Monday, 26 February 2018

Capt. L. M. Barlow: The ‘Gadget King’ and Local Hero

Captain Leonard Monteagle Barlow, who lived in Onslow Gardens Wellington  was brought
to our attention by Lorraine (one of the project volunteers) as he was local to the airport, had achieved an enormous amount but tragically died when at only 19 years old. Barlow was awarded MC three times. He was nick-named the Gadget King designed and had installed mechanism for firing both guns together with one trigger. He also flew from Beddington (Croydon) airfield on occasions.

More information was then provided about him by his nephew Ian Leonard Stimson who, coincidentally to this project, came to the February Open day at Airport House. Fortunately he got chatting to our volunteer co-ordinator Karen and then emailed details of his uncle afterwards. Ian Leonard Stimson – his middle name is after his heroic uncle – has researched this young pilot for his family history and sent links to more information about him in the squadron history.

Monday, 19 February 2018

People and Crashes at Beddington

Herbert Montgomery Martin records many crashes.  The aerodrome was home to Training Squadrons from May 1916 until the end and beyond of the war; No. 17 Training Squadron in May 1916, then No. 40 Training Squadron from 1 June 1916 until 14 December 1918. A great example is this one of Lt. Neisding, showing a Sopwith Camel in trees, in Beddington in January 1918. You can see the ladder in place to rescue the pilot.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Herbert Montgomery Martin

H M Martin in uniform with cane. 
The photographs of Croydon by Herbert Montgomery Martin illustrate many of the activities, crashes and people working on Beddington / Croydon Aerodrome in the last year of the First World War. There are several images of Montgomery Martin himself, who joined the army on 20 July 1916 (the Royal Flying Corp was then part of army). It is not clear from his service record if he joined the Flying Corp immediately, but it notes his transfer to the RAF on its formation on 1 April 1918.

Martin was an ‘Observer’, which meant he primarily worked as aircrew on reconnaissance observing and / or taking photographs of enemy positions. The photographs preserved by Cross and Cockade, which HCAT have copies of, make sense of this. The next blog explores some of the people Martin photographed.

Elizabeth Mary Byers

The service record tells us that he married Elizabeth Mary Byers, who was in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. She enlisted on 6 May 1918 (G2042) and worked as a waitress (according to

They married at St Saviour’s Church in West Croydon on 2 August 1919, by which time Martin had transferred to RAF reserve in February the same year 1919 and is wearing the badge of an ‘Observer’ in the photograph below.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Tragedy at Croydon's Tank Day 1918

On a previous post giving some glimpses of Croydon in 1918 through Herbert Montgomery Martin's photographs, I mentioned that there was a tragic crash during the Tank Day. On 16 March people were invited to subscribe to the Victory Loan - basically contributions to the war effort - and the presence of a tank, a new war machine, encouraged these investments. The day was overshadowed by the death of a young pilot at Croydon.

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Gosport System: Robert Smith-Barry and Pilot Training

The Avro Biplane - pictured at Gosport - was Barry-Smith's preferred aircraft
for instruction as it was easy to fly so the pilots could concentrate on
learning tactics. This is from Landowne Album 3.
Training pilots to fly planes - at first for reconnaissance and then for fighting - was a dangerous and haphazard affair; of the 14166 pilots killed, over half died in training. By mid 1916 there was a dangerous shortage of pilots. The Royal Flying Corp (RFC) training programme taught pilots to fly but not to fly in battle or attack. Major Robert Smith-Barry constantly asked General Trenchard (head of the RFC in France) to let him try a new, more rigorous training programme.