Monday, 7 December 2015

At the Museum of Croydon

Today a volunteer Ian (our faithful courier) and myself delivered the Croydon Calling pop up exhibition to the Museum of Croydon where it will be on display until Saturday 9 January 2016. Museum Opening times are Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am to 5pm and they are located in the centre of Croydon in Croydon Clocktower on Katherine St - see the website for more
The model of Hengist
information. The exhibition itself is in the research room and around the museum area rather than in the actual museum itself.

The Museum of Croydon does boast a model aircraft hanging from the ceiling to represent Croydon Airport and its importance in the local area in the 1920s and 30s. The model is that of Imperial Airways Handley Page (HP) 42 Hengist. These aircaft (HP 42) would have been seen regularly flying to and from Croydon Airport on the European (or West) route and the African and Indian (or East) routes for Imperial Airways Limited. There is more about the HP42 in this post from August.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Visit the Soviet Union 1937

Croydon Airport Society's archives often throws up surprises and sometimes ones that have very little to do
with Croydon Airport itself. I certainly was not expecting to find a tourist brochure to the Soviet Union, let alone one dating to 1937. 1937 was the start of one of Stalin's most terrible political purges, known as the Great Purge or Grea Terror, in which it is estimated (depending which historian you read) that 690,000 to almost 2 million people were executed.

Pictured to the left is a travel brochure in the Monk Collection at Croydon Airport. Produced to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the October Socialist Revolution, the brochure gives a guide to improvements achieved in factories, leisure, education, agriculture and more across the Soviet Union. Unsurprisingly this brochure makes no mention of the mass arrests, internments and shootings but promises that 'the Soviet Union offers something of interest to every type of traveller'.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Captain Franklyn Barnard Catalogued (almost)

Photograph of Barnard after he had won the Kings Cup in 1922
Further to our last post on Franklyn Barnard, our intrepid volunteers Graham and Malcolm have almost finished recording all the material in the Barnard File. The excel spreadsheet now reads like a strange biography of the pilot's life from World War One to his death in an accident in 1927. Items such as cufflinks, his pilots logbooks from 1916 to 1927, a vast array of photographs, newspaper clippings, letters and poignant letters of condolence to his widow have now been recorded.

Newspaper cuttings include: Front page of Daily Sketch with headline "Airman's Devoted Dog." Account of motor accident at Waddon. Picture of Brownie and Mrs Barnard (1921); pilots of Imperial Airways at Croydon  singing "Auld Lang Syne"
after a stike had been settled (date unknown; and a Daily Mail article on Sir Samuel Hoare, British Air Minister, flying to India to inaugurate the air service between Cairo and Karachi (1 January 1927) - see image left.

One letter from Barnard records his frustration with getting newspaper headlines and public acclaim for winning the Kings Cup, but hardly any attention at all for systematically carrying passengers safely from further afield place to place. Barnard embraced civil aviation and, unlike many pilots, was an advocate for the safety features of radio plotting and signals that would become standard but were first trialled by traffic Control at Croydon Airport. The material in the file gives an insight into this World War One pilot who became a record breaker and a pioneer in safe civil aviation.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Captain Raymond Hinchliffe and Seances

One of the pilots' log books that Croydon Airport Society has in its collection has a strange final entry. The log book is a copy of Captain Raymond Hinchliffe's original logbook which was published by his daughter in 1986. The last entry is in the handwriting of Mrs Emilie Hinchliffe, his wife, dated to 13 March 1928 at 08.35 with himself and E. Mackay as a passenger. It comprises messages received through Mrs Garrett, spiritualist medium, and Mrs Egerton:

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Halloween at Croydon Airport

We are open for Museums at Night tonight 6-9pm (last admission 8.30pm) and here is a ghost story I shall tell to wet your appetite: 

A former member of Croydon Airport Society, Margaret White was a pilot at the airport in the 1950s. Leaving the airport late at night by the fur tree (still up the road) near what was then Merton Air Services' hangar, she quickened her pace as the night was 'dark and stormy' and she could hear thunder in the distance. A flash of lightning crackled through the rain. A brilliant green beacon came on and Margaret saw the clear outline of a pilot, dressed in 1930s gear. It went dark again and the pilot was gone.

Margaret's vision of a pilot on a dark and stormy night took place near to where the ghost of a Dutch pilot was seen, who was filled in the fog after taking off from Croydon (probably in the 1935 KLM Fokker crash). Various stories were told of seeing this pilot, though few were as odd as a British pilot who was warned from behind him not to take off due to the foggy weather; when the pilot turned round it was the dead Dutch airman in his flying kit.

