An Occasional Section Devoted to Aeronautical Affairs
Commemorating a DH Anniversary
ON SEPTEMBER 10th 1910 Sir Geoffrey de NeviHand, son of a clergyman, who was to found the great aeroplane company that bore his name, first became aware that his home-built biplane could fly, because, as he careered downhill in a field at Seven Barrows, Cr. Easton, in Hampshire, it rose a few inches above the earth, as confirmed by Frank Hearle, who had been asked to lie down on the grass as the machine went past, to confirm the fact. Sir Geoffrey died in 1965 and his ashes were scattered over this, his Hess flying-field, from a Trident. In 1966 Lord Porchester unveiled a memorial stone beside the histonc site. This year, on the 70th anniversary of the first flight by a DH aeroplane, the De Havilland Moth Club decided that this date should be properly commemorated. It was some cotnmenuiration! GEOFFREY de HAVILLAND ASSISTED 10 ‘RANK HLARLE CARRIED 0111 HP, FIRST FLIGHT IN HIS HOME MADE AEROPLANE HERE AT SEVEN UA R ROWS Ill ,PTEMULR I910
THE plaque at Seven Barrows, within yards of the bus.s. .434 Newbu,Winchester road.
To its credit the club had its tribute on the correct day — September 10th, even though this fell on a Wednesday. The day was splendidly informal, with no red-tape. and no landing fees . . . And as far as I know, in contrast to what happens at old-car meets, none of the machines taking part came on trailers! It was rotten luck that the day commenced with high, gusty winds and torrential rain. As I drove to the site from Wales that morning I expected to see very few aeroplanes present, and the thought occurred that any that arrived might have been flown by headstrong pilots (“Better to be late, Mr. Pilot, than the late Mr. Pilot”, as they used to saY before the war,. However, the rain stopped and as we drove in there was to be seen a whole line of the right kind of aeroplanes sheltering by the roadside hedge in the stubble field in which they had landed — the field from which DH first flew, 70 years before. More machines were coming in, and their pilots exhibited much skill in getting them onto the ground under the difficult conditions prevailing. One pilot came straight in, mother seemed rather close to a tree on the approach boundary, a monoplane that shall Otherwise go unidentified threw up a clod of earth as Os starboard wheel touched before it was Properly down, most of them prudently did a circuit, but none had to open-up and go round
I found I was soon writing-down identification letters like any keen schoolboy, and being introduced to DH celebrities by Philip Gordon-Marshall, from Sheila Scott backwards, as it were. At the time of my casual count it included a Tiger Moth that had arrived from France the day before, augmented by six more civilian Tiger Moths, G-AJHU, G-BGGS (also displaying its RAF No. DF-210), G-AIRI (marked on onc side of its fuselage only). G-ANZU, G-ACDJ (“The Famous Grouse”) and G-ACOC the oldest Tiger Moth still flying). Then there were three more Tigers, Royal Navy T-8191 and RAF T-8191 and NM-781 (G-AZGZ), and two Jackaroos;the Tiger with the cabin, G-AOIR and G-ABAM. Pride of place went to the first in this nostalgic line up, the Gipsy Moth G-AEEV”Joan”, its wings folded, and a decal saying that its prudent owner lubricates its engine with Canted. This was the Moth that deputised for Amy Johnson’s “Jason” at the Croydon commemoration earlier this year of that girl pilot’s great Croydon-Australia Hight. Then there was the DH Leopard Moth, G-ACMN, a Pratt and Witney DH Army Beaver, a DH Chipmonk and they were still landing when I went off for sandwiches in the Rover. The only gatecrasher was the Arrow Active biplane G-ABVE, wearing its racing number 48. and that has a Gipsy engine. So there were these typically de Havilland aeroplanes in this Hampshire stubblefield, with a girl riding
about on a horse in the background keeping out interlopers and her father, Bill Hardy, who shares G-AJHU. had arrived in his blower 41/2 Bentley seeing the scene nicely in the past.
The gum-booted Rev, Paddy Raine, DFC, Rector of Crux Easton, who remarked that his first flight had been in a Dominic or DH.A biplane, held a short Service by the memorial stone, and a DH wreath was placed thereon. Grp.-Capt. John Cunningham, CBE, DSO the great DH test-pilot, reading the lesson and also an extract from the book “Sky Fever”, about Sir Geoffrey’s 1910 hop.
Then, dead on schedule that afternoon, a Sea Heron and a Sea Devon of 781 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy, flew over to pay their tribute, followed by a DH Comet from the Experimental Flying Squadron, RAE Farnborough, which pulled up after its fly-past in a great blast of power, a fitting tribute to 70 years of de Havilland endeavour (I confess I had hoped to see one of the pre-war racing DH Comets, to which the Vicar had referred in his address). The Army Air Corps also did a little demo with the Beaver but when we left the British Aerospace DH Mosquito had failed to arrive, nor had the rumoured landing by a DH Dragon Rapide happened. But I was very glad indeed to have been present. It may never happen again.