A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

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photo: 1915, when a Corporal, aged 23

photo: 1936, aged 44

Capt Stanley Seward Halse

b. 6th December 1892 in Queenstown, South Africa.

Learnt to fly during WWI, and by 1936 was a flying instructor at the Johannesburg Light Plane Club. Two members (Rex Hull and George Albu) put up the £1,800 required to buy the Mew Gull. Presumably, that was the last they saw of their money.

Stanley dislocated his elbow in the crash, and much later found out that three of his vertebrae had telescoped.

Schlesinger Race in 1936

photo: 1920

Capt Harold Alan Hamersley MC

b 6 Feb 1896 in Guildford, W Australia.

Studied mechanical engineering before WWI, commonwealth commission then transferred to the RFC in June 1916. Served with 60 Sqn in France, where he was awarded the MC for gallantry in leading patrols. Ended the war with 11 victories, despite his SE.5 being damaged and forced down by German ace Werner Voss in September 1917.

Awarded a permanent RAF commission in 1926, then promoted to Wing Commander in 1938 as Chief Instructor to the London University Air Squadron.

d. 1967

Aerial Derby in 1919, 1920, 1923

F/O Leslie Hamilton

A stunt pilot known as the 'Flying Gypsy'; RAF in WWI (6 victories in Greece) who was Princess Anne Lowenstein-Wortheim's pilot after the war.

They, together with Fred Minchin (left), were killed when trying to cross the Atlantic from East to West in 1927. For a video of them and the aeroplane, see the middle bit here. [The rest of it shows Walter Hinchliffe's preparations for a planned similar flight with Charles Levine (see below)].

King's Cup in 1922

Michael Hansen

 

Born 14 January, 1903

Trained as a pilot in the Danish Army Air Force in 1927. Just before the MacRobertson Race, had competed in an aerobatic championship in Paris.

He flew with mechanic Daniel Jensen, who crouched under the main petrol tank which was fitted instead of the passenger seat. The Desoutter was already over 3 years old by 1934.

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BRITISH AEROPLANES FOR DENMARK

Eight De Havilland Machines for Danish Air Force WITHIN the next few days a fleet of eight de Havilland aeroplanes will leave Harfield aerodrome to fly to Copenhagen in charge of officers of the Danish Air Force. The flight will be under the command of Capt. C. C. Larsen, who will pilot the "odd" machine of the flight, a de Havilland "Dragon." The other seven machines are "Tiger Moths."

The seven " Tiger Moths " will be used for the instruction of Danish pilots in the art of military air manoeuvres, and the equipment of the machines includes all the instruments necessary for "blind flying." Instrument flying is a relatively recent development of military flying training, and Great Britain has, perhaps, done more than any other nation to perfect the equipment. Following the adoption of instrument flying by the British Royal Air Force, nearly all other nations are adding it to their curricula.

The "Dragon" bought by the Danish Air Force is equipped for military purposes, and will also be used for light transport and for aerial survey. All the machines of the batch are fitted with de Havilland "Gipsy Major" engines.

WAITING TO GO : Seven "Tiger Moths" and one "Dragon" at Hatfield, ready to start for Copenhagen. The Danish crews include Capt. C. C. Larsen, Lts.  Clausen, Meincke and Rydman, Sgts. Eriksen, Petersen and Hansen, and Machine Officer Petersen. (FLIGHT Photo.)

 

The Hop to Darwin (by Lord Sempill)

1 WAS just preparing to make a start for Darwin when a D.H. " Moth," which had been very kindly sent over by the Vacuum Oil Co., landed to see if I was all right. Apparently the signal sent from Koepang, although it had reached them, had not Been very clear as to my intention to stop the night at Bathurst Island. They brought my mail which, of course, was mostly from Australia, and contained numerous hospitable invitations. Taking off on the short sea crossing, I arrived at Darwin and received a very kind welcome. The aerodrome has a level grass surface, but is, I understood, liable to become boggy after rain. It is 680 yards from north to south and 1,000 yards from east to west. There is a well-equipped meteorological office and a new shed was just being built. The Danish pilot, Lieut. Hansen, who had put up such a good performance in the MacRobertson race in an old Desoutter, was here on his return journey. He was hurrying home as he had only been given leave from his military duties until December 10. He had done some hard flying on the outward trip, putting in, on some sections of the route, sixteen hours a day.

 

MARCH 7, Ig35

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1935/1935%20-%200520.html?search=hansen&tracked=1

A British Entry for International Aerobatic Contest ?