Strangely, though, there are not many recorded ghost stories about Croydon Airport. If any one knows of some we'd love to hear them.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Captain Franklyn L. Barnard & Cataloguing

Graham and Malcolm checking the material
One of the tasks the Hidden Heritage of Croydon Airport project is doing is getting our archives in better order. Some of the files that have a great deal of historical material, i.e. original material such as letters, log books and photographs, have been repacked into archive boxes. Now intrepid volunteers Graham and Malcolm have started cataloging the material in the boxes for cross references and so each box can have an inventory.

The first file they are doing is the file of Captain Franklyn Leslie Barnard. Barnard's file contains his logbooks from World War One through to his last flights in 1927 as well as letters, many photographs and even some cuff links.

Barnard was born in 1896 and joined the Royal Flying Corps in June 1916 but was struck down
after only a few months in the air, attempting to save a fellow airman. He returned to active service in 1918. After the war Barnard became chief pilot for Instone Air Line and then for Imperial Airways from 1924, for whom he piloted many pioneering passenger routes, such as to Cairo (1924) and further afield to Delhi (1927). His file is full of photographs, such as the one to the right, showing people he had flown or was about to fly to exotic places, often signed. This one is unusual in depicting a famous sight rather than an airport or aerodrome. 

Barnard is perhaps most well known for winning the first Kings Cup Race on 8 September 1922. The Kings Cup Race was a race from Croydon airport to Glasgow, a night's stop and then back again the next day. It was began by King George V to encourage aircraft design and engineering. Barnard won it again in 1924 but there'll be more on the Kings Cup Race in another blog.

In cataloguing Barnard's file we have found menus, lots of postcards and invitations which ave given an insight into the life of a distinguished pilot in the 1920s. One permit gives Barnard permission from the Swiss government to carry a firearm while flying gold bullion through the country's airspace. Clearly a pilot had to act as security as well in such missions.

Barnard died in a flying accident in July 1927, while testing an aircraft for another go at the Kings Cup Race. It was a tragic loss to civil aviation and the number of condolences to his widow in the file illustrate how deeply he was mourned by pilots and people connected to aviation across the world.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Exhibition Tours Sutton Libraries

Our exhibition based on this blog went to Wallington Library today and will be there until Saturday 24 October. It'll be transferred to the Phoenix Centre library on the Roundshaw estate on Tuesday 27 October, just in time for a dance performance, until Monday 1 November.

The Flight of Dance at the Phoenix Centre (part of Sutton's Imagine festival) will take place on Tuesday 27 October at 10.50, 11, 11.20 & 11.40 and is a performance by pupils from Forresters' primary school. They're using some of Amy Johnson's cinefilm from Croydon Airport Society's archives as backdrop. You can book free tickets here.

The exhibition will then go to the Europa Gallery at Sutton Central Library from Tuesday 3 November to Monday 9 November.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Brief Coda to the Visit of King Amanuallah

U3A member Mike Holmewood has previously blogged about the visits of VIPs and foreign
royalty to Croydon, particularly the visit of King Amanuallah of Afghanistan. As a coda to that blog, here is a photograph of Captain Walter Rogers with the King that is in the file on Rogers in the Croydon Airport Society Archive. (Rogers also flew Josephine Baker back to Paris after her performance on 29 January 1929.) The King was sio impressed by Rogers and the airport that he awarded him a medal. Unfortunately though, the pilot was also commanded by Buckingham Palace only to wear the medal on certain occasions as stipulated by the letter below.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Why Josephine Baker flew in and out of Croydon in a day.

Last Thursday, attendees at the Museum of Croydon were treated to an account of why Josephine Baker made a mad dash to Croydon Airport and then to London to attend a charity performance by Dr Gemma Romain. We have blogged before about the remarkable photographs of Baker that Croydon Airport Society has in its archives (one that has not previously been blogged is below). It was on the basis of these that we invited Dr Romain, curator of Spaces of Black British Modernism (Tate Britain October 2014 - 5 October 2015), to research and present a talk for us.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Flying to the Past: This Saturday

A taster of two of the talks we have for Flying to the Past this Saturday:

Michael McCluskey (UCL), Croydon Calling: The Airport and Interwar Networks

Photograpg from Olley Expedition
A key player in the spread of communication, transportation, and information networks throughout the interwar period was the Croydon Airport. In this talk I explore the significance of Croydon as a pivotal site for the expansion air travel, economic development, and British influence around the world through a discussion of documentary films on flight from the 1930s. Croydon was the starting off point for what would become a ‘chain of aerodromes’ that supplanted the ‘old highways’ of land travel. Each aerodrome was intended not just as a launching and landing point but a force for economic development in the local area. Croydon was the familiar model for filmmakers to show off and help audiences to understand the airport itself as a complex network of social, commercial, and technological operations. It also served as a symbol of the image of modern Britain that public relations experts wanted to project: advanced, efficient, and on the move.

