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“And like no other sculpture in the history of art, the dead engine and dead airframe come to life at the touch of a human hand, and join their life with the pilot's own.”

340. HMS Queen Elizabeth

There has been discussion on FaceBook about the practicability of operating the Bristol Scout from the deck of our newest, largest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Alizabeth new.jpg

In fact, this was the suggestion made by Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Alcock at the BMFA Awards evening, and you would think there would be a good deal of nautical mileage in PR terms on both sides.

In fact, the most sensible thing would be to arrange for the existing Royal Navy Historic Flight (Swordfishes, Sea Furies and the Sea Vixen) to be paraded on the flight deck together with the associate aircraft (Westland Wasp, Westland Wessex, Gazelle etc. as well as the Bristol Scout). All the above aircraft were operated from ships, and it would make a truly excellent PR opportunity.

How would we get them there? Well, the most problematic would be the Sea Fury and sea Vixen, and they’d have to be dismantled, road hauled to Portsmouth, and craned on board. theoretically the rotary wing machines would be flown aboard, and the Scout could be trailered.

Could we operate 1264 from the deck?

Well, take off would be very straightforward indeed. Probably best done in calm conditions with light winds, and HMS QE stationary. wind direction would be almost irrelevant, since we could get off with a reasonable margin of safety taking off across the flight deck which is 73m wide, and there would be sufficient variety of launching points to avoid the turbulence from the islands and the ski jump.

Landing could present one or two more problems, but none would be insuperable. The first issue is the lack of directional stability. landing on grass, we rely on getting the tailskid down as soon as possible after the mainwheels so that the drag will slow her down and keep her straight. Hard surfaces are anathema to us, and even adding a temporary tailwheel would be little help since the skid isn’t steerable. No, John Bulmer’s suggestion of a block attached to the skid designed to provide drag on the QE’s surface would be perfect. She stops in around 30m so once again there’s plenty of room in any direction.

We’d prefer to replicate the arrangements made for Commander Dunning on his first successful ship landing aboard HMS Furious in 1917 and have rope handles attached at a number of points with crew standing by to hold her fast as she lands, but that should be sufficient.

Dunning landing.jpg

And what are the historical connections? Well, the Bristol Scout was the first wheeled aircraft to take off from a moving ship. It would be huge fun to replicate that, even if it meant putting to sea to do so. And 1264 was at Gallipoli at the same time as an earlier HMS Queen Elizabeth. HMS Queen Elizabeth had left by the time Grandad got there, but it’s another tentative link at least.

HMS Queen elizabeth.jpg



339. Back Home

Today, Thursday, Chill and I met up at the Shuttleworth Collection to get 1264 put back together and on display in no. 1 hangar with all her WWI contemporaries.


All went smoothly, and I was able to get a couple of bits done on the trailer while I was there.

Meanwhile there was great excitement in the blister hangar as the Collection’s Spitfire was being weighed; one of the last stages before being allowed back in the air again, after a restoration that’s lasted more than a decade. Can’t wait!

On my way home, I drove past the remains of the Airlander, which has been parked outside the famous Cardington sheds for a couple of years during development.


2-20170605_090049.jpgApparently she was flown on Saturday, but broke loose from the mooring mast shortly afterwards, triggering an automatic deflation system which prevented it from floating away across the countryside.

But, gosh, she does look a mess…


338. Modelling

We had been asked a while ago to be guests of honour (yes, really!) at the British Model Flying Association‘s annual dinner and prize-giving.

It meant that I had to give a talk for my dinner, and Sue would have to give away about 60 prizes for hers.

It had troubled me for a while, since my contribution to aeromodelling is basically nil, though I do have a radio control model I throw around occasionally.

But I decided to talk about Grandad and the Scout and pretend that it was a scale model at 1:1 scale!

In the event, it was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion, I didn’t fall over my words or witter on too long (or at least, not much!), and we met all sorts of wonderful people. it transpired that the chairman, Ian Pallister, had been at Southampton University with me, and Sue spent a long time discussing knees with Lady Pauline Alcock, wife of the President, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Alcock.

Everyone was most complimentary about 1264, and after re-presenting me with the FAI Phoenix Award Sir Michael came up with a truly spectacular suggestion for a PR event involving 1264 which would undoubtedly top the Nine o Clock news if it came off. I’d better not say any more, since nothing may come of it, but it’s surely got my appetite whetted…

All photos courtesy the excellent Martin at  Here and Now Photography.


There were about 170 people at the Jurys Inn, Hinckley. 


Sir Michael Alcock re-presented our FAI Phoenix Award, since we couldn’t get to Bali for the FAI Conference!


Sue and I poshed up well…


… and Sue survived handing out more than 60 trophies with a smile for everyone. She made me promise I wouldn’t tell you what he’s whispering in her ear!


337. Christmas is Over

By the Sunday evening we were absolutely knackered, but what a wonderful weekend it had been! In addition to all the new friends we’d made, we’d seen plenty of old ones – Lawrence and Judy, Lesley and Hayden, Stephen and Claire and Claire’s family.

We had been hoping to start dismantling 1264 after the show finished on the Sunday night, but nothing could be done until the display cabinets were removed, and it was going to take most of Friday evening to clear them of there very valuable contents. So – slightly relieved – we’d had a pleasant meal on the Sunday, and arrived at 7:30am on the Monday all ready to go.

