A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

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a.k.a. The Cobham Air Circus

1932-1935

"About 300 displays will be given throughout Britain. The actual programme will be not dissimilar to that to which we have already become accustomed by virtue of the great number of flying meetings there have been during the last two or three years, but there will, in addition, be many items not usually seen."

The approximate programme, subject to changes as required, of course, is as follows:

  • FLYPAST - the loud-speaking equipment assisting by explaining the aircraft;
  • FORMATION FLIGHT led by the Airspeed "Ferry" with passengers on board;
  • AEROBATICS - a "Tiger Moth" being used for this purpose which has been fitted for inverted flying;
  • CRAZY FLYING;
  • DANCING IN THE AIR - the pilot in this case will endeavour to fly in a "syncopated" fashion to music broadcast from the radio van, his Comper "Swift" being fitted with receiving apparatus;
  • TOWED GLIDING;
  • An AIR RACE around pylons something on the lines of dirt-track racing;
  • PARACHUTE DESCENT;
  • INVERTED FLYING in the "Tiger Moth";
  • CONTINUOUS ROLLING in the "Martlet";
  • A SURPRISE ITEM;
  • WIRELESS CONTROL - spectators will be invited to tell the pilot of the Comper "Swift," by means of wireless, what manoeuvre they wish him to do;
  • AEROBATICS IN FORMATION;
  • And a race between the "Autogiro" and a dirt-track rider"

 

PULPIT PROTEST AGAINST SUNDAY FLYING Efforts Made Avoid Clash with Services OKEHAMPTON CRITICISM A protest against Sir Alan Cobham's display was voiced in the Okehampton Baptist Church on Sunday and some shop windows displayed posters by the Lord's Day Observance Society exhorting the public to keep holy the Sabbath Day. The town itself very quiet, but the fine weather attracted quite a good crowd at the R.A.F. Aerodrome at Folly Gate, where the Air Circus " was held.

Mr. D. L. Eskell, the General Manager, told our representative in the morning that every effort would be made to avoid interference with divine worship, and with this object in view the arrival of the 'planes from Exeter was delayed until 12.45 p.m. In addition the display was closed down in the evening from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m., but, with the weather conditions being exceptionally good for flying, flights were made up to a later hour than was originally arranged.

The parachute descents, which were cancelled owing to bad weather at Exeter, were performed with great success.

QUITE IMPOSSIBLE. It is quite impossible to cut out Sunday flying altogether," declared Mr. Eskell, "for we should not be able to complete our itinerary otherwise. To close down on Sundays would also mean a loss to the industry, and would result in unemployment among those who are engaged in the displays. All the good we are trying to do for flying would be lost unless we operated seven days a week. We have no wish whatever to disturb the Sabbath, or any way interfere with those who wish to go to church this evening." " IT REMAINS FOR CHURCHES TO ACT." Rev. T. Llewellyn Jones, President the Okehampton Free Church Council, preaching at the Baptist Church, said: " Either the Air Ministry is trifling with a serious situation, Sir Alan Cobham is ignoring both the church and the chapel-going public. The police are not prepared enforce the Sunday Observance Act, as the Northampton police did quite recently, and it remains for the church to take what action they can conjunction with sympathetic civic authorities the .country to save the Lord's Day from further exploitation by mere commercialism and secularisation.' For Christian people it must become a matter of example and earnest prayer."

 

5 April 1932, Gloucester Citizen: "The C B Cochran of the Air: Sir Alan is taking an aerial circus—complete with all types of machines —into the country this month. His capacity for showmanship was apparent when he described his proposed itinerary, and it was evident that he is completely happy when he is "selling the air" to his countrymen."

(C B Cochran was a well-known theatre manager in the 20s and 30s)

"Twelve or fourteen machines will form the circus, a fresh town will be visited each day, and a continuous programme for "turns," each lasting about fifteen minutes, will be given from 11.30 a.m. until dusk. There will be twenty-five separate items in the repertory, and, during the long summer days, the whole performance may be gone through twice. At night the circus, in this respect at least conforming to ancient tradition, will move on to the next town. It will a strenuous time for all concerned".

