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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.”

323. Film Stars

We’re delighted to know that Stephen Saunders’ film, Bristol Scout – Rebuilding History, was aired on Greek National TV this week – and the response has been universally complimentary. It’s great news for Stephen, and here’s hoping that it might encourage a British TV channel to take it up.


Meanwhile Theo is back with Stephen this week for his next project called ‘War above the Trenches‘ which has been commissioned for British and french TV Channels. Theo’s job has been to make a replica glass plate C type camera as used in WWI for a particular scene which is being shot this week at Stow Maries aerodrome, which is one of our favourite places.

Finished camera1.jpg

And it will only get better thanks to the award of a £4.3m National Lottery grant to help towards restoration of their original WWI buildings.



322. LAA Rally

But there was no time to relax. No sooner had we got home from Malvern than we were getting ready to head of to Sywell near Northampton, for the Light Aircraft Association’s annual fly-in and rally.

So on the Thursday we hitched up the trailer and headed over to the airfield, where preparations were well in hand for the largest fly-in in the UK calendar. We had been allocated a spot in the marquee complex with space for 1264 on one side and a sort of mini-cinema on the other, and a large screen TV had been provided for us to play the film.

It didn’t take long to get set up, and we headed off to our hotel to relax.

On Friday morning we arrived ahead of the crowds and set up a trailer on the TV playing continuously, advertising the showing of the complete film twice a day.

A couple of air cadets came to have a look, and one of them sat in the cockpit.

The day was as busy as always, and the film showing, particularly the afternoon one, was popular since it gave people the chance to rest their weary feet!


By the time the show closed we too, were ready to rest our weary feet in the Sedgebrook Hotel, which had reasonable facilities including a restaurant, where we saw a good many other exhibitors.

Theo had long harboured an ambition to win an award at the LAA Rally, and so we filled in the form on the Saturday morning to enter for it, and left large ‘J’s on the wing to tell the judges we wished to count us in. I’m not sure we were expecting anything particularly, but we felt a twinge of nervousness when Rob Millinship, who regularly flies the Shuttleworth rotaries, turned up as one of  the judges.

The day was even busier than the Friday, and we met so many people with interesting stories to tell that we were almost glad when it came to closing time.

There was one boy who was asking particularly intelligent questions, and was overjoyed to be allowed to sit in the cockpit to have his photograph taken. Talking to his father, it appeared that he had a business making replica guns and he promised to look into the possibility of making us a proper gas gun for the Scout. then all I need will be some gunshot transfers to apply to the propeller and we’re all set! Unfortunately I didn’t get his contact details so if he’d like to get in touch we’d certainly be interested to investigate further.

The day passed quickly, Sue’s Guinness cake proving to be a popular attraction, and we were once again glad to get back to the hotel and put our feet up.

The Sunday was quieter owing to the poorer weather, as a result of which there had been something of a mass exodus on the Saturday night. But there were still plenty of people there, and for us the day was rendered very special indeed by the news that we had been awarded the Pooley Sword, awarded annually for the best replica aircraft. The formal presentation will be at the LAA AGM in October. Are we going? You bet we are! I think we must be the oiliest aircraft ever to be awarded this very prestigious award, and we intend to make the most of it.

The following week I was working, among other places, in Bristol, and when I pulled in at my hotel – the Arnos Manor – I was completely amazed to find that it was situated immediately opposite the Brislington tramworks where 1264 was built. The archway is very impressive, and although the buildings themselves are now a small industrial estate, I would imagine that they are the ones that were there in 1913.



321. Run for the Hills!

It’s been another demanding weekend. Theo came up to stay with us on Thursday evening, and we headed to Shuttleworth early the following morning where we met up with Chill and packed 1264 into the trailer. we were ready to go at midday, and set off for the Three Counties showground in Malvern.

The Bank Holiday traffic delayed us a little, but we arrived at 1600 and were all set up by 1800, after which we headed home for tea!

