It’s a little off topic, but this piece on the BBC website entitled ‘Spitfires of the Sea‘ mentions three junior officers who came up with the concept of the Coastal Motor Boat in 1916. One of them was Bunnie’s brother, Bill.
Bill devised the concept and served on them throughout WWI, being decorated for actions at Ostend and Zeebrugge, and at the Kronstadt raid, where he sunk his target, was injured 11 times, blown up and picked imprisoned by the Bolsheviks for six months. He deserved the VC, but they’d already awarded so many they couldn’t give him one.
And if you’re going to Duxford for the Air Show on 10/11 Sep, you will (I hope) see the Scout flying, and you can go and see the only remaining Coastal Motor Boat in the museum!
You might have thought that with the building done, the cost of owning and operating the Scout would decrease. And it has, but I still need to earn a penny or two to pay for it, so I’m currently in the USA on business.
But before I went, I had a phone call from Central Wheel Components to say that our wheel was repaired and ready for collection. I dashed over to collect it, and was very proud that I was able to refit the tyre by myself.
A beaded tyre is quite different to a modern one, the rim being hooked so that it grabs the bead moulded into the tyre outer. They are regarded with considerable suspicion; here is what’s on the website of vintage tyre specialists Longstone Tyres, who supplied our inner tubes.
‘Beaded edge tyres or clincher tires are an unreliable technology, which is why they stopped using Clincher rims and Beaded edge tyres. Please bear in mind that in period beaded edge tyres (clincher tires) regularly punctured and came off the clincher wheel rim.
‘For example; in the French 1908 Grand Prix run over 769.88 km which is only 478.38 miles one of the reasons that Christian Lautenschlager won in his 140hp Mercedes which was using beaded edge tyres (or clincher tires) was because he only had 22 punctures.’
Despite this, our tyre had remained attached to the rim despite all the bending, and was clearly good to use again. I posted the inner tube into the outer, and started fitting the outer to the rim at the valve. Because there is no steel cord inside, the whole exercise can be done with your bare hands, and inflating the tyre forces the beads into the rim.
Then I met up with Theo on my way to Heathrow and left all the bits with him.
While I’ve been away, he’s managed to refit the wheel using manpower from the Newton Peveril flying club and had the cowling repaired and refitted it, and so we’re virtually ready to fly again.
And I’ve taken a diversion from my work to fly to Seattle to see their excellent aviation museum adjacent to the Boeing factory.
The whole museum is a delight, with some very interesting aircraft there, but my attention was almost entirely focussed on a single aircraft – the Caproni CA20.
This amazing machine was designed and built in 1914 – exactly contemporaneous with the Scout prototype. It was intended from the outset to be a fighting machine, and the monoplane layout was used to keep the speed as high as possible. And to get round the lack of synchronising gear, a Lewis gun was mounted on the top of an extended kingpost, with a simple mechanism to allow it to be trained by the pilot.
The Italian government were only interested in bombers, however, and the prototype languished in the back of the works. It was flown, and converted from wing warping to ailerons. But it ended up in Count Caproni’s estate, housed in a monastery, whence it was recovered by the Seattle museum after 85 years, entirely untouched. It’s the only aircraft with its original covering still in place, and for that reason I was particularly keen to study it close up.
As you can see, although it looks as if it’s covered in clear doped fabric, it looks nothing like ours. It’s not in the slightest translucent, and it has a light fawn colour which doesn’t seem to be the same as the colour of the base fabric, judging by the edges of raw fabric visible in places.
I have contacted the museum curator to see if they can shed any light on the fabric and dope used, and we shall wait to see what that brings.
Come what may, it was a fantastic day, and the CA20 is endlessly fascinating, with its unique low-drag spinner, monoplane layout and very modern look. The rest of the museum was splendidly laid out, with a great number of very interesting aircraft to see, and I spent a happy day exploring.
