Veteran Types -With a Difference



Veteran Types With a Difference

The cult of restoring and running veteran cars is well known to readers of MOTOR SPORT but the mind rather boggles at the thought of veteran aeroplanes restored in this manner and still capable or being flown. Yet quite a number of serviceable pre-I914 machines exist and never fail to please alike vintage-minded enthusiasts and the general public when skilled pilots of today, notably Air-Cmdr. Wheeler, 0.B.E., Cp.-Capt. Snaith, A.F.0 , Sqdn.-Ldr. Banner, D.F.C., Wing-Corn. Calnan, Lt.-Com. Quill, 0.B.E., A.F.C., R. F. Martin, J. A. Kent, and R. G. J. Nash, etc., display them. To throw more light on this fascinating off-shoot of veteranism, MOTOR SPORT presents two articles, one by Air-Cmdr. Wheeler on the aeroplanes of the Shuttleworth Trust, and the other some notes by the Editor on those in the R. G. J. Nash collection.


SOMEWHERE about the middle of the last century an engineer invented something to do with steam engines which made them work a bit better. He had a works which made largely agricultural machinery, but his engineering ability and the steam engine invention made his company so successful that they contributed in no small degree to the development of railways during the remainder of the nineteenth century.

This engineer passed on to his grandson, Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, three things which had a considerable influence on his life and provided for this country one of the few really good collections of historical vehicles and aeroplanes which exist today.

The three things were an amazing skill and understanding in engineering matters ; a terrific enthusiasm for mechanical things ; and a fortune of about a million and a half in money. Without these three assets the collection which we have today could never have been made.

Pilot-Officer Richard 0. Shuttleworth was killed flying as a Pilot-Officer in the R.A.F. in 1940. He left his very considerable fortune to his mother, who set aside a proportion of it as a Remembrance Trust, the object of which was education, in its widest aspects, of boys in the art of aviation and farming.

The reason for these two interests was that much of the capital of the Trust comprised the Old Warden Estate in Bedfordshire, which covered about 9,000 acres of good farming land and which was one of Richard Shuttleworth’s interests. Another interest, and perhaps the prevailing one, was aviation. Still other Interests were motor racing and collecting early motor cars of historical interest and making them work. He included in this museum all forms of transport such as bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles.

Richard Shuttleworth learnt to fly in about 1981. In about 1933 a man who kept a garage in Ampthill told Shuttleworth that he had two aeroplanes in which he might be interested ; one was a 1909 Type XI (serial No. 14) Bleriot monoplane and the other was a 1911 Type 148 Deperdussin. The only conditions made on handing over these aeroplanes were that they should be given a good home and that an adjoining shed which was absolutely full to the roof with empty five-gallon oil drums should be cleared out at the same time.

We drove over in two lorries and dealt with the second condition first. We then removed the two aeroplanes, one in each lorry. The Deperdussin was more or less in one piece, stored with the wings off, but the Bleriot monoplane had had its fuselage cut in half and the back half had been standing outside on a scrap heap. In order to remove it we had to cut down an elder tree which was nearly 20 feet high.

This was what really started Richard Shuttleworth on his collection of veteran aircraft.

Between 1984 and 1939 other types were added to the collection ; a 1912 Blackburn monoplane with a 50-h.p. Gnome rotary engine, which was not finished until last year, and which many people at the R.A.E. saw flying in the summer ; a 1016 Sopwith Pup, which was found and built up fairly quickly and first test flown in 1937; and lastly a Hanriot biplane with a 110-h.p. le Rhone engine, which had been flown as a fighter in about 1917. The Sopwith Pup had been originally owned by a pilot from the 1914-18 war. It was never quite clear how he had originally obtained it but the interesting thing about his operations was that when asked how he got on about a Certificate of Airworthiness a puzzled look came over his face and he said, “A Certificate of Airworthiness ? What’s that ? ” And when questioned further as to his Pilot’s Licence still further bewilderment was apparent on his face as he asked what that was too. However, he seemed to have got along very well flying the Pup without either of these for a number of

years, until it was broken in landing, some time after 1980.

