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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.”

363. Shuttleworth Military Pageant

Also themed on Armed Forces Day, the Military Pageant focuses on military machines.

We had a quick breakfast and were unloading the trailer shortly after 0800. Once again rigging was done within our normal 2 hour time limit, which was just as well, since we had many friends hoping to be with us.

First to arrive were Alan and Gloria Peacock, who’d come across specially from Ireland. If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that Alan’s father looked after 1264 in 1916 when Grandad was flying her. We’d met them at their home in Ireland, and they’d flown over specially to see us.

Alan grew up next to the Miles factory in Woodleigh, and when I’d mentioned this to Dave Bramwell, owner of the Miles Magister at Shuttleworth, he’d immediately offered for Alan to have a flight in  the capable hands of Ian Oliver. Thank you so much to to both of you!

The bus carrying Alan and Gloria arrived in the nick of time to allow the flight to take place before the show started, and we hurried him off to leap into the back of Dave’s Maggie.

It was only a short flight, but Alan was over the moon with it.

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I gave Alan a thorough briefing on the Scout so that he could take over from his Dad looking after her…

By this time my daughter had arrived with her family.

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Grandson Archie is getting a bit big to fit in with me. From now on he’ll just have to learn to fly her himself…

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… and he’s practising on the P40,…

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… including swinging the prop for his sister Rosie.

 

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And Sue (aka Rosie the Riveter) was busy navigating for Debbie Land (aka Riveting Rita), while they drove Debbie’s Citroen Traction Avant in the vehicle parade …

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… and posed with the Willys jeep that the original Rosie would have driven.

 

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And took an immediate shine to the Orange Man.

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When it was time for Grandad to fly, they headed off to the VIP enclosure and looked out for him.

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And there he was! Making a fool of himself. Again.

And this is what it looked like from Grandad’s point of view.

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The family are on the benches in front of the tower. Honest.

 

PS. After two flights, it’s amazing how much oil needs cleaning off. Even my goggles!

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But eventually it was done. 1264 was packed back into the trailer, the trailer tyre was changed for the spare, and we headed home. Sue and I got back home just on midnight. Are we too old for all this stuff? Not yet!

 

 

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362. East Grinstead Armed Forces Day

This was our busiest weekend of the year, and we arrived at East Grinstead from Ludlow at 1700 on Friday after a gruelling six-hour drive from Ludlow; from Heathrow onwards it was basically nose to tail the entire way.

Thankfully organiser Graham Stagg was there to meet us and we parked the trailer on site and headed off to the hotel where we met Theo and Chill, who’d had equally difficult journeys.

It was an early start on Saturday morning and we were on site at 0700 to get rigged. We managed a record time of around 45 minutes, and the trailer was parked adjacent to Millenium Hall at East Court, where we were situated.

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The weather was glorious and we had a great time as usual.

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At lunchtime we were joined by our friend Ricardo Tavares from Lisbon. He normally flies an Airbus A340, but looked quite at home in something a little smaller.

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Sue had dressed up as Rosie the Rivetter from the WWII poster, and joined the excellent singing group from the same era.

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Next to us was a group of RFC re-enactors called Dawn Patrol RFC Living History Group, and they appreciated a genuine WWI machine to pose with. How did they stay cool?

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At the end of the day the one dressed as a pilot asked if he could sit in the cockpit. There was only one ‘other ranks’, and he was ordered to swing the propeller.

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The most distinguished guest was Air Marshal Sir Ian MacFadyen, an ex-fighter pilot,  and it was a privilege to show him the very first fighter aircraft!

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The event finished at 1515, but the day was only half done for us, and we set to packing 1264 away, and headed off to Biggleswade and the Shuttleworth Collection. There was a considerable rush, as Ricardo wanted to get to our accommodation in time to watch Portugal’s match against Uruguay.

We had a great trip round the M25 for a change, and although we caught a kerb and wrecked a trailer tyre, at least it was at the entrance to Old Warden…

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We left Ricardo in his room while we headed to the pub for dinner. Ricardo joined us later to cry into his beer. (Portugal 2, Uruguay 1, if you remember).

It was another early night ready for the next big day…

 

361. Synchronicity

We are always being asked about the unsynchronised gun fitted to 1264 and people are amazed that anyone should be so daft as to try it.

But it makes a lot more sense than you might imagine, and was apparently more common than people realise.

To demonstrate the effects, we had a half propeller made up and shot holes in it using original 0.303 rounds.

The effect is far less dramatic than you might suppose.

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Here’s our half propeller, with two holes, which is more or less what you might expect from emptying a Lewis gun drum of 47 rounds. As you can see, the propeller will pretty definitely get you home.

I then had a look through a wonderful book of RFC Communiques from 1915 – 1916, edited by Christopher Cole

the very first entry detailed Lanoe Hawker’s action forcing down three German machines in one flight which earned him the VC – in a Bristol Scout with an unsynchronised gun. While a good many of the combats involved the FE2a or the Vickers Gunbus which are pushers, the Bristol Scout and Morane are very well represented, and neither had a synchronised gun. Some may have been fitted to the top wing to fire over the top of the propeller, or (as in Hawker’s case) obliquely to the side of the propeller.

