Posts Tagged ‘shoreham airport’

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 One- Harold Hume Piffard

June 8, 2017

Harold Piffard’s Hummingbird biplane preparing for take off at Shoreham, 1910

08-06-2017

While trawling the car boot sales last year, I stumbled upon an old book, ‘The History of British Aviation 1908-1914’, by R. Dallas Brett, 1933. As with so many of my car boot, book acquisitions, it took a while before I picked it up and had a decent nose through. When I did though, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many times our local airport was mentioned, and this inspired me to delve deeper in to Shoreham’s aviation history, beginning with its very own pioneer, H.H. Piffard. I hope any local history, or aviation enthusiasts will enjoy reading the results of my research. Here is the first part:-

Aviation inventor and artist, Harold Hume Piffard was born at 33 Blandford Square, Marylebone, London, on 10th August 1867, to Charles Piffard, a barrister at law who became ‘Clerk of the Crown’ at the High Court of Calcutta, and Emily Hume. Harold’s two eldest brothers, Hamilton, (1862), and Reginald, (1863), had both been born in Calcutta, while he and his other brother, Lawrence, (1865) were both registered as having been born in Marylebone, London. Harold’s first introduction to the Adur Valley came when he followed his elder brother, Lawrence, and started at Lancing College School House in 1877. He was given the nickname, ‘Piff’, by his friends, and made a name for being a bit of a jester. According to Lancing College archivist, Janet Pennington:-

‘On Sunday afternoons, a train passed over the railway bridge near Beeding Cement Works, when Piffard apparently often took the opportunity to ‘execute a war dance – in puris naturalibus – in front of the engine, and then drop into the river through a hole in the track.’

 

 ‘Keen on dramatics, (obviously) at the age of 12 he absented himself from Lancing one winter Sunday afternoon and walked to London, arriving on the Tuesday. He tried all the theatres and music halls, unsuccessfully seeking employment. He slept on the Embankment for several nights before returning to face the wrath of the Head Master, the Revd. R. E. Sanderson.’ 

‘On leaving Lancing in 1883, Piffard returned to India and was employed on a Darjeeling tea plantation for a while.’

 

Harold Piffard was to become a successful artist, exhibiting 4 paintings at the Royal Academy from 1895 to 1899. At the 1895 exhibition, held between 6th May and 5th August, his first exhibit was number 881, ‘The Last of the Garrison’, in 1897, number 527, ‘The Last Review: Napoleon at St Helena in 1820, watching the children of General Bertrand playing at soldiers’. At the 1899 Royal Academy exhibition, Piffard had two entries, lot 64- Saragossa: 10 February 1809’, and lot 956- ‘The Execution of the Duc d’Enghien’. He is listed as having two addresses in the Royal Academy Exhibitors catalogue:- 29 Cambridge Avenue, Maida Vale, London, and 18 Addison road, Bedford Park, London.

‘The Execution of the Duc d’Enghien’ by Harold Piffard, 1899

His brother, Hamilton Piffard, was a successful actor touring Britain, receiving warm praise from the newspapers of the time, and also confusing this researcher for a while in to believing it was Harold, with yet another string to his already impressive bow. It took a while before an article eventually gave the full name rather than initialled ‘H.Piffard’, and the penny dropped.

Following the recognition of his obvious talent at the 1895 exhibition, Harold married Helena Katherina Docetti Walker on the 1st June 1895  at St John’s church, Dundee. Together they had four children, Harold (b 1896), Dorothy (b 1898), Ivan (b 1899), and Grahame (b 1900). It would seem the last child must have had complications at birth, as Helena died 27th November that same year, and Grahame died 12th Feb 1901, aged just 3 months.

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Harold had also become a renowned illustrator of adventure books for boys, among which were:-

 

‘The City of Gold’ by E Markwick 1895

‘Sybil Falcon’ by E. Jepson 1895

‘Zoraida. A Tale of Arab Romance’, by William Le Queux 1895

‘Yerut the Dwarf’ by Max Pemberton 1897

‘Living London’, March 1903

‘The Boys Book of Battles’, Dec 1902

‘Victory Adventure Book’, compilation edited by Herbert Hayens. 1916

 

Was it coincidence perhaps, that in the Victory Adventure Book, the previous story to ‘A Terrible Night’, which Piff illustrated, was ‘How an Aeroplane Flies’, written by Claude Grahame-White, another pilot strongly associated with Shoreham Airport, from around the same time as Piff would be trying out his hydroplane at Bungalow Town in the summer of 1911.

 

On the 8th January 1902, Harold married Eleanor Margaret Hoile (b 1871) at the Chapel Royal of Scotland, Edinburgh, and on the 28th July 1905, they had a son, Hume Piffard, at 178 High street, Aberdeen, Harold’s occupation:- ‘Artist (portraiture)’

 

Sometime during the first decade of the 1900’s, he became interested in designing and constructing model aeroplanes at his studio in Ealing, with a friend, Barbara O’Manning, one of his students, (possibly the Barbara Blank mentioned in later photographs of Piffard’s experimental aircraft designs at Shoreham).

Piff in his studio

Harold Hume Piffard at his art studio in Ealing, North London, circa 1900

In April of 1907, models of aeroplanes and flying machines caught the imagination of visitors to Cordingley’s Motor Show and Aero Club Display at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, London. Of all the competitors only two attained anything close to success, A.V. Roe and F.W.Howard, who were streets ahead of their rivals. Mr Howard’s glider, the screw driven by a coiled spring, went over 70 ft, while A.V. Roe’s Aeroplane flew the distance into the safety net ninety feet away. Harold Piffard’s model was recorded as having bent its propeller on the first attempt.