ORGANISED by the newspapers Le Petit Parisien and Air Propagande, an international aerobatic competition, named " Coupe Mondiale d'Acrobatie Ae'rienne," will be held at Vincennes, near Paris, on June 9 and 10. The prizes amount to 300,000 francs, of which 100,000 will be awarded to the winner, 75,000 to the second and 50,000 to the third. It is reported that the following entries have been received:—

Detroyat (France), Al Williams (U.S.A.), Fieseler (Germany), Colombo (Italy), Staniland (Great Britain), Orlinsky (Poland), Hansen (Denmark) and Van Damruch (Belgium).

Judging from what we have seen of Staniland's masterly handling of the " Firefly," he should have little to fear from the aerobatic " aces " of other nations.

FLIGHT, FEBRUARY 15, 1934

 

The Danish Air Society (Det Danske Luftfartselskab) bought the second last manufactured Desoutter Mk.II in 1931. This aircraft was given the registration OY-DOD. In 1934, this aircraft was sold to lieutenant Michael Hansen, and in the following year to the Nordisk Luftrafik company. In 1938 it was sold to Nordjysk Aero Service, but Michael Hansen bought the aircraft back the same year and used it to fly to Cape Town and in the MacRobertson Air Race

Michael Hansen, 14.1.1903-23.3.1987, Danish pilot. Michael Hansen was trained as a pilot in the Army Air Force troops in 1927. Han achieved a seventh place (out of 20 runners aircraft) with a single-engine FK Desoutter højvinget monoplane in October 1934, together with maskinofficiant Daniel Jensen in the famous air racing Mildenhall (England) - Melbourne (Australia) in competition with some of the world's most talented pilots and fastest planes. It was a trip of no less than 19.895 km.

In 1937 flew he and engineer Aage Rasmussen to Cape Town and return with the same aircraft. The following year he participated in a Danish military søfly (De Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth) as islods on Eigil Knuth Dark Northern Expedition to Northeast Greenland. These flights he described in the books "43.000 km through the air" (1935) and "On the Danish wings in South and North "(1941). He was in a number of years president of The Adventure Club and ended his military career in 1963 as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. He is buried in Hørsholm Cemetery.

Literature: Michael Hansen: 43.000 km through the air (1935) and the Danish wings in South and North (1941), Ove Hermansen: Since Hansen flew to Melbourne in '34 - 75 years for Danish participation in the world's largest flykapløb from England to Australia (2009).

MacRobertson Race in 1934

photo: 1937

Sqn-Ldr A V Harvey

'Adviser to the Southern Air Forces in China'

King's Cup in 1937

Flt-Lt A PK Hattersley

King's Cup in 1932, 1933

in 1912, aged 23

Mr Harry George Hawker MBE, AFC

b. 22 Jan 1889 in Victoria, Australia; son of a blacksmith, and the co-founder of Hawker Aircraft.

A very early flier - RAeC Certificate No 297, in 1912. The following year, he made 5 flights 'on and off water' in a Sopwith-designed seaplane, which meant that they won the £500 offered by the RAeC. 

An even bigger prize in 1913 was the £5,000 offered by the Daily Mail for a race for seaplanes, to cover nearly 1600 miles in 72 hours round the coast of Britain. Harry (with fellow Australian H Kauper as mechanic) started off in a Sopwith from Southampton on August 16th. They got as far as Yarmouth but Harry felt unwell (later they worked out that he had sunstroke) and had to return to Southampton for another try, which started on the 26th.

Unfortunately, having made good progress on their first day, nearing Dublin on the second his foot slipped off the rudder bar, the aeroplane fell "like a stone" and dumped them in the Irish Sea, whence they had to be rescued by the Coastguard; the machine was wrecked. Harry was unhurt, Mr Kauper injured. The Daily Mail gave them a consolation prize of £1,000 "in recognition of their plucky attempt".

A few weeks later, he wrote off another Sopwith at Brooklands, badly injuring his back. The following year he did it again in almost the same place, this time failing to control a loop and spinning down into some trees. When spectators reached the scene, Harry was standing by the smashed aeroplane, "bewildered but unhurt".

Nothing daunted, he broke the British altitude record by climbing to 18,393ft in 1915, although it took him over an hour and he" suffered greatly from the cold"; he then broke the world record by getting to 24,408ft on 26 April 1916 (which started people wondering about perhaps flying to the top of Everest).