Michael McCluskey is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English, University College London. His current research project looks at amateur films and home movies of the 1920s and 30s.

Amara Thornton (UCL), The Travelling Archaeologist

Photograph at Persepolis from Olley Expedition
To ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ add ships, camels and horses. These are the modes of transport archaeologists used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to take them to the ancient sites they aimed to explore. Drawing on archaeologists’ archives and published memoirs, I will reveal the archaeologist as traveller, taking a closer look at how transportation effected archaeology and the archaeological experience.

Travel was (and remains) one of the most routine and yet most intriguing elements of archaeological life. It’s been captured in fiction and non-fiction – in books, films and television. Focusing on British archaeologists heading to the East, I will examine the ways in which transport and the experience of transport changed over time, and how travel played an important role in enriching and expanding the archaeological network and cementing a particular vision of archaeologists in the public imagination.

Amara Thornton is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Her research currently focuses on the history of popular publishing in archaeology, investigating how archaeologists captured and packaged their experience in print for a general readership.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

U3A member Robin Dewell on a horrific crash at Croydon Airport:


KLM Liner Crashes in Fog a Mile from
Croydon Airport


     One of the worst disasters in the history of early aviation occurred on December 19 1936 when a K.L.M. Douglas DC-2 crashed into an empty semi-detached house in Hillcrest road, Purley, and burst into flames. Less than a mile from Croydon Airport the giant Liner had taken off just a few minutes earlier in mid-morning.

The dead included Senor de la Cierva (below left) the inventor and developer of the Autogiro.

The aeroplane's conventional engine and propeller would enable it to move forward and take off as normal. Air flowing past the rotor would turn it like the sails of of a windmill creating sufficient lift upon the wing-like rotor blades to raise the aircraft into the air and keep it there.

Whilst correct in theory, Cierva's early prototype (a five-bladed version) tended to turn over on its side due to uneven lift. To overcome this Cierva devised attaching the blades to the rotor head via “flapping hinges“ which varied the lift between advancing and trailing rotor blades.

The development of the autogyro was a very necessary step forward in the progress of helicopters.
The C.8L became the first rotorcraft to cross the English Channel between Croydon and Le Bourget, on September 18 1928.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Living Near the Airport: Accidents

U3A member Peter Day continues his post on the sometimes dangerous consequences of living near Croydon Airport:

Nothing was more likely to raise a storm of complaint, though, than an aeroplane crashing close to the airport, especially if it collided with a nearby house - such events were not infrequent: 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Living near the Airport: The Aerodrome's Location

U3A member Peter Day writes on the disturbance caused by living near Croyon Airport:

In 1915 a small aerodrome was established at Beddington, one of a ring of such aerodromes built to protect London from Zeppelin raids. In 1918 another small airport, Waddon, was opened on the other side of Plough Lane to be used for test flights from the National Aircraft Factory No1. Plough Lane is the road running north from Russell Hill on this old map (on the left).

After the First World War these two aerodromes were combined (and Plough Lane eventually disappeared - though initially traffic was stopped to allow aircraft to arrive and depart) to become Croydon aerodrome, which opened in 1920. The buildings you can see now were part of a later development and the aerodrome entered a second phase in 1928.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Gold Bullion Robbery: 1935 Part II

Robin Dewell continues his story of the Goild Bullion robbery at Croydon Airport in 1935 in the stye of the newspapers at the time:




“DANGEROUS MAN.” |           IN   CROYDON.


After a trial lasting three days and occupying seventeen hours, Cecil Swanland, a forty-seven years old artist, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude by the Recorder of Croydon, when the jury found him guilty of complicity in the in the theft of bullion from the strong room at Croydon Aerodrome.