 

The Wright brothers exploits were the talk of the town following the announcement of their first controlled, sustained flight on the 17th December 1903, near Kitty hawk, North Carolina. It’s not unreasonable to believe this may have helped to inspire Piffard’s aerial hobby, winning a bronze medal for one of his glider models in March 1909. Having decided to build and learn to fly a full-size aeroplane, he built it at his studio and transported it in sections to Hanger Hill, North Ealing. Unfortunately, after flying just a short distance, it was destroyed on the ground during an overnight storm. Not to be put off by this misfortune, Harold determined to construct another aeroplane, with a small band of fellow amateurs to assist, learning on the hoof, as all the early aviators had to do. Remembering from his time at Lancing College in the Adur valley, the expanse of flat land to the south of the college, north of the London Brighton & South Coast railway line, and to the west of the River Adur, Piffard realised that this would be the perfect place to continue his aerial experiments.

It was reported in the Bexhill-On-Sea Observer, Saturday 16th Oct 1909, that:-

‘A proposal is in the air for the establishing of an International  ground for Aviation purposes at Shoreham’

 This was the first mention I had found of a potential aerodrome, (or proposal for one at least), at Shoreham.

An early ‘star’ of aviation, was Monsieur Louis Paulhan, one of a number of world leading French flyers, and he was to be recognised, along with some noted British aeronauts of the time, by a dinner in their honour, among them, a certain H.Piffard. The Morning Post, Thursday 4th November 1909 reports:-

‘M. Louis Paulhan, who made such excellent flights on his Farman biplane “Le Gypaete” at Brooklands last week, has been engaged to fly at Sandown racecourse on Friday and Saturday next, when he will make attempts on the records for duration and height. M. Paulhan has inspected the racecourse, and expressed the opinion that it is suitable in every way as a flying ground. His aeroplane left Brooklands for Esher yesterday. The following distinguished aviators will be the guests of the New Vagabond Club at the opening dinner on the 15th inst. Mr G.T.C. Moore-Brabazon, Mr. Harold Piffard, the Hon. C. Rolls, M. Latham, M. Paulhan, and M. Delagrange.’

Louis Paulhan on Le Gypaete 1909

Louis Paulhan on his Farman biplane, “Le Gypaete” at Blackpool 1909

In Flight magazine of 28th May 1910, a picture of his latest aerial invention is shown:-

Piffard in Flight magazine May 28 1910

 

The Lancing College Magazine of May 1910 reported that Piffard was:-

‘…the first aviator to have made use of the Shoreham Aerodrome and we have been much interested in watching his ‘wheeling’ flights round the field. He lunched in Hall on May 8th …Rumour suggests that he will alight on Upper Quad and demand a ‘half’ ere long.’ (The latter was no doubt a hoped-for half day holiday rather than a half pint of beer). LCM June 1910 notes that, ‘Piffard…came sadly to grief towards the end of May…none of the aviator’s bones were broken and we understand that his courage is still unshaken.’

Piffard had apparently joined solicitor George Wingfield and established The Aviators’ Finance Co. Ltd., leasing the land next to New Salts Farm, Shoreham, with a view to creating a permanent flying ground. They built a hangar, (or shed as they called it then) for his aircraft that Piff had named Hummingbird, and achieved a few short hops, which were enough to capture the attention of a pub landlord, whose hostelry was off the road north of the airfield. One of Piff’s helpers, E.M.Sutton, recalls in a 1968 issue of Sussex Life Magazine:-

‘It is difficult to realise nowadays, the incredibility which the majority of people held in regard to mechanical flight. For instance, there was the landlord of an inn (Alfred Evans of the Sussex Pad Inn) situated at the farther end of the field where the aeroplane was housed in its shed. He was one of those who thought that, to try to fly like a bird was “against Nature”. After inspecting the machine in its shed he turned to ‘Piff’ and said, “If you ever fly the length of this field, walk in to my pub and I’ll give you a crate of champagne”

The weather not being favourable until a week later, when the time came, Piff was eager to win some champagne, as Mr Sutton writes:-

‘Piffard seated himself precariously on the leading edge of the lower wing with his legs stretched out in space to reach the rudder bar. He gripped the control column and signalled that he was ready. After several attempts at starting the engine by swinging the propeller by hand, a welcome noise announced the power of 40 horses had been released. “Piff”, with a determined grin on his face which plainly said, “I’ll show him”, pointed the aeroplane at the hotel at the farther end of the field. He opened the throttle and the machine moved forward. In a run of two or three hundred yards it was airborne. The first flight over Sussex had been achieved. As the hotel loomed nearer, “Piff” throttled back and allowed the machine to touch the ground. This of course was a manoeuvre which had not been rehearsed, and it was only at this juncture it was discovered that the landing gear would not bear the force of impact. It folded up fairly gradually, so not too much stress was put on the rest of the machine. “Piff” was pitched forward on to the grass with nothing worse than a few bruises. However, that expensive piece of wood carving, the propeller, was badly damaged. “Piff” surveyed the wreck, “The engine’s all right”, he announced, “this machine only needs a new undercarriage and a new propeller. Come on lads, let’s get her back to the shed”. That was hours of hard work, not made easier by the weight of the crate of champagne.’