Next, in 1919, the Daily Mail offered £10,000 for a flight across the Atlantic. Harry, with Commander Kenneth Mackenzie Grieve R.N. as navigator, started from Newfoundland on 18th May but the aeroplane had problems with its radiator and they had to put down in the sea after about 800 miles. It was several days before the news emerged that they had been rescued by the small steamer 'Mary', and taken to Thurso. The Nation, having feared the worst, was mightily relieved, and gave them a terrific welcome; "No event since the Armistice has so stirred the popular imagination". Harry and Kenneth got the Air Froce Cross each (despite the fact that Harry wasn't actually in the Air Force), and £2,500 each as a not-inconsiderable consolation prize (although they had agreed to split the original prize 70:30). Before they could try again (on June 15th to be precise), Alcock and Brown had done it (just), been knighted by Mr Churchill and walked off with the cheque for £10k. Damn!

His luck finally ran out when he was killed in the Nieuport Goshawk G-EASK which crashed at Hendon 12 July 1921 while he was preparing for that year's Aerial Derby. The aeroplane burst into flames and spun in; Harry leapt from (or fell out of) the plane and was found some distance from its remains, "quite dead".

Aerial Derby in 1920

Flt-Lt E A Healy

King's Cup in 1931, 1932, 1933

 Sophie Elliott-Lynn in 1925

 Lady Heath at Roehampton

b. Sophie Catherine Theresa Mary Pierce-Evans on 10th November 1896 in Knockaderry, Co Limerick, Ireland; her crazed father beat her mother to death (with a stick) and was jailed for life, so she was brought up by her aunts.

A well-known, courageous, determined and forceful sportswoman, an athletic 6-foot tall Irishwoman 'never averse to publicity' (which earned her the nickname 'Lady Hell-of-a-Din') who was elected World Champion Lady Aviator by the USA.

At Stag Lane in 1926, Mrs Elliott-Lynn formed a small group owning a pale blue Moth, but was also the "somewhat erratic" pilot of an S.E.5...

...which she crashed a year later at Brooklands.

In the same year, when Lady Bailey and Mrs Geoffrey de Havilland hit the headlines with a world record climb to 17,283 ft, Avro countered with Mrs Elliott-Lynn climbing to 19,200 and making a 1,300-mile trip in a single day, during which she made 79 landings.

Then, her first husband Major Elliott-Lynn having died off, Sophie married Sir James Heath, Baronet, and thereby became Lady Heath.

"Lady Heath stepped from her tiny aeroplane at Le Bourget after her long flight from the Cape in May 1928, as fresh as a daisy. 'It is so safe that a woman can fly across Africa wearing a Parisian frock and keeping her nose powdered all day.' This was the first solo flight from any overseas Dominion to Britain, and she was the first woman to pilot an aeroplane from Cape Town to London.

Unfortunately, Sophie was not very good with Sir James' money; she was rather too easily persuaded to "buy a lot of things" and send him the bill. Having given her £20,000 as a marriage settlement and bought her an aeroplane, he was eventually obliged to take out a note in the newspapers forbidding her to "pledge his credit". The marriage was dissolved in 1932.

Having fled to America, Sophie finally became plain Mrs Williams; he was an airman from Kentucky.

d. 9 May 1939, aged 42, in London when she fell down the stairs of a tramcar. She left £204.

Sophie owned, at various times:


the 1925 prototype DH.60 Moth (G-EBKT), also
a DH.60 Moth G-EBMV,
an RAF SE5A (D7016, G-EBPA),
a 1927 Avro 594 Avian I  G-EBQLA,
a 1927 Avro 594 Avian IIR3 G-EBRS,
a 1927 Avro 594 Avian IIIR3 G-EBUG 'for the use of Miss Earhart',
a 1928 DH.60X Moth G-EBZC, and
a 1929 DH.60G Gipsy Moth G-AASY.

Sqn-Ldr William Helmore

RAeC Certificate 9698 (1931)

King's Cup in 1932

photo: 1916, when a Lieut in the Worcestershire Regiment, aged 23

Maj Harold Hemming AFC

Director (with Alan Butler as Chairman) of the 'Aircraft Operating Company'. In 1925, they were air surveying in British Guiana.

In 1923, he flew Alan Butler's DH37 'Sylvia' in the King's Cup, coming 5th (as had Alan himself, the year before), and then borrowed it again in 1925, coming 3rd.