But I’ve been struck by this account which Keith Pybus sent me recently, where the improbably-named Geoffrey Hornblower Cock, a WWI flying Ace from Shropshire, says “The 1½ Strutter was a good aircraft, but the front gun was quite useless. I, however, was lucky in getting the Ross interrupter gear on trial, and this speeded up the rate of fire … to almost normal rate, and I got most of my victories with it. Of course, both front and rear guns were operating in a fight, but if the Hun was shot down while the rear gun was firing at him, the gunner got the credit, and very rightly too.” The interrupter gear enabled pilots to fire their Vickers machine gun without engaging the interrupter gear, increasing the rate of fire but also increasing the risk of damage to the propeller! A flight commander in the same squadron ( Norman MacMillan, CO of 45 Sqn) claimed “some aircraft came back with as many as twenty bullet holes in the propeller, but no one was known to have been lost because of a shot-off blade.”

And this was in late 1916, by which time synchronising was pretty much standard fit.

His point about the rate of fire is critical – the amount of time the gun is pointing in the right direction is a fraction of a second, so the more rounds you can get off the better.

You also need to bear in mind that the synchronising gear was very unreliable. it’s possible German air ace Max Immelmann died shooting his own propeller off.

It’s certain that Haptmann Heydemark, who commanded the German squadron at Drama in Macedonia shortly after Grandad had faced them, shot his own propeller off.

All in all, if you have to choose between waiting to be shot down by a German or the fairly remote possibility of damaging your own propeller, I know which I’d choose!

 

360. Bridgend

On Saturday we were in south Wales, as part of the Wartime Bridgend event. Strictly speaking we were a bit of an anachronism, as the theme was WWII, but no-one seemed to mind the discrepancy, and as always we spent a happy day chatting to everyone who came past.

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Organiser Rob Butler, Sue and Theo in a good mood after a great day

There were a couple of showers during the day, but they didn’t dampen spirits, and by the afternoon the sun prevailed and we were able to put 1264 back in the trailer quite dry.

Among the guests were actors playing Sir Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Montgomery – and the real Simon Weston, the soldier who was so terribly disfigured in the Falklands war. It was a great honour to meet him.

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For the past couple of weeks Theo and I had swapped cars, and on Sunday we were able to switch back and Sue and I towed 1264 home ready for the next appearance in Wisbech, Cambs next Sunday.

The following weekend is pretty hectic – East Grinstead on the Saturday, followed by the Shuttleworth Military pageant on Sunday.

359. Symmetry

Ever since 1264 took to the air, photographers have managed to capture photographs with astonishing symmetry.

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Andrew Goldsmith took this at her first public display at Shuttleworth, flown by Dodge Bailey in October 2015. To get wings and propellers perfectly aligned is something that is unlikely ever to happen again!

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The following Thursday, Roger Pattrick took this on my first flight.

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And how about this one taken by Tom Gotobed last year. Apparently Tom survived the encounter, since he published it in January…

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… and the latest by Ashley Stephenson taken on Sunday. The footholes on port and starboard side are perfectly aligned!

358. Fly Navy!

Sunday dawned calm and warm, with odd patches of mist lying in the fields. Chill and I were on site at 0800 ready to get 1264 ready and rolled out.

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Sunday morning prayers for Chill and myself. Thanks to Wayne Allen for the picture

Matthew from the SVAS turned up as we were completing the work with a long cardboard box, inside which was an original 16lb Hales bomb case. The brasswork had been beautifully restored.20180603_105053 (600x800).jpg

As soon as she was outside we fuelled her up and she was then towed round to line up with the other naval aircraft in front of the Navy Wings marquee, together with the Grumman Wildcat, Swordfish and no less than three Avro 504s – the Collection one, Tom Harris’ one, and Eric Verdon-Roe’s Rotec-powered one.

Prince Michael of Kent arrived around 1030 and was introduced to each aircraft. He took considerable interest in 1264, and I reminded him of the last time he had seen her at Brooklands, when he presented us with the Preservationist of the Year Trophy from the Transport Trust. He is a gentleman in every sense of the word, and it was an honour and a pleasure to speak to him.

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Photo by Nick Blacow

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The Prince was most interested in the effect of a 0.303 bullet being fired at point blank range through a Bristol Scout propeller! Photo courtesy of Louise Evans @ Navy Wings.

With that done, it was time to head to the pilot’s briefing at 1200. I found myself sat next to Lt Cdr Chris Götke, CO of the Royal Naval Historic Flight, who reiterated his ambition to fly the Bristol Scout. I very much hope we can set this up in the not too distant future, since the Scout forms such an important part of Naval Aviation history.

By the time I got out, Theo had arrived (he’d been at a family event on Saturday, and motored up from Blandford Forum in the morning) and 1264 had been repositioned at the southern end of the runway prior to the start of the display.