Two other men originally charged had been discharged at different stages of the trial.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

£21,000 BULLION ROBBERY: 1935

A post from U3A member Robin Dewell written in the style of a 1930s newspaper:

''Little Harry'', Shonk and 'This is Gold'!
The hearing of evidence against three men charged with being concerned in the theft of £21,000 worth of gold bars, gold sovereigns and gold US dollars from 'The Strong Room' of Imperial Airways at Croydon Aerodrome continued at Croydon Borough Police Court on Tuesday March 21st. It was described as ''a very clever and carefully thought out crime''. An early morning taxicab ride from King's Cross to Purley Way, a wait, and then a drive back to North London with three heavy boxes, followed by a chimney set on fire by what was being burned in the grate in the lodgings of one of the accused. There was also a complaint that the landlady of the lodgings had been approached by a man ''If you take my advice you will have nothing to do with it''. The presiding magistrate then issued a stern warning against any further intimidation of witnesses.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Celebrity of the Skies: Captain O. P. Jones

Cheryl Bailey finishes her pieces on the Silver Wing Service with a maverick celebrity pilot:

The Silver Wing flights from Croydon to Le Bourget, Paris in the 1930s were a feature of the celebrity lifestyle of the time and the pilots involved became celebrities too. Foremost among them was Capt. Oscar Philip Jones, known simply as 'O.P.' to his friends and colleagues but certainly not to the other staff of Croydon Airport and Imperial Airways where he was viewed with awed respect and a tinge of fear.

His flying career had begun at the age of 18 towards the end of WW1. At the end of the war, he became a pilot in a firm offering ‘joy rides’ to passengers and then progressed to acting as a pilot for Instone Airlines which was one of several which joined forces in 1924 to form Imperial Airways. He flew many routes and, indeed, in 1926 was the first pilot to transport a member of the royal family when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) flew from Paris to London. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

How Safe was Flying in the 1930s? Part II

Rapid Development in the 1930s.
The graphs showing the number of flights (Machine Flights, left), the number of Passengers and the amount of Cargo and Mail carried show a huge increase starting in 1931/32. We also know that Croydon was handling about half of all UK passengers, 62% of the mail and 84% of the cargo - so this increase inevitably made for a much busier Croydon. So did this increase bring with it an increase in accidents and fatalities?

Monday, 24 August 2015

How Safe was Flying in the 1930s?

U3A member Peter Day examines the safety of flight in the 1930s:

Air Ship Hindenberg burning
In the 1930s flight in heavier-than-air aeroplanes was still in its infancy. The Wright brothers had made the first such flight only in 1903. Aeroplanes were flimsy with some parts of the fuselage still covered with cloth, to save weight. Engines were underpowered and unreliable. Planes flew slowly and could not climb to a great height because of lack of oxygen, they weren't pressurised like modern planes, so flights were subject to turbulence. So were those early passengers risking their lives? Read more.....

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The New London Airport (Croydon): A Major Attraction

King Amanuallah of Afghanistan at Croydon Airport, 1928 
A post from U3A member Mike Holmewood on an unusual visit to Croydon:

The building of the new Air terminal at Croydon in the late 1920s may well have seemed like the space race of the 60s to the then general public. This building of modern design, covered with white china clay, was visible for 10 miles from the air. It’s no wonder it attracted the air adventurers / entrepreneurs and people looking for the thrill of flying. 

The public was also greatly engaged with this new invention of the age, thronging to see famous fliers and celebrities in their thousands, as can be seen from the many photographs of the time.

The government was not slow in recognising the potential of showing off this New London Terminal to visiting dignitaries, and statesmen from around the world. Whilst looking through archive material at the airport society, and old newspaper articles in Sutton library. It became apparent that some unusual world leaders who were on official visits to Great Britain visited Croydon.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Britain's Busiest Airport

A post by U3A member Peter Day on, well, post:

Air Mail with Croydon Airport in background
Many people are completely unaware that there was ever an aerodrome/airport at Croydon. That it was, for many years, the only airport for London and the focus of a network of flights that covered not only the UK but a substantial part of the British Empire always takes them by surprise.

In 1936 Croydon Airport saw an average of over 50 aircraft movements (arrivals and departures) every day. That represented just over a quarter of all flights into, away from and across the UK carrying passengers, mail and freight. The next busiest was Speke airport at Liverpool with almost 30 movements a day.

