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45. Communication

07/01/2013

Communication is such a wonderful thing, and leads to such unexpected consequences.

I had joined Cross and Cockade, the magazine that’s been publishing top-quality articles about WWI aviation for ages – indeed, they’d published the article about Grandad’s exploits back in 1974.

Thasos memorial to the airmen killed 1916 - 1918

Thasos memorial to the airmen killed 1916 – 1918

In the leader for the latest issue, the editor, Mick Davis, had mentioned an upcoming article on the RNAS in the Aegean, and of course that caught my attention. The author was Paschalis Palavouzis, and Mick put me in touch. Paschalis and I have been in regular touch over the Christmas period, and he’s clearly very knowledgeable about the whole air campaign at Gallipoli and afterwards. He sent me a picture of the memorial to the airmen killed operating from Thasos 1916 – 1918.

It goes without saying that we hope to visit Imbros and Thasos in the not too distant future, and it’s going to be a very real pleasure to meet up with Paschalis when we do!

The next gem that Paschalis produced was a picture of Grandad, reproduced from a book about Sam Kinkead – it’s not clear who the other pilot is, but Paschalis is working on it.

Sam Kinkead and FDH Bremner at Thasos

Sam Kinkead and FDH Bremner at Thasos

In the background is the Nieuport 12 Gunbus that was frequently flown by Grandad, while the other pilot looks piratical, and Grandad looks like the typical Englishman abroad.

It prompted me to go through Grandad’s logbooks again, and that’s been a great pleasure. I’ve already summarised them in section 10 of this blog, but I decided to transcribe his dreadfully cramped writing into a Word document, and insert hotlinks where very it seemed relevant. I also took the time to look places up on the internet.

It was particularly fascinating to look up his first cross-country flight.

He’d started training on 15 Sep 1915, taken full control for the first time two weeks later, and gone solo a week after that on 3 Oct after precisely 106 minutes training (some of which was taxiing!) He  graduated onto tractor machines (with the engine in front instead of behind) on 17 Oct, and a month later, on 20 Nov, he went off on his first solo cross-country flight from Chingford, NE of London to Ruislip, NW of London – a distance of 25 miles. As far as I can see, he’d never done any other cross-country flights at all, and had 26 hours flying time.

He stated that he went over the top of the clouds and flew by compass, but when he came down, he could not locate his position. He flew west by the sun, then south until he hit the Thames, then east following the river until he saw Hampton Court and north via Greenford and Northolt. When you plot this on the map, as I’ve done below, you can see what an enormous diversion it was, and how very scary it must have been. the 23 mile flight took 105 minutes, and on the way back he wisely decided to keep below the clouds and keep track of his position all the time!

Chingford to Ruislip

Nevertheless, I’ve been amazed how far and wide they roamed – the full length of the Peninsula and over onto the Asian coast.

I’ve also found information that will be invaluable to us when we come to fly the Scout. He mentions a landing speed of 53Knots, for example. He mentions that he was able to fly at speeds as low as 35knots (it’s unlikely that the airspeed indicator was accurate at this speed, but it’s a very helpful indication), and later on in Thasos, when he tries out the later version, the Scout D, he provides an interesting comparison between the two which gives one a very good idea of the handling characteristics of the two.

When he started flying the Scout C, he said that right turns were harder than left (due, no doubt to the rotating mass of the engine creating ‘Coriolis forces‘ that made the aircraft do unexpected things when changing direction), and apparently the  the Scout D did the same thing. The Scout D had smaller ailerons, greater dihedral, and larger tail surfaces, and it’s no surprise that it was more stable and less manoeuvrable than the C, and Grandad preferred the earlier one since he’d got used to being able to fling it round the sky by then. I rather doubt we shall be doing much flinging, but the knowledge that we could if we wanted to is certainly comforting!

Because the logbooks are a diary, rather than just a formal record, you can see how Grandad developed during his time flying. To start with, it was the operational stuff that interested him – shooting down Germans and carrying out bombing – but increasingly it’s the technical stuff that absorbs him. in the early days there is little or no mention of problems with the aircraft that he flew, but by the time he got to Thasos in June 1916 more or less every flight records problems with the engine or controls, and what they found when they stripped the engine down afterwards – and you are left with the impression that perhaps he spent a lot of his spare time in the workshop with the mechanics, tinkering.

Oh – and I also found a mention of ‘Kink’ Kinkead. On Thasos, he borrowed an old engine from Kink’s machine to fix his Scout D. Apparently it was a dud too – three ball races were broken when they stripped it down.

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