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.