Piff postcard

A postcard showing Piffard’s ‘Hummingbird’ flying machine in various poses at Shoreham aerodrome, 1910

This exciting activity could hardly have failed to capture the attention of pupils and masters alike at Lancing College, resulting in the Head Master, the Revd. Henry Thomas Bowlby, inviting their former pupil, now aged 43, for a special dinner at the College in honour of his achievement. This would have had an inspiring effect no doubt on any aspiring aviators at the college.

After this initial success came many more flights, and no shortage of accidents to go with them, Piff sustaining various injuries which included being knocked unconscious, having stitches to a gashed leg, and doubtless, numerous bruises. In the September 10th 1910 issue of Flight magazine, it reports:-

Mr H. Piffard at Shoreham.

As a result of solid perseverance and experiments, Mr Piffard is now starting practical work in earnest, and last week was making some satisfactory essays over a half-mile stretch with his bi-plane.’

Piff early flight at Shoreham 1910

Piffard achieves flight at Shoreham aerodrome, 1910. The ‘shed’ they built is in the background, with the railway track behind that.

With the summer of 1910 over, sadly, in October 1910, Piffard crashed again, which resulted in his flying machine being broken beyond repair. Leaving the Hummingbird stored in its shed, he returned to his studio in London, and set about designing an aeroplane which could take off from water.

References:-

Article written by Janet Pennington, the Lancing College Archivist, and published in the Lancing College Magazine, vol 80, no 603 (Summer-Advent 1999)

Flight Magazine archives:- https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22Flight+International+Magazine%22

British Newspaper Archives Online:- http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/

Shoreham Airport. The Story of Britain’s Oldest Licensed Airport.  By T.M.Webb and Dennis L Bird. 1996

The First Man to Fly Over Sussex. By E.M. Sutton. Sussex Life Magazine May 1968

Shoreham Airport, an Illustrated History. By Peter C. Brown. 1988

The History of British Aviation 1908-1914. By R. Dallas Brett. 1933

Ancestry.co.uk

Plane Sailing

March 31, 2017

31-03-2017

 

On Wednesday night I was wondering how to organise the following day, with Ma’s hospital appointment at ENT, 10.20, Squire’s dentist check up at 09.45, could we still fit in a swim, and the Devil going back in the water around 14.00. When I woke up Thursday morning the answer was simple, cancel the appointments. Ma’s was a year later follow up for her balance issues, so they gave us a new date in May, Squire’s dental check up, they said we can reschedule when we like, all good, and now we could fit the swim in too.

For a while now, Squire’s balance has been more of an issue than Ma’s, and before, during, and after the swim he was all of a wobble, but no actual tumbles thankfully, so we make light of it, me informing him that if he’s going, it’ll be me pushing him, to which he replies, “I do like a bit of ambition in my boys”. On return from the swim, David’s car was in the drive with a flat tyre, apparently he’d had to take evasive action to allow an ambulance past, kerbed the car and punctured one of his boy racer low profiles. Then, in his inimitable style, broke a few tools with his Popeye arms while trying to remove the particularly stubborn wheel nuts. After a good search I found a decent enough socket and handle for the job, then we discovered we had no means of inflating the damn thing. After trying out the neighbours, David ended up walking back to his place to grab a handraulic stirrup pump for the job, and eventually got away to prep the Devil for the drop back in the river. No dramas really, just a typical Ramus affair of finding obstacles throwing themselves in the path of what ought otherwise be a smooth transition of events.

Ben at the controls

The boat movement went far more smoothly, with club Bosun, Ben, showing some nifty control with the boat hoist, pulling off a 38 point turn in the yacht club car park before dropping the Devil down the slipway in to the Adur, and we could then mosey off up the river to Aldrington basin, back to the mooring. We were luckier than a later boat owner, who had his scheduled movement ambushed by an incident at sea. Ben also happens to be a member of Shoreham RNLI, and the ‘Shout’ had gone out, so he had to answer the call.

The Devil in the boat hoist

Later that afternoon, having walked Fred, I popped out to buy some milk, and while there, discovered I had enough money to buy a Magnum ice cream too. Having treated myself, I thought I’d nip up to Widewater Lagoon to eat it there and watch the wildlife, discovering to my surprise, the reason for the lifeboat call out. Widewater was swarming with police, coastguards, firemen, and paramedics, with their vehicles blocking up the road in , and a good deal of the car park. Asking a fellow dog walker I recognised, he told me a plane had ditched in the sea, with no casualties luckily. It was high tide, and his engine having died shortly after take off from Shoreham Airport, he glided the stricken plane to a safe landing on the water, then calmly the two occupants stepped out on to the wings, and swam ashore to the amazement of onlookers.

As well as the lifeboat, a helicopter was called out too, in case of casualties needing an airlift to hospital. Once they knew the pilot and passenger were ok, the lifeboat and helicopter left the scene, but the lifeboat were again scrambled later when they realised the plane was floating out to sea on the tide, so Ben had another ‘Shout’, and they towed the flying machine back to shore, where the various members of the services set about dragging it up to the top of the beach. Later that evening, the story was local headline news on TV, and a new tourist attraction had presented itself to enquiring eyes.