 

Read all about it here:

1932 - A complete list of Alan cobham's displays in 1932

1933 - A complete list of Alan Cobham's displays in 1933

1934- A complete list of Alan Cobham's displays in 1934

1935 - A complete list of Alan Cobham's displays in 1935

and

Fred Lindley's Memories of the Flying Circus

 

Postscript

May 1938: "Cdr. E. B. Fielden, of British Airways, has now flown over 100,000 passengers without so much as bruising the very tenderest of them. A lot of his flying was done in the early joy-ride days, operating from small fields, and when chief pilot to Sir Alan Cobham's circus he once took up 768 people in a day. "

Manager:

- Mr D L Eskell

Pilots:

- Alan Cobham

- C W A Scott (1935)

- Flt Lt C K Turner Hughes (Comper Swift)

- Flt Lt Geoffrey Arthur Virley Tyson (Tiger Moth, Lincock)

- Capt E B 'Safety First' Fielden

- Capt H Lawson (aerobatics, 'crazy flying') killed in Cape Town in 1933

- Mr Martin Hearne (wing walking - to be exact, he "ran along the wings, then finally hung by one hand from a wheel on the undercarriage while the machine looped the loop")

- Ivor D Price (parachutist) (killed in May 1935)

- H Ward (parachutist)

- Flt Lt A H C Rawson

- Capt J D Parkinson

- F/O Curndall

- Mr T Nash

- Flt Lt H C Johnson

- Capt A M Glover

- Mr C W H Bebb (Tiger Moth)

- Capt A N Kingwill

- Capt W. MacKay ("Daredevil Red MacKay")

- Messrs Kemp and Faraday (wing walking)

- C H Bembridge (killed in Sep 1934 in G-EBMM)

- R J Ashley (autogiro)

- George E Collins (gliding in 1935)

- Miss Jean Meakin (1934) (gliding) "Probably the item that held the spectators most enthralled was Miss Joan Meakin's flight in her glider. Towed by an aeroplane and released at a height of 1500 feet, Miss Meakin performed a series of loops before making a perfect landing."

 

Aeroplanes:

- Lincock (in 1933)

- Fox Moth 'that won the Kings Cup Race last year' (ie G-ABUT)

- Tiger Moth

- Gipsy Moth 'that Mr JA Mollison used in his record-breaking Australia-England flight' (ie VH-UFT)

- a 'Klemm monoplane'

- Rhonbussard glider

- 1925 H.P. W.10 G-EBMM which crashed Aston Clinton Bucks Sep 1934;

- 1925 H.P. W.10 G-EBMR which was scrapped Sep 1934;

- 1929 D.H.61 Giant Moth G-AAEV 'The Youth of Britain'

- 1931 Comper CLA.7 Swift G-ABPY;

- 1931 Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSI later sold to CWA Scotts Flying Display Ltd;

- 1931 Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSJ;

- 1932 D.H. Tiger Moth G-ABUL;

- 1932 H.P. 33 Clive I G-ABYX 'The Youth of Australia' which was scrapped in 1933;

- 1932 Avro 621 Tutor G-ABZP;

- 1933 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACLU;

- 1933 Avro 504N G-ACLV;

- 1934 Avro 504N G-ACOD which was destroyed in collision with G-ADFZ over Blackpool in Sep 1935;

- 1934 Avro 504N G-ACOK which crashed Rhyll Aug 1938;

- 1934 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACOZ later sold to CWA Scotts Flying Display Ltd;

- 1934 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACPB later sold to CWA Scotts Flying Display Ltd;

- 1934 Avro 504N G-ACPV;

- 1934 Cierva C.30A G-ACYH;

- 1935 Avro 504N G-ADBD which crashed Southend Jul 1936.

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