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.