Unfortunately, while he was making a test flight in 1927 in the DH37 (now re-engined and called 'Lois') the aircraft hit a scoring board and crashed. The passenger was killed and Hemming lost an eye and sustained other injuries.

King's Cup in 1923, 1925

Godfrey Ellard Hemsworth

 

 

Seen here on the left, in 1940

 

 

Godfrey's signature:

 


Godfrey (‘Goff’) Hemsworth and ‘battling’ Ray Parer piloted a second-hand Fairey Fox biplane, G-ACXO, in the 1934 England to Australia Air Race. Although they almost immediately had engine trouble (over the English Channel, in fact) and didn’t complete the course in the time allowed to qualify for any of the prizes, they battled on... and on; eventually, they took 117 days to get to Melbourne. But they got there!

After the race, Godfrey joined the RAAF and was killed in the Battle of the Coral Sea, flying a Catalina.

"'Goff' had all the guts in the world." They say.

 

[family insights were kindly provided by G E Hemsworth, Godfrey's nephew].

 

Family


Godfrey was born in Sydney, Australia on the 2nd of January, 1910. He had three brothers - John, Neville and Hugh - and two sisters, Alice and Anne.

His grandfather (John) had owned and captained a number of vessels (including the Neville & Costa Rica Packet), but during the 1890’s depression most of the fortune had been lost.

His father, Captain Hemsworth – also (confusingly for us) called Godfrey Ellard – had been instrumental in the exploration of New Guinea during the latter part of the previous century; in 1885, the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser reported that:

Godfrey Hemsworth, age 23, of Brisbane, filled the post of nautical sub-leader, and in the event of the death, or serious illness, of the leader he would take his position, except that he would not lead the party on land. He held a master's Certificate, and had been navigating officer of some of the finest steamers, was a member of the Meteorological Society of London, and was qualified to undertake any kind of marine surveying.”

 

Theodore F Bevan, of the RGSA, wrote about that expedition and the subsequent gold rush in his book ‘Toil, travel and discovery in British New Guinea’.

However, by 1906 Captain Hemsworth was listed as a 'pearler' in the electoral roll for Broome, Coolgardie, living in Weld Street. (A ‘pearler’ (leaving aside its use as an Australian slang word meaning ‘excellent’ or ‘good-looking’!) is someone that ‘dives for, or trades in, pearls’). There was obviously enough money for him to purchase some pearling luggers (in the end he owned 12 including the Blanche –named after his niece - and some others named after his sisters). He left Broome in 1908 and returned to Sydney.

It was while he was in Western Australia that he met Mabel; they married in Feb 1907. She was 'about 30 years younger than her husband' (who would have been about 45 at the time!)

Godfrey's nephew G E Hemsworth told me "Interestingly, I have a journal that a great aunt wrote about her life and that of her parents and siblings. It traces their lives from 1825 to the 1930’s, but not once does she mention Mabel, so obviously the family were not happy!"

Captain Hemsworth died in 1923. His estate amounted to about £12,000, which he left ‘for the benefit of his widow and six children’. Using average earnings, this would be worth over £2 million today.

Before the Race


Godfrey took his A and B pilots’ licences with the local branch of the Australian Aero Club in 1931, and then flew for Parer's New Guinea company. Not without incident, however:

“Mr- Mario Coucoulis, secretary to the Greek Consul-General in Sydney, left Mascot aerodrome on Saturday on a flight to Perth. His idea is to gain experience for a projected flight to Greece later in the year. Mr. Coucoulis and Pilot G. E. Hemsworth, who were flying from Sydney to Perth, made a forced landing near Wagga on Monday. The plane was damaged, but neither occupant was hurt. They intend to proceed when repairs are effected.”

 

The Queenslander, Thursday 23 July 1931

 

During the 1930s,when Papua New Guinea was governed by Australia, a quite extraordinary air-based operation was mounted in Bulolo to support the gold mining industry– so much so that New Guinea ‘led the world in commercial aviation’ at the time.

Bulolo during the gold rush days

In 1933 Godfrey and his brother John were living at Wychwood, Condamin Street, Balgowlah, New South Wales (although both were listed as having ‘No Occupation’). Their mother, Mabel, lived nearby in White Street.

Parer and Hemsworth arrived in England from New Guinea on August 6, 1934, breaking the journey at Singapore. The Fairey Fox in which they competed in the Air Race was bought from the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce, and was modified at Hanworth by W. S. Shackleton, who ‘cleaned it up very prettily’.