Light aircraft on the beach at Widewater

This morning I went along to check it out, it’s behind the beach huts, had tape around the area, and security guards watching over it. Apparently they will try to remove it today, although quite how was not yet known. Our neighbour, Sarah Parker, is a flying instructor, and her husband, Brent, told us she’d seen the flight consul, and estimated the plane had made it to about 300 feet before the engine cut out, and the pilot would have had little time to play with. From all I’ve heard since, he did a bang up job of gliding the old bird safely in to the briny without any serious repercussions. The plane itself looks in pretty good nick considering what it’s been through. Film crews are hanging around to document the removal of the aircraft from the beach, so I guess Shoreham/Lancing will be getting another mention tonight.

Close up of the damage

We’ve had more than our fair share of nasty plane incidents here in the last few years, so it’s a very pleasant change to have one with a happy ending.

 

Good Times, Sad Times, Wild Times

February 15, 2015
14-02-2015
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For some years now I’ve been researching the family tree, along the way unearthing a remarkable story, with a previously unknown Jewish heritage, or more precisely, a Spanish Portuguese Jewish heritage, otherwise known as, ‘Sephardim Jews’. The overall story of my research (written up so far that is), can be found at wolf-e-boy.com, at the page- ‘My Ramus Family Tree’. On the off chance recently, I googled ‘Hampstead Sephardim cemeteries’, and sure enough a few came up, so after checking which would have been closest to my Great Grandfather’s home in 1911, the Hoop Lane cemetery in Golders Green, London, I found their e mail address and rattled off a message to them, asking if they might have a record for Henry Ramus, died 20-11-1911. Imagine my good fortune to get a swift response letting me know they did indeed, and he was, they assured me, the only Ramus they had at that or their other Jewish cemetery at Edgware road, they also sent me the plot number, row, and section, where I could find him.
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I set off yesterday to catch a train up and find his grave, also hoping to find the grave of his business partner and friend, William Walker Sampson, who I have found is buried at Hanwell cemetery in West Ealing, for the fascinating story of these two, (mainly Sampson, owing to the early death of Henry), check out the page at wolf-e-boy.com under ‘The Ring Master and John William Godward’, an insight into the art dealing world of Christie’s in the early 1900’s.  I never tire of the trip to London, especially crossing the Thames as you approach Victoria Station, and the underground now appears to have a new celebrity, in the voice of the Victoria Underground tannoy, a lovely West Indian lilt, hammed up to the eyeballs, telling us how, “evry ting be cool runnings”, among many other highly amusing pieces of useful information. All around were smiling faces at the sound of this humour filled accent, and it occurred what a great idea to amuse and raise the spirits of the passengers.
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After a few changes I arrived at Golders Green underground station, and once outside, consulted my pocket A to Z, turn right into Finchley road. A news seller confirmed I was on the right path, ten minutes later I turned into Hoop Lane, a nice sounding, but unremarkable road. It wasn’t long before I spotted the graveyard, and a few hundred yards later, the entrance. I had been feeling a tightness in my chest, probably wind, but it added to the experience I thought, there was a gatekeepers office, and a helpful attendant soon pointed me in the direction I needed to be heading, section A, row 10, plot 30. I felt sure I would be going back to that attendant pleading stupidity when I couldn’t locate the grave, but no, it was all quite straightforward. And then there it was, a fine looking, long domed marble cask, laid out horizontally in the Sephardim tradition, in immacualte condition for 104 years old. Inscribed were the words, ‘Sacred to the memory -of- Henry Ramus, who departed this life July 20th 1911 Tamuz 24th 5671 In his 39th year To the everlasting sorrow of his widow, sons, relatives, and very dear friends’. As I read the inscription, I could imagine his wife, May, aged just 29, their sons, Reginald and Neville, aged 10 and 6, William Walker Sampson, and doubtless many other family and friends, stood around this plot. The next thing that struck me was that it appeared to be a double plot, with what should have been May’s plot laying empty, unfortunately she died in 1956 at Brighton, and had dementia towards the end, so I guess her space next to Henry had been forgotten by then, which was a bit sad to think of. The whole experience definitely stirred something inside me, maybe more wind, but I prefer to think not.
Henry Ramus headstone at Hoop Lane cemetery, Golders Green, London

Henry Ramus headstone at Hoop Lane cemetery, Golders Green, London

This is the top of Henry's gravestone, with the inscription

This is the top of Henry’s gravestone, with the inscription.