The method of obtaining possession of the Blackburn monoplane illustrates very well how those three assets of Richard Shuttleworth’s came in so useful. The remnants of this particular aeroplane were believed to be under a hayrick, but the farmer was unwilling to move the hay to have a look and, in any case, the remains weren’t thought to be worth very much. Shuttleworth bought the hayrick complete and removed the hay to his own farm. The remains of the Blackburn went along in the last load of hay and it was, in fact, found to be in quite reasonable condition.

The Hanriot biplane was bought by Richard Shuttleworth in Brussels for a relatively small number of francs and flown by him across the Channel to Old Warden. It was unfortunately crashed in 1988 after a demonstration flight, owing to some misguided helper taking out the pin which held one of the wheels on, and forgetting to put it back. Richard took oft from Brooklands Aerodrome to return to Old Warden and, as he left, the wheel continued on along the ground. When he landed at Old Warden aerodrome the aeroplane immediately turned upsidedown. This was not such a great loss as it might appear, since there is very little historical interest attached to the Hanriot biplane, belonging as it did to very much the same period as the Stpwith Pup. Another very interesting aeronautical relic which has not yet been rebuilt, and may prove too expensive in these days, is the “Frost Ornithopter.” This was a steam-driven vehicle with very large

bicycle wheels, and wings which were constructed of wooden spars and turkey feathers sewn along the trailing edge. The engine has now been made to work again and’ chuffs” quite happily at about zero r.p.m. The wings unfortunately are little more than rust and dry rot. The story is that Mr. Frost constructed this some time during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and gave a luncheon party to witness the first test Might one summer’s day. The somewhat unauthentic report says that the Ornithopter ran along a field under flt11 steam and hit a hedge about 10 feet up. The designer-test pilot went to hospital for six weeks and this particular line of development was discontinued. One day this machine may be rebuilt and re-tested. If it should ever fly, which seems unlikely from the design, we should have to reconsider aviation history, but as things stand now it would seem that the Wright Brothers’ record is pretty safe.

Besides the veteran aeroplanes the Trust -also inherited the complete collection of veteran motor ears, cycles, hobby-horses and horse-drawn vehicles, which Richard Shuttleworth had collected during his life. These date back from 1904 to about 1815 when the first hobby horses were put on the road. All these vehicles are slowly being overhauled and put into running order, just as the aeroplanes are, so it is hoped that in years to come there will be nothing in the Museum which doesn’t work just as it did when it was first made —sometimes perhaps even better— although modifications are not allowed in rebuilding, however attractive such modifications might be. One of the difficulties experienced in rebuilding these ancient aeroplanes is in finding out exactly how the original one Was built. The early designers had a disconcerting habit of using bits from their early designs to make up another .design, or perhaps someone who bought

one of the early models gat tired of it. tried to build one of his own and cut off bits from the original. This particularly happened in the case of the Blackburn monoplane which, when put together, was clearly unbalanced about the position where the C. of G. should have been. After reference to early Plight and Aeroplane photographs and careful scaling up of the pictures, it. was found that 18 inches of longeron had been cut off just behind the engine bearers, and absolutely all trace of them removed. After this discovery was made, rebuilding proceeded quickly.

At the present time nearly all the available money of the Trust is being absorbed in getting the Agricultural College started, and the aviation side is kept going, and just making headway, by taking on outside work such at aeroplane overhauls, etc. It also gets quite considerable assistance from the aviation industries, many Of whom take a farsighted interest in this activity.