Croydon, however, was clearly the aerodrome of choice for passengers, for mail and for freight.
With a quarter of the flights, Croydon carried just under half the passengers - 131,853 out of a total of 268,448. Portsmouth and Southampton, at about 25,000 passenger movements each, were next busiest - the Imperial Airways Flying Boat service was based at Southampton.
International Air mail was a service created in the late 1920s which grew massively in popularity over the next decade. In 1929 the airlines carried in total some 99 tons of mail, by 1936 that had grown by over 1300% to 1,332 tons - and 62% of it, 832 tons, was despatched and received through Croydon. All those flights into and out of Portsmouth and Southampton carried no mail at all!

But it was in the carriage of cargo that Croydon showed overwhelming popularity. Even the earliest airplanes had
been used to carry freight and there were freight-only flights, just as there are today. In 1925 the total tonnage of cargo was about 550 and that grew steadily over the next decade to about 2,720 tons in 1936. And how much went through Croydon? 2,282 tons - fully 84% of the total.

The odd thing about this dominance, especially with cargo, was the absence of a railway into Croydon airport - all the freight and mail had to be carried by van and lorry, all the passengers by car, taxi and bus.  

Peter Day

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Serving a crisp salad – the stewards of the Silver Wing Paris flights

Another post from U3A member Cheryl Bailey on luxury travel to Paris by plane in the 1930s:

In the 1930s, responsibility for the comfort and enjoyment of passengers on the Silver Wing Imperial Airways flights from Croydon to Paris rested squarely on the shoulders of the two stewards. Dressed in their blue trousers, white jackets and peaked caps, they were the efficient and smart face of Imperial Airways. The rule book described their job as requiring good manners, tact, a sense of humour, unlimited patience and above all, imagination, ‘which is the power of anticipating passengers’ wants and supplying them before they are expressed’. Their appearance was expected to be immaculate. Another quote from the rule book observes, ‘a wilting collar will do much to take the crispness out of a salad’!

Monday, 10 August 2015

National Aircraft Factory No. 1: Part 2

Bill O'Neill continues his piece on tha National Aircraft Factory No. 1 at Croydon here:

first of the DC9s nearing completion March 1918
The building of the factory nearly didn’t happen, at least not in Waddon. Originally, the proposed site was Watford, but this was not approved by the Air Ministry. Waddon was preferred because it provided:
  • A 200 acre site with space not just for the factory buildings but for test flights also.
  • Good transport facilities as it was close to both tram and rail links (a spur line was built into the factory from the Croydon – Epsom line).
  • An available workforce. Croydon had a population of 170,000 with no similar factories in the area.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Faces of Amy Johnson: The Engineer

Mrs J.A, Mollison CBE, 1934. Courtesy IET
The final post by Trish Allen on Amy Johnson and this time is is on her passion for engineering. We owe a tremendous debt to the Women's Engineering Society and Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and great thanks to Jon Cable, assistant archivist there for all images in this blog:

As stated earlier, Amy was the first woman to receive a Ground Engineers Licence from the Air Ministry. If we reflect on the national shortage of female engineers in 2015, i.e. only 7% of the engineering workforce is female, that was a major achievement in December 1929.

In 1930, she subsequently became a member of the Women’s Engineering Society and in 1931 she was invited to address the society on how she had maintained the engine and the airframe during her flight to Australia. She had to pump petrol, clean and change plugs, drain the oil, examine the plunger and spring, tighten electrodes, help to repair a wing fit on the spare propeller, examine and filter oil and petrol and constantly check for leakages. This work often took place in the dark with the aid of a small torch and insects and sand flying in her face or petrol squirting in her eyes plus coupled with intense heat.

She added: 
We women are just on the threshold of another career which has so far been regarded as the strict province of man-that of aeronautical engineering [. . .] The only argument that men can bring forward against woman’s intrusion is that of physical strength, but this seems to me very poor grounds for establishing and retaining a monopoly. In engineering there are many job’s beyond a man’s strength. What does he do? He fetches an instrument.

In 1932 Amy Johnson accepted the Vice Presidency and in 1934 she was elected President and this lasted for three years. The Women’s Engineering Society or W.E.S. as it is called was initially a small but extremely innovatory society. It was founded in 1919, after WW1, to address the problems faced by women who had contributed to the war effort by working in engineering and allied fields, but who now faced opposition from the establishment. It started publishing a quarterly journal, The Woman Engineer, to help support women engineers to push for a change. The first issue was in 1919, price 3d. The Institute of Engineering and Technology archives hold a complete set of issues which make fascinating reading. Significantly the aeronautical section of WES led, in 1957, to the British Women Pilots Association.

