quinta-feira, 1 de maio de 2008

Aircraft, flight and the desire to fly

I must appologise for the lack of new postings, I have been with Graca in Salvador for the last few days and not had time to think about writing a new note for those of you kind enough to read this blog. I see from the comments that Maria, with connections to Skegness and Butlins, is one such kind reader. I have not been to Skegness, only remember the wonderful posters that it had, I have not been to Butlins but that is more a case of my age and not any snobish attitude.
When we were children my brothers and I loved to make breakfast for my parents on Saturday or Sunday, we would boil eggs and make toast, take this with the tea, on a tray, to my mother and father still tucked up in bed. Tapped the door and waited for my mothers response, my mother always the one to say enter, we delighted at the idea of service on a tray. Not sure of the service at Butlins.
When we later went to collect the crockery we may well ask my father if he enjoyed the breakfast, if so could he let us have some pocket money in order to go and buy some materials for our hobby, making model aircraft. Nearly always he pretended to be asleep and on waking his response was' where am I', then on hearing our request for money his response was always, 'what! do you think you are at a holiday camp' ( said in a light and joking way)
Graham and his long time friend Trevor are still making model aircraft and ships but it is something that was for me part of childhood, although Michael as suggested that he was interested in having some form of flying machine in France, so there still may be a chance for my childhood dream, to make and fly an aircraft, to come to fruition. Grand father, Lewis Hill, worked at the carriage works in Birmingham fitting out the railway carriages with veneered and inlaid wooden panels and during the first world war was billeted in London but for some reason, that only my brothers could answer at the moment(they are in Birmingham and I am in Bahia) during the war he was to become involved in the making of wooden bi-planes for the RAF. I have the memory of the tip of a Sopwith Camel's propellor having been turned into a picture frame, by grand father, sitting on the sideboard with a photo of my grand mother in it, also ash trays in the house were the casings of shells used by the RAF .
Grandfather mentioned two stories of the times he had in the factory constructing these planes. One was when he, as chief inspection officer, on seeing some small holes in the aircrafts wooden spars, ordered the removeal and replacement of the wing, much to the displeasure of the chaps constructing the plane, however he was proven correct as the wing had wood worm in it. The other story was that he had to run round the small airfield with a wheel from the Sopwith that had just got airborn and was circuling to gain height, the pilot would have been completely unaware of the fact that it had fallen off during take off and grandfather needed to let the pilot know that he had problems when he wanted to land. Before radio communication and cellular phones it was often left to the lungs for transmitting information, not that this was only the case for emergencies, I remember the ladies in Handsworth and West Bromwich standing at one end of the street and shouting to their friends at the other end just to have a conversation, often the folks in West Bromwich spoke a completely different languge to that which was spoken in Handsworth.
My brothers and I would go into the near by fields with our model aircraft and could easily be all day Saturday flying them, although most times the inevitable crashes would have us return for lunch and repairs then go flying again after the glue had set. The progress of small gliders to radio controlled models and line controlled model aircraft, which included a short period of us constructing working models of ram jet engines which were also flown off long lines. Hellish noisy when you did manage to get the small beasts started. Models are great for the training skills and giving chidren an idea of patience but I guess the other skills that Malcolm and I developed from reading books were slightly less usefull in peacetime Europe. Malcolm and I studied one book on the origions of fireworks and their early use by the Chinese in war. This led to us building rockets from the spent carpet tubes, got from the local carpet shop,then on to smelting iron with ferric oxide, aluminium oxide and magnesium ribbon, then onto the making and drying of nitro glycerine, all of these with some high degree of success.
One delight for all my brothers and I was to visit the Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden, there they had a collection of old aircraft that they would not only display on the ground put fly and the whole sense of flight would be transformed into reallity with these flimsy contraptions hovering and diving over head. By the way the motor bike reminds me of the 1949 BSA that I had at college and the 1973 Norton Commando that I had for many years before I sold both of them to my bank manger.

Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth
When Richard was a young boy he was happiest tinkering with cars and any available mechanical device and often got into trouble at school for arriving late to lessons covered in grease. He passed out of Sandhurst as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 16th/5th Lancers, and during his time in the army, he pursued various sporting interests like his father had done. According to his father's will he finally came of age at 23 and inherited the family fortune and was then able to concentrate on the management of the estate. He was also then free to pursue his mechanical interests, which became more and more his main occupation.

Richard built up a sizeable collection of old cars, and somewhat later, aeroplanes, restoring them to working order. These now form the nucleus of the Collection at Old Warden Aerodrome, which was also constructed by him. He had a very successful racing career, culminating in the winning of the first British Grand Prix at Donnington Park in 1935 driving his 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo Monoposto. He raced at Grand Prix worldwide and participated in the South African Grand Prix where his car went out of control and he was badly hurt. This led to his retirement from motor racing and he took up flying because 'it was safer'!

When war broke out in 1939 Richard joined the Royal Air Force and was posted to RAF Benson for night flying experience. On the night of the 1st-2nd August 1940 he was flying a cross-country training exercise in a Fairey Battle, but was killed when his aircraft crashed into a nearby hill.

For those interested in trains here is a good site http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk

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