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.)

Monday, 15 June 2015

Aerial Photographs of the Middle East in the 1930s

The expedition team from the Oriental Institute in Chicago.
Olley expedition photographs, Croydon Airport Society
One of the best aspects of working in archives and with museum collections is the unexpected things you can find. Peter Skinner, archivist for the Croydon Airport Society, knowing my interest in archaeology and the Middle East pointed me to some photographs in a file named 'Expeditions'. I was amazed to find photographs of excavations at Khorsabad and Persepolis as well as a number of aerial photographs of the area of (to use the names used then) Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Persia from 1932 or 1933.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Our Archives

This is a new blog from Croydon Airport Society to share stories, pictures and snippets from its rich archive about people, planes and events. It is part of the Revealing the Hidden Heritage of Croydon Airport project, which has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is called 'Croydon Calling' as the phrase and the airport was famous in the 1920s and 30s when it was Britain's only international airport.

Josephine Baker with Captain Walter Roger, 1928
Just as an example, this is a photograph from the files of a pilot, Captain Walter Rogers who flew planes for Imperial Airways and shows him with stage star and artist Josephine Baker in 1928 at Croydon Airport. There will be much more information coming up on an event around another group of photographs showing Baker shortly.  . .

Many of the images in the archive have unknown photographers or are press agency photographs: part of what we are doing is working out which images we can share online. We think this photograph was taken for Captain Rogers privately by an unknown photographer and thus is an 'orphan work'. If anyone knows any differently, please let us know!

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker arriving at Croydon Airport in 1928.
 Photograph Croydon Airport Society archives
Our first post revealed a photograph of Josephine Baker with Captain Rogers. We know, however, that Captain Gordon P. Olley actually picked Baker up from Paris in 1928. In his autobiography A Million Miles in the Air. "Adventure is still with us" (1934), Olley recalls going to her flat in Paris and persuading Baker to accompany him to London in a plane especially chartered for the occasion. She was reluctant as she had sprained her ankle.

However, Josephine Baker agreed to go with Olley to London for the charity gala and Olley said as I flew her back to Croydon:
Miss Baker .. . made light of her sprained ankle - although I could see it was really paining her a great deal. 

Baker made it to the West End from the airport in good time and sang and danced on stage, where she got a rapturous reception due, in part according to Olley, to the audience knowing about her 'air dash and injured ankle.  

If you would like to know more, join historian Dr Gemma Romain at Croydon Clocktower on Thursday 8 October to find out why performer, singer and actor Josephine Baker made a flying visit to Croydon Airport in 1928. Croydon Airport was at the heart of the cultural world of 1920s & 30s London. The talk will explore the often unacknowledged integral part that Black artists, musicians and activists played in creating this vibrant cultural world.

Gemma Romain is a historian and researcher based at The Equiano Centre, University College London. Her work explores Caribbean and Black British history, with a particular focus on Black LGBTQ histories. Her biography of Patrick Nelson, a black gay artist model and student in interwar London will be published by Bloomsbury Academic. She is also co-curator of Spaces of Black British Modernism, which is on display at Tate Britain until 4 October 2015.

Thursday 8 October 6-7pm. Free Booking essential via eventbrite.