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Sad Times
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It was with great regret that I heard our Uncle Don had passed away last week, with the funeral at Chichester last Thursday. I couldn’t go as I was going with the old man for his lung specialist check up at Worthing hospital, and Ma couldn’t go as she is still recovering from deep vein thrombosis. It’s been a blur of hospitals and doctors at home for some while now, I have a far better knowledge of the geography of Worthing hospital than I ever wanted, and know virtually all the doctors names at our local medical centre now too. Dear old Don was our Auntie Sheila’s second husband, an ex copper, and salt of the earth, an absolutely lovely bloke, full of good humour, but had come to the point where he was happy to be going. Cousin Matt told me Don had instructed him to make sure no one tried to bring him back if he were in hospital and things went wrong. I’ve seen this, and heard it, a few times before. Ill health and old age are difficult enough, but many times worse when they have lost the person they truly loved, and it becomes a struggle to actually want to go on, despite all the best wishes of loved ones around them. Don will live on in our memories, but right now, Sheila’s children and Grand children, who adopted this lovely man as their own, will be hurting the most, so I hope their memories help them through this horrible time.
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Wild Life 2015
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I have to say I thought our local council showed themselves up for the waste of space most of us consider politicians to be, letting us know that the company behind this concert at Shoreham Airport had sneakily gone behind their backs and set the wheels in motion before our inept halfwits in local government could act. I couldn’t really care less about the concert, despite the fact that pretty much the entire town will be hearing it whether they want to or not, but what got to me was that the idea had been mooted, and from that point our trusted representatives had put their collective blinkers on while the industrial strength machine that is SJM Concerts, got on with its business. I have to say, my age reveals itself when I admit to not having heard of 95% of the line up. I had already been told by a friend in the music industry, Dave Lamb, that if this mob were behind it, it’s going to happen, but you would like to think that elected politicians, voted in to represent their constituents, would at least make sure they were in a position to say yes or no to this concert going ahead. What we got instead was, ‘oh deary me, erm, it looks like these big boys have hoodwinked us by doing their job properly, if only we had been capable of doing ours’. I know the concert will obviously be popular with a great many, especially the younger fraternity, and I sincerely hope they’re not disappointed, but I wonder how many of our inept councillors will be there, and in what capacity. I suspect, in a quite comfortable position, as revered guests, a reward for being crap at their jobs, or for turning a blind eye?
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Shoreham Fort, Volunteers, Professionals, Babies
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Researching the Fort history has been an ongoing pastime for some while, but recently I have unearthed a few gems which help explain the position regarding the status of the Fort soldiers. From the beginning I had believed the fort to be garrisonned by professionals, and indeed it was built to accommodate as such, but their is also a wealth of evidence suggesting the heavy involvement of volunteers, or militia. I have so far traced 12 children born to soldiers stationed at the ‘Shoreham Redoubt, Lancing’, as it was known back then, the earliest birth, that of Frederick William de Velling, born 17th Jan 1860, son of John de velling, Gunner, Royal Artillery, and Sarah de Velling, nee Langham. The latest birth I found was for John William Burrows, 10th November 1891, son of Joseph Burrows, Sergeant, Royal Artillery, and Bridget Burrows. So we know for sure there were professional soldiers stationed at the fort, it would seem, for the entire time it was manned, but it took a couple of old newspaper stories to shed new light upon this mystery.
These are some of the birth certificates of babies born at Shoreham Fort, and the death of a Gunner

These are some of the birth certificates of babies born at Shoreham Fort, and the death of a Gunner.

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The first story I came across, in the Brighton Gazette, dated 27 Oct 1864, told of a cracked gun at the fort needing to be changed, explaining how the guns had previously been fired, ‘partly by the Coast Brigade, and partly by the late 4th Sussex Shoreham and 1st Sussex (Brighton) Volunteer Artillery.’ . It states further on how, ‘the gallant Major of the 1st Sussex Volunteer Artillery is always anxious for the corps to learn something about gun mounting, and to the small number of the Coast Brigade stationed at Shoreham being insufficient to perform the task, he offered to dismount the old gun, and remount the new one’. So there you have it, proof evident of professional and volunteer working side by side. I expect that day must have been one of excitement for the people of Shoreham, seeing a large detachment of soldiers alighting at Shoreham station, with a 12 foot barrelled gun to replace the condemned fort gun. With no footbridge to cross, I don’t imagine they would have floated a heavy gun like that over the river, but who can say. I rather imagine they would have marched through town, across the old Norfolk Suspension Bridge, and around close to where the river footpath meets the Brighton road. Where were the photographers then??
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It was an article I found in the Newcastle Journal, dated 12th Nov 1859, which finally nailed the situation, and gave a surprising addition to the story. The headline was ‘The Coast Brigade of Artillery’, and the column begins, “Horse Guards, S.W., Nov.1. Her Majesty having been pleased to approve of an augmentation to the Royal Artillery of one major, seven captains, eight lieutenants, one sergeant-major, one quartermaster sergeant, five staff-sergeants, 24 sergeants, six corporals and bombardiers for the purpose of forming a new brigade, to be called the ‘Coast Brigade of Artlillery’, the present invalid artillery being amalgamated therewith’. Further on it says, ‘As its name implies, the Coast Brigade will be distributed among the forts, batteries, and towers of the United Kingdom’. Towards the end the article explains, ‘The instruction of the Volunteer Artillery companies will be one of the principal duties of the brigade, and too much attention cannot be paid to uniformity in the manner of imparting instruction’
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This letter was signed off, ‘By command of his Royal Highness, “The General Commanding-in-Chief. “G.A.WETHERALL, Adjutant General”
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So there you have it, the Coast Brigade appears to have been an early version of Dads Army, if we can’t get a TV show out of this then there’s something wrong! After all, Nicholas Lyndhurst’s Grandfather, Francis L Lyndhurst, was making films at the fort just a few years after the last soldiers left, and with Nicholas having played the time traveller in Goodnight Sweetheart, surely a script almost writes itself.

Trouble Overhead

July 12, 2011

11-07-2011

This will be a familiar line to those of you that keep up with my scribes, but there went another rather liquid weekend! Not planned around events so much as a compilation of random sessions, which actually nearly had me missing a 25th wedding anniversary over at Shoreham Airport, that I’d long since been invited to, I really should know better than to think I could just have a couple at lunch and be sensible. I made the fatal error of meeting up with Sweet VV, and Tree Dog, in town on the Saturday, which in itself would have been fine, and indeed was. But when I later got the call from Stig to say, “where the hell are you?”, it was gone 10, then he tells me, “they’re about to open the bottle you gave them at their wedding 25 years ago”, “shit!, I’ll be right over”.