Theo and I went through the rigging checklist, only to discover that the safety pins for the wing pins were still in my other overalls pocket, at the far end of the field… we also needed to remove the bombs before flight, and I managed to blag a lift on the back of the tractor to save the long, weary trip there and back!

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Someone has suggested that the caption should be ‘Photobomb’!

The rigging and pre-flight inspections completed, we walked back up to the Navy Wings marquee to find Clive Davidson and Annabelle Burroughes looking very posh having been given tickets to the event. We were particularly impressed that they’d arrived by Tiger Moth with a change of clothing stowed somewhere on board, and they both looked very smart with no creases visible. Impressive!

Our slot time was 1708, and we headed back down in plenty of time – I like to have a long, leisurely look over the whole machine before making a fool of myself in public.

The very light wind was straight down the strip, and the display itself went fine, although I found I was losing power shortly after takeoff, and managed to rectify it by richening the mixture. I haven’t isolated the cause of this yet, and we’ll need to do a bit of checking before the next display.

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Photo by Darren Eaton

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Photo by David Batchelor

Having done a 5 minute solo spot, I stayed up while Rob Millinship took off in the 504. I’m not permitted to do formation flying, but I tried – and failed – to set up a shot for the photographers with both aircraft. I’ve not seen any yet, and I’d be amazed if anybody managed it…

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… and lo and behold, Mike Shreeve did

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and so did Tad Dippel

When I landed, 1264 insisted on turning right, and I cleared the runway to allow Clare Tector to take off in the Bristol Fighter, but she politely waited for me so I crossed the runway and taxied back to the trailer to start the immediate process of dismantling.

Of course Theo and Chill were right at the far end of the field, and it took a good while before they turned up, but this didn’t slow the derigging process.

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Photo by Peter Cooke

Our next appearance is at Salisbury Cathedral next weekend, so we’ve swapped vehicles, Theo driving the Hilux to his home near Blandford forum, and my taking his car home.

Theo got away by 2010, but by the time he’d parked the trailer in his flying field it was 0030 before he got to bed. I was fascinated watching Jean-Michel Munn getting his first opportunity to fly the Bristol Boxkite. For about ten minutes, he was unable to get above treetop height, and I had to stay to see what happened. When he landed he said that he was only able to climb when he reduced speed from 35mph to 33mph! He was very chuffed at being allowed to fly this venerable machine, and I thought about Grandad’s first solo in October 1915 which was done in a Boxkite, after only 90 minute’s instruction in a Graham white Type XV…

We didn’t have time to collect a brochure for the event, but we’ve been sent a scan of the back page, which features Sue and Debbie land in Debbie’s Citroen Traction avant!Deb and Sue on Programme Calendar (600x800).jpg

So – Salisbury next weekend, and Bridgend the weekend after, followed by Wisbech the weekend after that and East Grinstead the day before the Military Pageant back at Shuttleworth.

It’s a great life if you don’t weaken…

 

 

 

357. In Full Swing

This weekend saw the season get into full swing.

On Saturday morning I was up at 0430 in order to get to Old Warden by 0900, stopping for breakfast on the way.

I was met by SVAS volunteer Julian Harcourt, and between us we had 1264 rigged in no. 1 hangar in an hour. He has been promoted to honorary Bristol Scout team member on the strength of it. Thanks so much, Julian!

Halfway through the morning the immaculate Avro 504K built by Flying Restorations and owned by Tom Harris landed on and taxied in. Tom had flown from RAF Henlow around 7 miles away, and it was generally reckoned that this was the first cross-country flight by a rotary-engined Avro 504K for a generation. She is quite beautiful, finished in unbleached linen and with an original le Rhone 110hp, which (unliked the Shuttleworth ones) apparently ran faultlessly all the way over.

She was put in no. 1 hangar with 1264 alongside and made 1264’s fabric look distinctly battle-weary!

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Chill turned up at around 1130, as did the delegates from the Federation of European Women Pilots Association, and we gave a series of brief chats to them throughout the afternoon among their hectic schedule. They were very appreciative, and the slightly nervous looks on the faces below is because they were just about to miss their coach back to the hotel!20180602_154126 (800x600).jpg

Chill and I could then concentrate on finishing the rig ready for the display on the following day.

In the evening we were invited to Tim Manna’s house for a barbecue. Tim owns the farmhouse on the far side of the Old Warden runway, owns WWII warbirds and has a business in the grounds restoring and maintaining them.

Lots of interesting people and stories there, among whom was distinguished aviation historian, pilot and restorer Paul Beaver one of whose ancestors served with ‘Kink’ Kincaid (who had been in No. 2 Wing RNAS with Grandad at Imbros) in southern Russia in 1919 while another one was on Coastal Motor Boats, along with my great uncle!

I’m very much hoping to be able to share information with him.

We planned to get a good night’s sleep ready for the display the next day, but inevitably the story telling carried on well into the night…