Amy Johnson, Caroline Haslett and Jim Mollison
At the time of the conference at which she became President, Amy was doing a daily trip to Paris for the purpose of exploring commercial radio possibilities. She also worked on ideas for high altitude and long distance flying. As commented, it was strange and significant that in England there were no women engine drivers or ships captains but an airways pilot was a woman! The conference was also informed that Amy had spent time in the U.S.A. studying the methods of manufacture and design in the chief air planes looking in particular at propeller design and American welding. She was anxious for more women to study aircraft design and aeroplane instruments. This was in 1934!

During her Presidency in 1935, a debate took place between Amy and her then husband Jim Mollison focusing on the value of record breaking flights with Amy maintaining they no longer served a useful purpose. She felt that whilst they are “good news” there was an urgent need for improved ground facilities emphasising:
a) rapid transport from the centre of the city to the airport
b) complete wireless equipment, with some sort of beam, on all transport machines
c) night flying equipment
d) better equipped aerodromes with emergency landing provision
e) multi engine machines with a crew


WES Annual Conference 1935 , Mrs Mollison speaking
Amy was a magnificent role model to encourage girls to become engineers but how many people even know about her engineering skills and vast knowledge? Currently there is still a myth that engineering involves dirt and spanners! Even if girls study for the right subjects e.g. maths and physics, they so often opt for other careers such as banking! Clearly there needs to be more education such as teachers advising on the breadth of engineering, the scope, the importance plus companies linking in with schools.

In May 1940, Amy joined the women’s section of the Air Transport Auxiliary. In Amy’s time, the ATA flew transports, trainers and other non-combat aircraft from the manufacturer’s airfields to the RAF bases. Flying unarmed aircraft without radios, was a highly dangerous task. On 5th January 1941, Amy disappeared on a flight from Blackpool to Oxfordshire somewhere in the Thames estuary. Only her luggage was ever found.

Tribute issue of The Woman Engineer
I will conclude with sections of tribute speeches reproduced from The Woman Engineer:
Amy demonstrated for all time that women can plan daring feats, can pay close attention to detail, can superintend and carry out a prescribed programme, can overcome obstacles as they are encountered, can learn from misfortune, can face disappointment without loss of courage.

All the world knows of the Amy Johnson who flew solo to Australia ten years ago, but it is perhaps those who know her more closely who were able to appreciate her gifts and abilities, the generosity of her mind, her modesty over real achievement, her unquenchable spirit which, with her keen wit and boundless humour, must have carried her through times of tension as well as of horrific experience. Whatever Amy did she did it with zest and relish.

Caroline Haslett (Secretary of the WES), The Times, January 14th 1941

Trish Allen

Monday, 3 August 2015

Faces of Amy Johnson: A Struggle with Depression?

Another post by Trish Allen on Amy Johnson and what drove her:

Amy at Cairo on her return from Australia, 1930
So what interests people about Amy Johnson? In a small survey that I conducted amongst friends I asked the question “if Amy Johnson was sitting at your dinner table what would be the one question that you would like to ask her?” Many responses had similar themes. What made you fly? What was the most exciting thing you saw when flying? Did you have much resistance from men? In your darkest hour what helped you through? Gin or vodka? and did your ears hurt?

Friday, 31 July 2015

National Aircraft Factory No 1: Part One

A post from U3A group member Bill O'Neill on the rise of the industrial estate around Croydon Airport and the need for production of aircraft in World War One.

NAF From the Air around 1958
The Need for Aircraft
In 1917, the war on the Western Front had reached a stalemate, with both armies dug in and little sign of progress despite the heavy cost in men and materials. The Russians were leaving the war and Germany would be able to consolidate its troops in the west. Submarines were now sinking large numbers of allied merchant ships and our cities were under bombardment from both Zeppelins and German bombers.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Faces of Amy Johnson: A Woman of her Time

Amy about to board Jason in 1930
Another post by Trish Allen on Amy Johnson and the context for women, work and learning in the late 1920s:

The more that I read about Amy, the more complex she becomes! However, let’s start by putting Amy into her historical context. The experiences during World War 1 had particularly influenced women. During the war many women had been employed in factories giving them a wage and a degree of independence. Women felt more confident, hair and dresses were shorter and women started to smoke, drink and even drive cars! The “flapper” arrived!

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Railways Take Off . . .