 

I’d gone home to kip for the afternoon before the evening do, trouble is, I can sleep for England after a couple of beers, and did. I made it in time for the opening of the Moet & Chandon, 25 years later, Alan and Sue giving me a most undeserved part in the proceedings after my despicable lateness. Alan twisted the cork screw in, and the cork broke in half, but he persevered, and soon we were pouring the old sparkling stuff into glasses, and here the fairy tale ended. I wasn’t too sure about its ‘bouquet’, but one taste sealed its fate, fortunately they’ve got a good sense of humour, it tasted like vinegar. I did take the glass around the place and insist everyone had to suffer a go of it, however reluctantly.

 

Being Monday, I’m all prepped for the Monday night at the Trough, meat seasoned, wrapped, and ready, veg washed, peeled, and chopped, all good to go for later. Last week however, things were a little different. 4th July 2011 is a day that many of us on Shoreham Beach will not forget in a long time, and unfortunately, not for a good reason, despite the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day with clear blue skies. The day had started as per usual, Trough duties, but after that I had a meet up with Fred on his houseboat, the Fische, regarding some work I was going to do in return for him sorting my old banger of a van out, this has been much talked about for some time, so I was becoming impatient to just get on with it, and get my van road worthy too. Well we got timber ordered, and agreed I’d start the next day after it’s delivered, so feeling happier about being a little closer to having my wheels sorted, I went home and cracked on with the Trough detail.

 

Now, living near to an airport, we get a lot of small aircraft traffic overhead all year round, but on Monday afternoon, I became aware that we seemed to be getting buzzed directly above us by a helicopter, the old man was already out on the driveway looking up to see what the fuss was about. We could see the ‘Search and Rescue’ chopper hovering over the beach, so after a quick check on the food, I grabbed a camera and shot off up to the beach to see what was going on. The tide was about halfway down, the Shoreham Lifeboat was trawling up and down parallel with the coast, and the old bill were crawling all over the place. First person to put me in the picture was Emma, up on the beach with Duchess, (the American Boxer I’d dog sat for the other week), apparently there’d been a plane crash and she had seen the explosion coming from over the Adur recreation ground. Much like many people I’d talk to later, she’d been upset to see the whole thing.

 

Next up came Brian and Jo, a friend of theirs, Coco, told them a bit of one of the planes had landed in her garden, by now the beach was filling with curious spectators, eager to know what all the fuss was about, and an ever increasing contingent of police officers moving up and down, asking questions of any one that may have witnessed the incident. As I was looking on, a young couple approached a police officer, they had come from the east, and were pointing back to where they’d come from, then using their hands to gesture the size of something, quickly followed by the copper speaking into his radio and all the boys in blue, (black actually these days), heading off over to check this latest report out. It turned out that two planes had collided, and one had lost its propeller, the prop falling to the beach, mercifully without hitting any sunbathers. One of the planes went on to make it back to the airport, but the other was not so fortunate, and ditched into the Adur Rec, consumed by a fireball which was witnessed from half of Shoreham.

 

As it was such a gorgeous day, there were no shortage of witnesses, and from all over Shoreham. We’re used to aircraft buzzing about all the time here, and as a result, locals recognise the sound of the planes engines, one common report of the crash being the cutting out of the engine, quickly tuning in to a different sound to the usual, or lack thereof. Witnesses from all over town saw or heard something, and the internet was alive with people either trying to find out what had happened, or give their own accounts of it, at one point it was pointed out that Shoreham was ‘trending’on Twitter, I believe this means a lot of cyber traffic using the word ‘Shoreham’ at the time, but I’m by no means certain of that.

 

The information that I’ve gleaned so far, is that the poor guy that died, was an ex British Airways pilot, while the two in the other plane, were part of an air training school at Shoreham Airport. Somehow they managed to connect with each other over Shoreham Beach, above the east end of the beach huts opposite Beach Green playing field. Of all the reports I’ve heard, the one with the best view, appears to have been Fred, on his houseboat, the Fische, he said he saw them collide, then the plane that lost his prop carried round in a full arc, heading back towards the airport, but sadly, without a prop, had little chance. So Fred, like many others, looked on, powerless, to see the explosion. The pilot had by all accounts, done everything in his last moments to avoid a further tragedy, he’d already taken his plane over houses, and at the last minute had to keep control to be sure he missed the parents and children on the recreation ground that he crashed in to at the end.

 

For most of us, the big question is, how on earth do two planes collide on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I could speculate that as one pilot had been a vastly experienced airline pilot, while the others were part of a training school, that the smart money might be on the trainees being at fault, but that’s pure speculation until all the evidence is in. But as we live underneath the flight line of these aerial scooters, it would be nice to know how this happened, and be assured that it really was some freak accident that will rarely, if ever, happen again.

 

Me and Fred did get around to starting the work on their house boat, a job I’ve been looking forward to getting going on for a while. The Fische is an old German naval vessel, and comfortably the biggest houseboat along the riverbank. At the midships, there is a raised section of the deck, which used to be the engine room hatches, the idea is that we bring the level down to the same as the rest of the boats deck, allowing for a sheltered area which they can use for barbecues, or just lounging in the sun on late summer evenings. We’ve got all the joisting done, next up it’s two layers of 12mm WBP ply, and weather it with torch on felt, possibly tomorrow, depending on the meteorlogical situation!!