All set to start the weekend, with the earliest known Morgan car, dating from 1909…

We were on site by 0830 on the Saturday, and situated at on of the most central crossroads in the ground we were seen by pretty much everyone who arrived, and – as always – were very much the centre of attention. Morgan owners were queuing at one stage to photograph their cars in front of 1264, and there was a continual stream of foot visitors on the stand.

We had suggested the possibility of running the engine, and it was felt best to do this in the showground itself, so with the help of loads of marshals, we chivied her round to the entrance of the showground  where Theo gave her a good swing and away she went. We taxied slowly round the ground with Theo and a marshal hanging onto the wingtips. We’d had no time to prepare anything, and I wish we’d been able to turn away from the crowd and open the throttle to give them all a taste of the propwash, but perhaps it’s just as well we didn’t!

Photo by Nigel Bradford

it was a particular pleasure to be close enough to home that my daughter and her family could be here on both days – grandson Archie tried the cockpit, but was more attracted to the dirty ground, the Ferris wheel and the bouncy castle!

Our connection with Morgan cars is via WWI Ace Albert Ball, whose first victory was in a Bristol Scout C more or less identical to 1264, and owned a 1913 Grand Prix racer.

So it was with a great sense of pride that a similar 1913 three wheeler was positioned in front of us and Albert Ball’s great niece and I got to sit in it – individually first, and then together.

Photo by Nigel Bradford



But no sooner had we got home on Sunday evening, tired and very happy with a great weekend, than the special edition of The Great War Channel on YouTube featuring 1264 with yours truly came on line.

We think Flo, Indy and the team have done a great job. let us know what you think…

320. Problems, Problems…

Some of you will know that there is something going on at The Vintage Aviator Limited, which has shut up shop while an internal investigation is going on. There seems to be no indication of the nature of the problem, but we’ve had nothing but wonderful support and help from them, and hope that things return to normal as soon as possible.

And today there are news reports of problems with the Battle of Britain Memorial flight’s Merlin engines. This seems even more surprising, given the number of Merlin engines operating today and their generally excellent serviceability record.

Let’s hope they can be resolved without too much difficulty. It would be a tragedy if they were grounded for any length of time.

319. Flying on the Ground

Over the Bank Holiday weekend (Saturday and Sunday 26/27 August) we will be at the Three Counties showground in Malvern, Worcs, for the Run for the Hills event organised by the Morgan car factory for their owners.

The link is that Great Britain’s first air ace, Albert Ball, downed his first enemy aircraft in Bristol Scout no. 5312 which looked very similar to 1264, and in 1917 he took delivery of a special bodied Grand Prix Morgan three wheeler, which he described as ‘The nearest thing to flying on the ground.’Albert Ball and Racing Morgan.jpg

Poor Albert was killed in combat shortly afterwards.

We hope to be there together with a similar type of car and some of Albert Ball’s relatives, which will make for a very interesting weekend. Although it’s a static display, we are also hoping to run the engine periodically.

But it’s clear that Albert wasn’t the only petrolhead.

By an amazing coincidence, I’ve been emailed by Ian Easton who is building a model of the Bristol Scout in California, but is also a collector of vintage bikes. I sent him this photograph of my grandfather on his own method of flying on the ground – an Indian motorcycle.Bremner Francis (Bunnie), Indian motorbike c1920.jpg

Well, Ian’s done a bit of digging and come up with this, which is a 1914 Indian Big Twin of 1000cc. Ian says Grandad had the sports handlebars and gearbox, with the clutch and gearchange on the tank. The number plate indicates that it was first registered in Cambridge, which would tie in with Grandad’s university career – he was at Trinity College, graduating in July 1914, so it’s possible it was some sort of reward for getting his degree.

Indian Bike.jpg

The photograph comes from here, thanks very much.

Ian is continuing to dig, so we will await the outcome with baited breath!


318 Shuttleworth Edwardian Day

What a great weekend!

The team congregated at Shuttleworth on Saturday lunchtime to get 1264 rigged for the Sunday show, but since we weren’t sure about hangarage space we chewed the fat before the boys popped out to watch Stu Goldspink decide whether to take the Hurricane up to East Kirkby for a display.

