biplane, and arranged to return tonight. A start was made about half past seven, Mr Gordon travelling in the machine as passenger. The aeroplane had only just started its flight however, when the engine suddenly stopped, and the biplane came down rapidly at the edge of a wood near a railway line. The crowd who had watched the ascent ran to the spot expecting to find the aviators seriously injured. On their arrival however, they found that the aeroplane had not reached the ground, the wings having been caught in the branches of an oak. The aviators, who were uninjured, were rescued by means of ladders. The biplane was considerably damaged.’

 The Shoreham to Black Rock Race

On 13th May 1911 Morison was in a well-publicized air-race with Graham Gilmour from Shoreham Aerodrome to the eastern boundary of Brighton at Blackrock, Morison taking the straight course passed the winning post one minute before Gilmour. Reported in the Belfast News-Letter of May 15th 1911, it states:-

 

“The contestants used Bristol biplanes of equal power, but whereas Morison went straight for the winning post at a height of 800 feet, Gilmour flew farther out to sea and rose to 1100 feet. What might have been a neck and neck race consequently ended in Morison’s favour by about a hundred and fifty yards. The winner crossed the line just after five o’clock, having covered the course in a quarter of an hour. He, however, made a bad landing in the grounds of Roedean College, breaking his skids and damaging the elevator. Gilmour, who descended there, alighted perfectly, and afterwards flew back to Shoreham.”

Oscar Morison at Roedean school, east of Brighton, after the Shoreham to Black Rock race, 13th May 1911

Aviators, Gordon-England, O.C.Morison, and Graham-Gilmour at Roedean school, May 13th 1911. Also, Harry Preston’s brother, Dick.

Shoreham Aerodrome inauguration. 20th June 1911

Reported in the ‘Flight’ magazine of 1st July 1911, the Mayors of Brighton, Hove, and Worthing officially opened the ‘Brighton and Shoreham Aerodrome’. It writes:-

“The ceremony was preceded by a luncheon, at which the aims of the promoters were explained, and it was stated that the proposals included a clubhouse on the ground. The ground is about a quarter of a mile square, but surrounding it is a flat stretch of country about a thousand acres in extent, free from trees, and eminently suitable for flying purposes. Already a large number of hangars have been erected, and the arrival of the competitors in the European Circuit race on the grounds this week, from which point they “take off” for Hendon, should give the fine aerodrome a splendid send off. Brighton should be under a great obligation to the enterprising men who have thus given it, at this early stage, so important a chance in alluring aviators to the district”

The Mayors of Brighton, Hove, and Worthing, at the occasion of the inauguration of ‘Brighton and Shoreham Aerodrome’ 20th June 1911

In the next part, the ‘Four Kingdoms’ race around Europe comes to Shoreham.