In the future, when more of the Trust money becomes available for developing the aviation side, it will be possible to expand the flying museum considerably and build up many of the interesting early aeroplanes, such as the Antoinette, and 1914-18 war types such as the S.E.5a and Bristol Fighter. It is, however, sutprising how much money can be spent on rebuilding even the most primitive original types of aeroplane. The aeroplane itself can cost anything up to /600 for rebuilding, particularly when the metal fittings or castings need renewing. The rebuilding of these historic types of aeroplanes presents some special problems, the chief of which is the almost complete lack of reliable drawings or in fo maim% True, there are many sketches and photographs in the contemporary Press, but it is remarkable haw the detail one particularly requires is always just out of the picture. Useful information can also be obtained from the ever dwindling band of pioneer aviators, but here, not surprisingly, memory after a lapse of some forty years is liable to play tricks. The various museum collections, both here and abroad, can also yield some valuable information, and the manufacturers, if still in business; are always most willing to help, if as some

happens, any records remain in their archives.

The work of reconstruction required varies greatly. It is surprising how the old wood and fabric structures will remain in sound condition over a long period, provided they have been well stored in good condition. Indeed, it seems that given good storage and attention the life of these lightly loaded machines Will be indefinite.

It is always a temptation, in the interests of safety and mechanical strength, to modify the original design, and although some concession to modern practice must occasionally be included, these differences must be kept to the minimum. Machines like the Bleriot and the Deperdussin, with an all-up weight, including pilot, of 600-700 /b., are very under-powered and are extremely susceptible to weight increase. It is usually necessary to refabric extensively, and a close watch must be kept on the weight of fabric and the dope applied.

The engines are of a relatively simple type and, although the automatic inlet valves usually fitted render these motors somewhat temperamental, the overhaul and maintenance problems raise no difficulty. Incidentally, handbooks for these early engines can usually be found if one searches long enough. It has been found that 680 or S.P.B.1 fuel suits them best, although they will run quite well on standard Pool ” petrol.

Rebuilding an engine is almost out of the question owing to expense, but one can usually find sufficient bits of the original engine which can be reconditioned and made serviceable again: Even so the engine could cost another £000. It is for this reason that whenever we hear of an early type of engine, previous to, say, 1928, we are extremely anxious to get hold of it and pat it in store against the day when it wail be required for patting into its appropriate airframe.


O fewer than a dozen pre-1919 aeroplanes have been collected together by R. G. J. Nash. wellknown sprint driver in pre-war days who afterwards turned his attention to early transport vehicles which he !tepee will eventually form a permanent Museum. His oldest aeroplane, a 1909 Type XI Bleriot monoplane, he discove’red in a builders’ yard near Newcastle. The owner of this aeroplane went to the Bleriot works a week after M. Bleriot’s great cross-Channel flight and brought it, No. 5 to leave the works, home to England towards the end of 1909. He used to run the engine up in his yard and Nash was shown dents in the wall made by the propellors when they flew to pieces! He found the fuselage hanging up in the roof of a shed. The rest of it he reconstructed from material supplied by Bleriot Aero

nautique drawings. The work was finished before the war and Nash Out in nearly two hours’ flying. in the Bleriot at Brooklands, the 22/25-1t.p. threecylinder fan-type Anzani engine with automatic inlet valves and eoil ignition, propelling it satisfactorily above the stalling speed of _85-37 m.p.h. about 100 feet above the ground. Incidentally, these Anzani engines were designed for cycle-pacing motor-cycles, but al. Bleriot decided they were just the job for Rita.

Nash learnt to fly at Shoreham on .-kvro 5048 and had owned his own Klemm. Ire had no difficulty in obtaining a special certificate from the Air Ministry enabling him to fly any of his early aeroplanes providing they did not go over populated places.

His next three machines he found in Havre. All were Bleriot monoplanes, a 1909 Type XI No. 54, the oldest proaluetion aeroplane of this make in existence in original condition, a 1010 Type Xla NO. 104, and a 1911 Type XXVII Gordon Bennett racer, No. 433. The two former were presented to Nash by M. Molon, early racing driver and aviator, who flew one of them at the first Doncaster Meeting and at ‘Icahn, Verona, Rotten, etc., in 1909-10, making a height record of 600 ft. No. 164 has a •six;cylinder 40/45-hp. Anzani engine and does about 45-50 m.p.h. The Gordon Bennett machine Was flown .eontemparatily by _test pilot Le Blithe at Hardelot and Long Island, doing 70 M.p.h. It has a sevencylinder 50-11:p. Gnome rotary engine which starts easily and took off an about twice its own length when Nash flew it at Brooklands before the war.