A spectacular thunderstorm with lots of lightening and dramatic cloud formations passed through, but Stu decided to give it a go, and we helped him fuel up and start up before bringing the trailer round and rigging 1264 in our allocated space in no. 6 hangar.

Meanwhile Sue headed off to the Swiss Gardens and in the crystal clear post-storm light of the late afternoon took some simply stunning pictures on her mobile phone.


With that done, we found our rooms in the College garden suite, and headed off to the pub for a leisurely meal.

The weather on Sunday morning matched the forecast – sunny, with a light breeze straight up the main runway.

We arrived to find 1264 already parked on the grass, and we set up the display information and the table with all the bits, including the Guinness cake Sue had made to offer with every DVD sold!

I’d gathered that the LAA magazine had been delivered, including the article by Clive Davidson. As always, all four of us were kept busy; I needed to fill the petrol tank, and check the oil, and I also found time to prime the pulsometer in the hope that it would finally tell us that the oil was being delivered to the engine.

Halfway through the morning, I was amazed and utterly delighted to see my brother Rick and his wife Marian approaching. They’d only decided to come at the very last minute, and it absolutely made my day. They helped out on the stand, and Rick was able to see the Scout being displayed – something he hadn’t seen since October 2015.

Around midday all the WWI aircraft were moved to the end of the runway before the show started at 1400.

It was opened by my old friend Pete Davies, who did amazing things with his very sophisticated autogiro, and we could then relax for an hour or so and watch the show before going across to 1264 ready for our slot just after 1700.

All the pilots of the early WWI aircraft were eyeing up the strengthening wind which was also somewhat gusty. Immediately before us, the two BE2es were scheduled to display. In the end, only one would start, and Jean-Michel Munn took off, though his engine was clearly misfiring, with a good deal of smoke coming from the exhaust, and an uneven note to it.

vlcsnap-2017-08-11-21h28m17s765.pngWe fired up while he was displaying, and I waited for a nice steady breeze after he landed before launching.

I held about 40kt in the climb out, giving – with all that additional power from the  engine – an impressive climb.

vlcsnap-2017-08-11-21h24m50s841.pngAs expected, it was pretty bumpy up there, but 1264 continues to give me more and more confidence every time I fly, and I was able to give a very satisfactory display, even managing to taxi all the way back to the hangars this time!

There were two minor disappointments; I’d forgotten to wave to the crowd on my final pass, and I’d forgotten to switch on the pulsometer, so I still don’t know if it works!

But it was a good show, the organisers were very happy with it generally and our display, and we arrived home late at night, tired and very happy, with 1264 put safely on static display in no. 1 hangar.


317. Back Home

On 1 Aug we had been invited at fairly short notice to come to the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Queen Street, Bristol. The Academy is an art gallery, and their current exhibition is all about air, which seemed appropriate.

But on the this particular day they were hosting a workshop run by My Future My Choice, an organisation trying to inspire children through the use of  mechanical models which they can build and then test out. Their workshop was focusing on model aircraft, and one of them is a model of the Bristol Scout.

I’d set off from home at 0600 with the trailer in tow and arrived about 0830. The front of the academy has a very convenient space which had thoughtfully been coned off for us, and i could simply drive in and when Theo turned up we could set up straight away.


Sir George White (l) arrived to inspect progress, and it was great to see him again. Also in the picture is Polly Barnes with the Bristol Scout kit for children to make.


Being on the pavement on a busy street, we were soon surrounded by a combination of people who had come specially to see us and those who were just walking past. One person had been going past on the bus, and returned to see what was going on!

The BBC is located a couple of blocks away and we did a short piece for the lunchtime TV news, and a longer piece for Laura Rawlings on her radio show.


Meanwhile inside the Academy the workshop had a good time building models of the Scout with a stream of children, who also came out to ask about the real thing.


By 1530 I was getting itchy feet, as I had to trailer the aircraft across to Biggleswade before going on down to the farthest corner of Kent for work.

But all went smoothly, and 1264 is parked in the Shuttleworth Collection ready for Sunday’s Edwardian Air Display, and I got to Ashford around 2200, tired, but happy.