The reason for the panic was that I was booked on the 1930 Eurostar to Brussels in the evening, and had to leave the trailer at the Shuttleworth Collection and my car at Ruislip tube station so that I could get the tube into Euston. Overnight I’d realised that getting from Shuttleworth to Ruislip meant going round the M25 in the rush hour, so I looked up trains from Biggleswade, to discover that they went direct to Kings Cross. ideal, and the car journey home on my return wouldn’t be so much longer from Biggleswade than from Ruislip.

This eased the pressure somewhat, but we were still concerned to get going as quickly as possible.

In the event, everything slotted into place astonishingly well, and we were barely held up at all. We were also able to take the fuselage down the ramp this time – altogether safer than the fork lift truck!

We were away by 1230, and everything else went according to plan. Chill gave Sue a lift to Chesterfield, from where she could get the train back to Ludlow where we’d left her car on Friday morning.

Mark left, to deal with another email from the owner of the house claiming that we’d marked her kitchen worktop by cutting stuff up and not using the chopping boards. She didn’t clarify whether this was the cereals or the sliced loaf that was to blame.

If you’re thinking of taking a 5 bedroom house in Baslow through AirBnB, think twice!

I left the trailer at the Shuttleworth. I had hoped perhaps to get her erected and back in no. 1 hangar while I was there, but that wasn’t possible, and I had at least an hour to spare by the time I got to St Pancras. Whew!

336. Christmas Wishes, Day 3

The Sunday event started at 10am again, and when we met Mark, we exchanged our news about the house. He’d sent an email to the owner noting that one room hadn’t been cleaned, and this seemed to have set off last night’s diatribe. She had apparently gone home and written an email response to Mark which occupied no less than 6 pages when printed out. It was a strange, rambling document which accused us of having eaten toast for breakfast among other things. Most of it was entirely irrelevant, and poor Mark, who was having to commute huge distances to and from home each day, had had to deal with all this on top of everything else. He decided not to respond and simply pay the bill and not to make any more trouble.

By this time Buddy had pretty much taken over the show; interest in 1264 was largely subsumed by people wanting to give him a stroke or a cuddle. Buddy took all this in his stride and accepted it as his due.




Rick, Sue, Marian, David and Chill

It was another completely exhausting but rewarding day, and everyone who saw us loved the story of 1264, even if they had no prior interest in WWI aviation.


335. Christmas Wishes, Day 2

The show opened at 10am, so we were able to have a bit of a lie in, and from then on it was full on, with all three of us working solidly explaining 1264’s origin and the connection with Aviator Watches.

One unexpected visitor was John Ball, who is a cousin of WWI Ace Albert Ball (who scored his first victory in a Bristol Scout). We weren’t expecting to see him, and he wasn’t expecting to see us, so it was yet another of those serendipitous encounters with which the story of 1264 is liberally sprinkled.


Around midday, Rick and Marian turned up, together with the latest member of their family, Buddy.

From here on in, Buddy (an 11 week old Jack Russell puppy) stole the show.



Charles Burns even did a silhouette…


Sue got to try some of the VERY expensive jewellery on show. This necklace made from hundreds of perfectly matched diamonds cost £160,000.


Having Rick and Marian there meant we could actually go for an occasional meal and a sit down, but we weren’t finished until gone 7pm, and we headed off to a dog-friendly Devonshire Arms for a delightful meal.

After that we headed back to the house, and were puzzled to see all the lights on. As we came in the door, we were met by a couple of women, one of whom conducted a verbal assault on us for twenty minutes to half an hour, questioning our identity and our right to be there, accusing us of some unspecified sharp practice, and making herself thoroughly unpleasant. She never introduced herself, but in among the invective was the fact that we’d accused her of leaving one room uncleaned, from which we drew the conclusion that she was the cleaner or the owner. It was complicated by the fact that Mark, who had booked the room, had had to go back home to York again, but eventually we got her out of the house and were able to go to bed.

Sue found that although they’d cleaned the bins in our room, the sheets were still the same, with stains on them from the previous occupant, so we switched to the other double bed. This was fine until the middle of the night, when the bed started to collapse!

334. Christmas Wishes come true

It’s been an amazing weekend in the company of Sellors jewellers. We set off in good time on Friday morning and found the AirBnB house in Baslow that was to be our home for the weekend. It was half of a semi set at right angles to the road, and with no drive, requiring us to street park some distance away.

We dropped our things and headed back to Chatsworth to see how things were looking, and the transformation was total. The lighting was installed, the cabinets were all in place and full of bling. 1264 was in very unfamiliar surroundings but completely dominated the marquee, and was carrying off her new role with total aplomb and the odd drip of castor oil.




Mark Ryder, the Aviator watch agent (r), looks very happy with the way in which 1264 has stolen the limelight.


And we were very happy to be all togged up, though you might not think it from my face…




There was a 1942 Dodge army truck squeezed in there too.


There were plenty of other attractions there, including pirates with live parrots…


… jewellery worn for the premiere of the Spiderman film…

… and Charles Burns, aka The Roving Artist, who makes the most amazingly lifelike silhouettes using only black paper and a pair of very fine scissors.


And Sonia Ibrahim who plays Mel Maguire in Coronation Street was there supporting the NSPCC.

The VIP event started at 4:30 and we were on our feet for most of the afternoon until gone 11pm, so it was getting on for midnight before we got to bed.

Mark had to go home to York, but we were joined by his colleague Tiago who took his place for just one night. It was a bit of a disappointment to find that our room hadn’t been cleaned and the sheets and bins contained evidence of the previous occupants, and that Chill’s bathtap didn’t work.