 

Next up I have Donny, my Irish mate that I met travelling, coming over to visit with his family on Friday, so I’ll be giving then the dime tour of Shoreham and surrounding areas of interest, followed by an evening session around my home town with the big fella. Better have my drinking boots on for that one!

 

Update on the plane crash
Apparently it was the prop and gear box from the plane that landed, that fell on Shoreham Beach, the pilot brought it in with no prop or gearbox and the leading edge on the port wing was shredded to pieces. It was the first flight in the RV7 after the owner had built it, the test pilot was flying it to get its certificate of air worthiness.
The Diamond Star trainer had just taken off and was on a banking turn towards brighton, the test pilot in the RV7 had been doing some aeros, (tricks), over the airfield and joined back into the circuit without permission and flew straight up into the Diamond Star.
Apparently this is what they think down at Shoreham Airport, but obviously we will have to wait until an official report.
When anyone builds their own plane, it normally has to go through 5 hours of flying from a certified test pilot, ex or current airline pilots are common as its their way of toying about. They don’t think the actual pilot that died would have had much in the way of control when he went down, and it may have been more luck than judgement that he landed in adur rec. According to my information recieved, Air Traffic Control were released from fault just three hours after it had happened.

Devil of a time

June 23, 2011

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Well there went twelve days in a heartbeat, or so it seems now I’m out of the other side! On the last blog I was bigging up the world of Dreamers, and in a quite content state, whereas since then work had reared its ugly head and taken things over somewhat, but once again I am returned to the blissful world of relax and chill for a bit, so I can sit and write, which I like!.

Carrying on from the last blog date, we had one of our Australian cousins, Liz, over to stay for a few days, she’d been bouncing around the rellies during her three and a half week trip up over, and had determined that she’d be at our place for the infamous ‘Monday Trough’ night. It was only the week before that Hannah had introduced her fella, Nick, to his baptism of fire at our ‘Waltons with swearing’ roast dinner Monday. Nick had collared me at Beach Dreams that weekend, and mentioned the fact he’d never had an invite to the Trough, “well consider yourself officially invited then”, I informed him, and credit to the boy, he turned up. He slotted in just fine, at one point, as me and Stig were arguing with each other, not sure about what really, probably something along the lines of black being white, or not, depending on who was saying what, but the generaly idea being that whatever it was, we had to be in disagreement with each other, right or wrong having nothing to do with anything. This is a situation that will ring loud bells with anyone that knows us well, especially at the Waterside. Anyroadup, as me and my dear brother were going at each other, doubtless raising the ceiling at the same time, I just glanced across to Nick and said, “welcome to the Trough”, which I think brought a smile to his face. David brought his better half, Mandy, along too, and the look on her face told me that she’d found the experience most amusing, nine at the table that time.

The baptism of fire obviously didn’t deter young Nick, and the following week there he was again with Hannah, Davids little Princess, as well as cousin Liz, and also little sis, Lizbet with young Reggie. It was just as well I’d cooked a tad extra for the occasion, with eleven at the Trough it was cosy to say the least, but a great show for cousin Liz to meet almost our entire brood, with just the one exception, Jack, away working in Greece. It was a bit of a shame that Liz didn’t get to witness any of our not entirely infrequent fireworks, as the dinner passed off very smoothly, although she did get a minor slap from the BF cloth as I fired it across from the sink. This is a fairly common occurrence, Hannah’s been slapped in her face by it on more than one occasion as she sits right in the firing line between the table mat clearing area and the sink. For those of you wondering, BF stands for Bacteria Farm, origins uncertain, but from either Stig or Simon, or both, they have a kind of double act that stems back to the days when they worked up front at Opas when it was still in Shoreham, and they were collectively known as the ‘Rottweilers’, keeping unwanted time wasters away from the front desk, as well as reciting old Mark and Lard classics from Radio one of years back, but that’s another story.

Liz stayed with us on Tuesday too, allowing her to take in Ma’s weekly ‘Sewing Sisters’ event, which was an away fixture that week, a group of them get together every Tuesday and ‘Stitch n Bitch’ as they say, taking it in turns to host the occasion. On return Liz got to sample part two of the Roast/Trough experience, which is the ‘Roast dinner curry’. I always make more than enough for Trough night, so that there will be something left to chuck in the slow cooker, along with curry sauces, and gravy from the roast, combining to make a very palatable Ruby, and all washed down with a box of vino collapso. I even had the curious honour of explaining to Liz, an Aussie, what an ‘Abbo’s pillow’ was, which is the empty foil bag from the wine carton, blown up, and oft used by Aboriginals as, you guessed it, a pillow. Although it’s entirely possible that she may have been pulling my leg, and knew perfectly well all along.