The problem of getting these Bleriots. home wasn’t as great as it might appear, for the General Steam. Navigation Co. shipped them unerated to the Thames., transferred them in mid-stream to a lighter and left them undamaged at the London docks, from whence Dick took them to Weybridge in his Ford lorry.

The next ” find “was nothing less than a 1912 G8 Caudron tractor biplane with a 90-11.p. Amami engine which was languishing at Brussels. Ken Waller volunteered to fly it to Brooklands, where he duly arrived by way of Calais and Lympne, itecompanied by a watchful Moth ! The Caudron eruised at some (10 (15 Hip. It. Nash now heard of a 1913 Maurice Farman pasher biplane at the Farman aerodretne at Hue. He went to investigate and discovered it waaa prototype of the F.40 used by our R.F.C., but, as Maurice Farman’s personal machine, which he flew to Hendon prior to 1914, had a 130-lap. V12 Renault engine instead of the 80-1t.p. fitted later. It had been flown at various French aerial fetes up to 1933 and M. Farman ..gladly presented it to Nash, delivering it in vast elates which Vickers assisted to unpack. After reassembly Nash flew the Faratim at )3rooklatels and in displays at Hendon, Northoll , etc.. It did the BrooklandsHendon journey in about half an hour. The next veteran sort of dropped in on Someone flew a 1914 Avro 504 .biplane with Clerget rotary engine from Scotland to Brooklands and announced that he had no further use for it. It remained in the collection and was recently completely and very beautifully reconditioned by A. V. Roe, who called in old employees, Many of them retired, to do the work. It was flown at this year’s R.A.F. Display, when it made a Command Performance before H.M. the King

France gave Nash his next veterans, in the farm of two 1916 Sopwith Scheeiders with Le Rhone rotary engines started by winding handles in the cockpit. Alas, these, and two of the Bleriots, were badly damaged when the Germans bombed Brooklands in 1940.

A 1917 Sopwith Camel was located in Essex. It needed considerable restoration, but is now complete, even to its two Machine pins. It was without its engine, but when I asked Dick if this wasn’t a major snag, he replied, ” On no, I had a couple of Clerget rotaries in my stock of Le Rhone, Anzani and other engines.” This Camel has the 140-lap. engine and belonged to the Lafayette Eseadrille. It has not yet flown since reconstruction. While in France. Nash heard a rumour of an antique used for charities in Belgium and later for flint work in France. It was run to earth near Versailles and proved to be a 1917 D VIII Fokker biplane which had belonged to Jadstaffel 71 and later the famous Richthofen Squadron. It is probably the last left intact. Nash was intrigued to find a bullet hole in the exhaust manifold and others, patched up, in the radiator. Stack to the bottom of the joystick was a dented 1890 One Pfennig win. When war broke out this Fokker was being 01…admitted and its 189-11.p. Mercedes engine runs. It was displayed as a static exhibit at the S.B.A.C. Display.

Nashat last aeroplane is a 1918 S.E.5 with 200-h.p. Wolaeley Viper engine, but it is not yet in flying condition.

Nash is most painstaking over restoration and painting his aeroplanes correctly. Ile runs them on ordinary aviation fuel and XL oil, using R for the rotaries. It will be appreciated that, as with old cars, veteran aeroplanes (of whieh those from 1009-10 can be said to be equivalent to ” Brighton ” cars, those of 1912-14 to represeat the ” EdWardiana” and those of 191.6-18 or biter the ” vintage ” types) exist in good order, not only as valuable museum pieces but capable Of being flown for the entertainrnent and education tithe pitlilie or for the enjoyment of trne-believers at private parties. I am all for t his ! If you know of any more machines tucked away anywhere, please say set