Goodbye to "The Aeroplane"

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It is sad to have to bid goodbye to the The Aeroplane, the final issue of which was published last October. This lively, controversial, and respected weekly first appeared in 1911. The famous C. G. Grey became its Editor. He was outspoken, contemptuous of fools and knaves, and openly used his aviation magazine as a political platform, arguing that young men in and out of the Royal Air Force read him because of their interest in flying and could easily be persuaded into political, which to Grey meant Conservative, ways of thinking.

Before the Second World War Temple Press took over the paper, as a rival to Iliffe’s Flight, and it really forged ahead. Grey demanded a proportion of its pages in which his views would be published unaltered, which must have given the Directors and legal advisers at Temple Press a bad time. His fatal mistake came with the war. Grey was always an admirer of Germany and on the eve of hostilities he predicted that Britain would never again go to war with Germany. (I remember sitting in a Ruby Austin 7 reading this, a day before war was declared, and feeling immensely relieved!) He retired soon afterwards! With a change of Editor The Aeroplane changed almost immediately and was never the same paper again. Now it has been incorporated with Flight which has a 30,000 circulation, compared to Aeroplane’s 10,000 in recent times.

Grey, who wrote his leading weekly aviation article for 28 years without missing a single issue, signing all his writings with the cryptic initials CGG, is remembered for many things. Before he died I timidly asked him for a contribution to our “Cars I have Owned” series. It was immediately forthcoming, with no demand for payment. Two of his sage remarks I recall with relish. CGG was a great enemy of the R.A.F. at Farnborough in its early days, regarding it as a timewasting institution, among other things. Asked if he would be alarmed if he were to find himself at its gates, Grey replied: “Good Lord no; they don’t know enough about aeroplanes down there to know who I am.” Another splendid retort, which appeared in print, came when the increasing use of aeroplanes by the Royal Family was being publicised and it became known that H.M. the Queen would have the use of R.A.F. communications machines. Instead of enthusing, CGG pointed out that an aeroplane is the only vehicle which cannot stand still in the element in which it moves, ending a long editorial on aviation safety with the remark that if the Queen was going to make use of aeroplanes for travelling to official engagements he could only conclude by saying “God Save The Queen”.

Rumour says that Grey’s one-time No. 1, Thurstan James, may write a biography of the famous Editor under whom he worked. I hope that he will.—W. B.

(If any readers should have pre-1940 copies of The Aeroplane to dispose of I would like to hear from them, so that I may read again the CGG comments I so enjoyed in my youth.—Ed.)