If you thought things had gone a little quiet in the UK after last week’s excitement, I can report that Paschalis Palavouzis has been very busy in Greece and has come up with a very likely explanation of the eventual fate of 1264.
The information we have so far is that Grandad’s last flight in her was on 9 June 1916, two weeks after he’d flown her to Thassos. All the time there, the engine had been running roughly.
The main reference book, “Royal Navy Aircraft Serials and Units, 1911 – 1919” by Ray Sturtivant and Gordon Page, ‘1264’ was transferred “to Malta 6.16 for recovering but lost on return to Thasos when ship sunk; deleted 8.16“.
But Paschalis knew that all aviation assets in the Aegean were being overseen by HMS Ark Royal, moored in Mudros Bay on Lemnos Island, and by studying her logbook and Weekly Operations Reports, it seemed likely that 1264 was received by HMS Ark Royal some time between 23 June and 14 July, and refurbishment work was started.
By 28 July, the Weekly
Operations Report states that ‘By combining portions of Le Rhone engines which are awaiting spares and by borrowing ball races from the French Aviation Section at Salonika it is hoped to have another Scout which has been rebuilt in HMS Ark Royal ready for duty in two days…’ and that ‘a Bristol Scout has been practically rebuilt & will be ready for transport to Thasos by the next ferry.’
On 2 August, 1264 was transferred onto HMS Clacton for ferrying back to Thassos, but about 12 hours later, she was torpedoed while coming alongside HMS Grafton just off the port of Stavros.
Paschalis adds that she was sunk by Kapitänleutnant Gustav Sieß, captain of U-73, who was a very successful U-boat commander who later won the Blue Max.
Salvage operations began immediately. ‘On 3rd August H.M.S. “Clacton” proceeding from Mudros to Thasos was torpedoed by a submarine in the Gulf of Ruphani having onboard 18 Ratings, a Bristol Scout which had been completely rebuilt in Ark Royal and a large quantity of stores for Thasos.’ By 13 August the weekly report says ‘The Bristol Scout was raised and sent to Thasos on Sunday, 6th August“.
From there the information is a good deal more speculative. The following Weekly Report says that had 2 machines not erected, a Nieuport 2 seater (possibly 8919) and ‘1 Bristol Scout lost en route for Thasos’, but that’s the last reference he’s been able to find. He thinks it likely that every usable part was stripped from the airframe and the remainder was shipped back to HMS Ark Royal for disposal – apparently they were often burned on the island of Ispatho island (known as Koukonisi nowadays) in Mudros bay. Could we find a nameplate there? If we could, we could justifiably claim that 1264 was an original machine, rather than a replica. But the chances of finding it would appear to be vanishingly small…
By moving the trailer to Falmouth, we’d shaved around ten miles off what would be the longest journey of the week – from the far tip of Cornwall to Essex, and we were on the road by 0745 to avoid parking charges.
We retraced our route of a couple of days before, stopping at Exeter for breakfast, and heading back down the A303 for the third time in four days. Our fears about the A303 in holiday season at the start of the weekend proved unfounded, and we made great time as far as the fleet services on the M3.
But the M25 proved our undoing. We got on it at around 1500, and – thanks to about three different holdups – got off it five and a half hours later at around 2030, after which it started to rain. Oh – and halfway round, in one of the stationary bits, an adjacent lorry driver pointed out that one of the trailer tyres was knackered, so we pulled over and changed it for the spare.
We got to Stow Maries aerodrome near Maldon in Essex and unhitched the trailer, then headed off to our accommodation, which was a pub. By now it was 2100 – more than thirteen hours after setting out – and they’d stopped serving food some while before, and the karaoke was going full blast right underneath our rooms. It was a fitting end to a very, very trying day.
Theo had done most of the driving, having been in the hot seat for the first leg to Exeter and the last bit round London. He retained his cool and his sense of humour and was far more observant than I was, and without him I don’t know where I would have been. I wasn’t feeling brilliant, and I’d have made a great many more stupid decisions.