A happy reunion

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PHILIP GORDON-MARSHALL, whose letter about pre-war flying with Italian racing drivers appeared in the April issue, writes of a happy incident which happened to him when he went to the Badminton Horse Trials at Easter. Looking up, he saw his old DH Leopard Moth, G-ACMN, purring sweetly overhead, on the Saturday. It was built in 1932, somehow survived the war, and passed back into De Havilland’s possession and when Gordon-Marshall was posted from Hatfield to Airspeed at Christchurch in 1947 it became virtually his aeroplane for many years. It was lent to an experienced pilot who smashed it badly on landing and as this coincided with Gordon-Marshall joining the Bristol Aeroplane Company, he “lost” the Leopard.

It was rebuilt by DH and sold to John Parkes, then Chairman of Alvis Ltd., who had been a qualified pilot from AAF’s 601 Squadron, before instructing at Heston, then joining DHs and later Alvin. Mr. Parkes kept the Moth in impeccable condition and continued to fly it after his retirement. He had intended to pass it on to his son Mike, had he not been tragically killed when testing a works Ferrari just when he was coming back to England for good. So Parkes let it go to Henry Labouchere, which Gordon-Marshall says was the best possible home for it, as this is a man who really understands vintage aeroplanes, does all his own maintenance of them and prefers to fly, as far as possible, in the manner of a private-owner pilot of the 1930s. He has got the Leopard back almost to as-new standard and keeps it on the remote Norfolk coast, together with his Tiger Moth.

Gordon-Marshall walked with him to see “his” old aeroplane, parked with modern types on the private landing-ground adjacent to Badminton House, surrounded by its great park. The present owner has received many high offers for it, but has refused to part with it. It was standing by an even older Puss Moth, owned by another vintage flying enthusiast, Alex Norman, son of Desmond Norman of Britten-Norman and grandson of Nigel Norman who virtually created and ran Heston, accompanied the visit to look at G-ACMN. The Normans are a family of aviators, all three of Nigel’s sons being very experienced pilots, while Alex, in the Army, is learning to become a pilot and has bought an aged Auster, he remembered that his grandfather’s Leopard Moth had the next registration to the Gordon-Marshall, Parkes, Labouchere machine.

Incidentally, Badminton owes much of its character to the Duke of Beaufort, 82, whose country seat it is. Universally known as Master, HM The Queen Mother and he made a special pair, as they walked among the visitors to the Horse Trials, the latter totalling some 200,000. The Master was prevailed upon some years ago to accept the Reg. No. MFH 1, which until recently was on his dark blue Derby Bentley, which was stable companion to a Land-Rover. We understand that His Grace now has a dark blue Ford Granada and a Range-Rover. — W.B.