I had the attic of doom to return to next day, and Liz was going to be whisked away to meet up with yet more rellies and do stuff, but for the Thursday, I’d delegated Neil for the lovely job of insulating, giving me the day off. Cousin Nicola dropped Liz back to us that morning, and they were in a boystrous, mischievous mood, laughing heartily about all sorts of things, my favourite being Nicola’s story of her 94 year old spinster neighbour, who they have determined should have written on her headstone, ‘Returned unopened’, which made me chuckle. After Nicola bade farewell, and considering this would be Liz’s last day before heading home on the Friday, I suggested a whistle stop tour of  our locale, to which she jumped at the chance. I won’t go too in depth as I’ve blogged this tour before, but we showed Liz Shoreham harbour, the Old Fort next to it, then the Widewater Lagoon at the other end of the beach, took a spin up to Shoreham Airport and had a coffee and cake in the cafe there, as well as showing her around the Art Deco main terminal building, followed by a walk over the old wooden Tollbridge, Shorehams oldest existing bridge, onwards up to the magnificent Lancing College buildings, which blew me away. I could hardly believe how breath taking their cathedral like chapel is, like something out of Harry Potter, but on a more epic scale than even that, not to mention the surrounding buildings and quad area with its cloisters, if you live round here and you haven’t paid it a visit, then go, you have to see it. After being mesmerised by the College, I took us along to Coombe farm, and its little church there, which dates back many hundreds of years, set snugly in the Sussex Downs, with gravestones dating back to the 1600’s, and a history going back to William the Conqueror and the Domesday Book. The last leg of the tour was along the Adur Flyover bridge, down underneath it and past the horses paddocks before heading home. We may not have fitted a huge amount in, but Liz’s time was never wasted while she was in our care.

Me and Neil worked hard to get the attic space ready for the plasterers, and opened up for the staircase which would be coming on Tuesday, so there had to be big days to get everything where it needed to be, but I wasn’t going to work Sunday, the Devil would be out playing, and I wasn’t going to miss that. Saturday had pretty much been howling all day, gusting up to 45 miles an hour, with mighty choppy seas too, so we were hoping for a bit of a respite from the weather on the Sunday.

The first thing that struck me as we prepared to go into the locks at Southwick, was that there appeared to be the complete fleet of big bastard fishing boats moored up along the entire quayside in the harbour basin, they obviously weren’t going out in those conditions. The next thing was that there were only six yachts in the locks to go out, as opposed to the 12 to 16 that usually take part, and as we fought to stop the Devil being blown up against the lock walls, I wondered what it was going to be like in open water, we would soon find out.

The decision had been made to stick a reef in the main, reducing the sail area, and roller reefing the forsail to do the same again, but it soon became apparent that one reef only in the main was a tad ambitious, so true to our form, we were fighting in brutal winds to get another reef in as the race had already started. By the time we’d got it all done, three yachts had already retired, and the other three were far off in the distance, but at least we knew which way to go. The Devil was on her ear for much of the time, with waves often breaking across our beam, liberally soaking everything in their path, notably, me, Bunny, and Ross, individually, and collectively. Every time one of us got a dousing it was a cause of much mirth to everyone else, as well as each other, but we had our time when a couple of beauties ploughed straight into the cockpit and soaked Stig, Jules, Janet, and David all in one hit. I think it’s fair to say, that if David had pulled the plug on the days racing, no one would have argued the toss, but it was in fact fantastic bloody fun being out there, I can’t remember having so much fun when out sailing, even though at times my feet were almost in the sea while only on the toerails, so far was the Devil heeling over. Poor Janet had to be harnessed up in the cockpit, with Stig hanging on to it while she was seasick over the side. Bit by bit we clawed back the distance between ourselves and the remaining yachts in front, still fourth of four by now, but closer. Then disaster for Shark Bite in second place, they’d put their Gary up, (Gary Lineker=Spinnaker), to which David commented, “That’s a bit ambitious”, only to speed down one wave, with a following wave picking up its rear, and pitch poling, catapulting the crew all over the shop. I was blind sided by our main sail, so had to rely on the cockpit commentary for what was going on, thankfully nothing too major, but one hospital case, one shredded Gary, and the top of the mast busted, so a bit of an expensive day out for Shark Bite. Now it was just two in front, and we soon overhauled Bandito to claim second position, but Kingfisher was just too far ahead for the Devil to reel in. As we were heading towards the coast on our last run, the Devil was absolutely hooning along, a huge smile on Davids boat race as he claimed we must have hit 15 knots as we crested down a hefty wave, certainly the wash alone was telling an impressive story. Crossing the finishing line felt mighty satisfying, and more so when we heard that Bandito had decided not to carry on, thus handing us second place no matter what the handicaps said afterwards.

I’d been a bit concerned about Squire on a day like that, but, warhorse that he is, 84 or not, he said he’d loved it too, and just wished he could have been up top for it rather than down at the nav table, but given his recent track record I’d say it’s a good job he was where he was. Once inside Kingston Bay, with the sails down and oven on, it was beer and samosa celebration time, and I was already starting to feel the effects of our day out, god alone knows how David must have felt after helming that race, knackered I assume, bloody good effort by all concerned, and especially Janet for the mountain of home made samosa’s at the end.

Today me and Bunny returned to the Devil to deal with the bilge pump dilemma, ever since the boat came back from having work done at Osmotec, we’ve had issues, owing to the oxygen thieving toe rags having royally ballsed up by either half doing, or not doing at all, jobs that they were contracted to do, and have been paid for doing. There are differing arguments, but none that hold water as far as I’m concerned, other than the fact that they didn’t do what they were paid for, and the only thing that should have happened, is that they should have insisted on having the boat back, so that all their own balls ups could have been rectified at their own expense, and the Devil returned in the pristine order that it should have been in the first place. If I were to write them a letter, it would be signed,

yours, FUMING.