A post from Mike Homewood from our U3A group about some surprising reminiscences from a friend:

A chance remark to an old friend about Croydon Airport, revealed he had worked for Railway Air Services Ltd at Croydon Airport, in 1946. I had no idea that the Railways had run an airline, so a look through the archive at the Croydon Airport Society and all was revealed.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Ten-Minute Check-In!

Booking Hall Olley Airline Services, 1937 (c) Croydon Airport Society
Air travel today may be faster, smoother and more accessible than it was in the 1930s but it certainly lacks the elegance and convenience of that time. One of the worst experiences nowadays is the check-in experience with its need for arrival hours before departure, the long queues and the dreadful ‘cattle market’ feel of the security area. In the thirties, passengers could arrive in the booking hall at Croydon and be on board their plane in around ten minutes. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Faces of Amy Johnson: The Fashionable Flyer

Portrait  by Studio Hugh White 1937
One of our U3A volunteers has been undertaking the mammoth task of looking at less known sides to the famous aviatrix, Amy Johnson. Here is Trish Allen on Amy Johnson's fashion: 

Amy Johnson is best and, rightly, known for her flying achievements and, in particular, the first woman to fly solo to Australia in 1930 after less than one hundred hours solo flying experience. She had achieved her pilots licence in July 1929 and remarkably the Ground Engineer’s licence in December 1929. Remember she did this only one year after women over 21 were given the vote in 1928! I wonder who Amy voted for in 1929? Stanley Baldwin (Conservative) and Ramsey MacDonald were the two main contenders, with the latter forming a new labour government in June 1929.

Monday, 20 July 2015

“The fascination and comfort of Silver Wing travel”

Interior of Scylla (a postcard in the collection of Croydon Aiport Society)
This slogan is how Imperial Airways chose to advertise their Silver Wing service from Croydon to Paris in the 1930s. The fascination was in the thrill of flying itself. As the planes flew at a lower level in those days, the whole flight was viewed as a unique sight-seeing experience and the thrill of being airborne was very exciting and sometimes a little daunting to first-time flyers. (Neville Chamberlain, on returning from his visit to Hitler in 1938, commented that his first experience of flying had been ‘not as bad as he had been led to believe’ and that he had travelled very comfortably.) 

Friday, 17 July 2015

Channel Hopping for High Flyers

A blog on the prestige of flying to Paris from Cheryl Bailey, one of our U3A project team:

Passengers taking a return flight to Paris in the 1930s paid just £6 15s. which sounds not like a great deal to us today but of course in those days it was a lot of money. The average skilled workman only earned around £4 a week so airborne channel-hopping was only accessible to very successful people – politicians, big businessmen, celebrities of stage and screen and the very well-off. The staff on the planes loved spotting famous faces on board especially if they were known to be big tippers. Sometimes their names were even added to the pilot’s log.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

"The Suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots " Ezekiel xxvii 28

Image of crash on 9 September 1936
A prescient post from U3A project member Peter Day explores the potential dangers of living near to Croydon Airport:

The positioning of airports was as controversial in the 1930s as it is today. Low flying, night flying, noisy engines - and crashes, all contributed to a degree of ill-will from local residents. In the case of Croydon this came to a head on the morning of December 9th 1936. On that foggy morning a KLM DC2 crashed into houses near the airport shortly after take-off resulting in the deaths of 15 passengers and crew. This was the worst air accident there had been in the UK in terms of the number killed and a storm of protest blew up with questions in Parliament, local protest meeting and petitions to the Air Ministry.

Friday, 10 July 2015

1950s Tourism in North Africa

There are times when rummaging through an archive you find a document that has contemporary poignancy that has little to do with the document's original production or context. 

This is true of this brochure 'You can no longer ignore North Africa' that advertised tourism in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in 1951. Sara, a volunteer for Croydon Airport Society, and I found it when doing a brief condition assessment of the Air France file.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Jean Batten – The Garbo of the Skies. A young Croydon boy’s recollection.

This week we have a post from a member of our University of the Third Age Shared Learning Team - Mike Homewood.

Within the books and papers of the Croydon Airport Society is this copy of the recently discovered Flying Licence of New Zealand aviatrix Jean Batten. Also the film star like pose, which added an extra glamour to the early female flyers. No wonder a small boy and his father were eager to get a glimpse of this flying icon of the age.

Image: Flying Licence Croydon Airport Society (Donated by Mrs Dunn)

Peter Sherman’s Recollection (29 June 2015)

October of 1937, I was a lad of 7 years, living at 53 Miller Road West Croydon. A regular treat in those days was to walk with dad to Croydon Airport on a Sunday morning, to watch the rich and famous people coming and going. On this particular day we were expecting the arrival of Jean Batten from Paris after another record breaking flight (Australia to Croydon in 5 Days 18 Hours).

This was an important event so dad paid up for the two of us to go onto the roof of the Aerodrome Hotel (three pence for him and one penny for me ). Dad got me to go in front with him behind, the Tannoy then told us that the flight was delayed in Paris due to fog. Half an hour went by, another Tannoy announcement (still delayed but fog might clear soon). Dad started to worry that we may be late for Sunday lunch, in our house it was the most important event of the week, The only time we all sat down together, Mum, Dad, two older sisters and me, and NOT TO BE MISSED FOR ANY REASON! 

Another Tannoy Message: Miss Batten had just left Paris (loud cheering from the crowd), she should arrive in about 50 minutes. 'OK', says my Dad, 'We will wait'.

At long last the sound of a light aircraft. The little plane landed without a hitch and taxied on to the apron just below us. A little lady in a big leather coat and white helmet started to get out. A huge crowd began to gather around the plane (it was estimated there were over 10,000 people there that day). A Band started to play (I think it was Rule Britannia).

There seemed to be lots of hugs and kisses! All a bit much for a 7 year old. Suddenly it was all over, Dad looked at his watch, Oh Lord it's nearly 3 o’clock, now we will be for it. We hurried down the stone steps of the Aerodrome Hotel and along to the bus stop, WOW, we are going home by bus another treat.

I had never really seen mum really cross. She let dad know how she felt! But I can still remember his smart reply: 'We have seen History made today! A proud day for Britain and, any way, it's all part of the lad’s education'.

Post by Mike Homewood from a recollection by Peter Sherman, Barton on Sea Hampshire.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Flying to the Past: Croydon to Persepolis - New Event Announcement

Olley Expedition Photograph,
Persepolis (Croydon Airport Society)
If any of you enjoyed the blog on Aerial Photographs of the Middle East in the 1930s, you can come and find out more at an event on Saturday 26 September where the film the flight was made for will be screened.

The ancient past meets modernism with a juxtaposition of 1930s aerial photography, film, archaeology, celebrity pilots and archaeologists. Come to Croydon Airport to find out more about lost empires and the people who recorded their excavation.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Monique Agazarian and her bulldog

Monique Agazarian and Spike, 1952
Among the images in the archives is a photograph of Monique Agazarian and her beloved bull terrier Spike, a dog who loved flying. Listening to a recording of Agazarian giving Croydon Airport Society a lecture a few years before her death in 1993 and reading about her in the archives, she was clearly a formidable and witty woman. In fact, I'm too awed to refer to her as "Aggy" as some of the archive material does.

Agazarian (1920-93) and her three brothers became obsessed with flying from the time their mother installed an old Sopwith Pup plane in their garden in 1923. Her brother Noel was in the RAF, fought in the Battle of Britain and was killed in the Middle East in 1941. (The Spitfire in which he fought is in the Imperial War Museum). Another brother Jack worked for the Special Operations Executive and was tortured and killed by the Nazi occupiers after being caught helping the Resistance in France. Her third brother Levon became a Typhoon pilot. 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Soviet Man in Space

Front Cover and signature
This week we have a guest post from space and SF geek Simon Guerrier:

Amid the books and papers in the archives of the Croydon Airport Society is “Soviet Man in Space”, published in May 1961. The cover boasts a simple illustration of a man in a spacesuit gazing through a porthole at the pale blue Earth. Except someone has defaced the cover – there's something written in black ink over Europe and north Africa. It's the autograph of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

We don't know how this prized autograph was obtained. Gagarin visited the UK in July 1961 but he flew in to and out from Heathrow. The handwritten archive number CAS 521/99/003, written inside the booklet, tells us that

it was bought in 1991 from the estate of Group Captain Patrick Tweedie (1902-90). Tweedie was vice-president of the Croydon Airport Society when it was formed in 1978 and had a long career in aviation in the RAF, Imperial Airways and as an Inspector of Air Accidents. He was Chief Inspector of Civil Aviation 1953 - 1962, so perhaps he met Gagarin on his UK visit. There will be more about the fascinating life of Captain Tweedie in a forthcoming post, but we don't know how he acquired this signed copy of “Soviet Man in Space”. (If you can tell us, please get in touch.)