After the Race


In September 1936, there is a curious entry in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“AMBITION TO FLY: Youth Granted Fees from Estate

Application was made in Equity yesterday by Neville Hemsworth, a son of the late Captain Godfrey Hemsworth, retired master mariner, formerly of Campbelltown, for an order for the payment of fees from his father's estate for the purpose of applicant's training as an aviator.

The application was made through the applicant's mother, the testator's widow, a resident of Manly. She said that her son Neville had just left school. He was aged 19, and wished to qualify as an aviator to obtain a pilot's "A" licence, and "B" commercial licence, and wireless and navigation licences. One of his brothers, Godfrey, was a pilot for New Guinea Airways at a salary of £900 a year.

Mr. Justice Nicholas made an order authorising the trustee to pay out of corpus £475 to meet the fees necessary for the purpose indicated, and in addition, £25 for books, instruments, etc.”

 

"... It’s an interesting story. My grandfather’s will gave the boys their money at 25, the girls were to receive a monthly payment. As Neville wanted to learn to fly he had to have access to the funds earlier and Mabel successfully argued that sufficient funds should be released to enable Neville to obtain his pilots license. When Godfrey died in 1923, the oldest child (John) was 15 and the youngest Hugh only a few months old. Mabel had many fine qualities and was certainly a loving mother however she was not good with money and of course six years later in 1929 the start of another depression and a second fortune lost. This indicates how important it was for Neville to obtain a good job and learning to fly would help achieve that."

…although Godfrey's working for ‘New Guinea Airways’ may not have been as glamorous as it sounds…

RAAF


Godfrey was a First Officer with Qantas from May 1938 until the outbreak of war fifteen months later. On his application form for the RAAF, he listed his ‘service aircraft’ experience as ‘Seagull Mk 1, Empire Boats, and Catalina’. By then, he had 5,500 hours experience – 4,500 as pilot in charge.

The Australian government requisitioned two `C` class flying boats and their crews from Qantas, and two Seagull Mk5 amphibians, to form 11 Squadron RAAF. The boats were converted for war use in 5 days and on 25 September left for active service operations in the north of Australia; Godfrey, who had been accepted as a Pilot Officer a month before, was one of the pilots. During the next couple of years, he was promoted to Flying Officer, then Flight Lieutenant and finally Squadron Leader in 20 Squadron, based at Port Moresby, in April 1942.

His RAAF report, written in 1941, describes him as ‘of temperate habits’ and praised his ‘zeal and energy in performance of duties’, but he only scored average marks for his ‘personality, force of character and leadership’. G.W Pearce, the examiner, concluded he was:

“A keen and efficient officer. A good pilot and carries out his flying operations in a competent manner. Lacks the right service outlook. Is inclined to be argumentative with his seniors and has the ‘Qantas’ outlook in that he will not take the slightest risk in flying in case it will jeopardize his position with Qantas Airways after the war. He, however, commands the respect of his crew, and he is well liked by the officers”.

 

20 Squadron RAAF had an extraordinary history, which is perhaps best appreciated by reading this article reproduced in several newspapers of the time. It was written in April 1943, a year after Godfrey was killed:

"But I think those RAAF Catalina squadrons have done a greater job in this war than anyone else". This tribute from a fighter pilot of famous Squadron 75 is probably the best way in which to begin this story. Before Squadron 75 fought off Japanese bombers and Zeros over Moresby, and attacked them at Lae in March and April last year, the Catalina boys had bombed them hard at Rabaul.

Catalinas were few in number then, but they struck so daringly that the Japs must have believed our Moresby strength was greater and more varied than it was. At any rate, they paused in their southward rush and whenever they came over Moresby in those January days, they flew high and cautiously.

Today Australia's Catalina flying boat squadrons have won world-wide fame. In craft built specially for reconnaissance they have become a formidable striking unit. They have harassed the Jap from Truk to Tulagi. They have flown more than 2,000,000 miles in all weather over the Coral Sea and the Pacific to blow up in the dead of night his ammunition dumps and stores, destroy his grounded aircraft, tear gaping holes in his airstrips, sink his ships, plot his movements.

One lone Catalina actually tried to stop the Japanese task squadron in its descent upon Rabaul. Flt-Lt "Bob" Thompson, on patrol on January 21, spotted the convoy. He signaled that he would attack if it didn't hold back. The Japs continued full steam ahead. Thompson attacked. The Japs shot him down. The crew are believed prisoners in Japan.

That was the Catalinas' first loss in battle. Thompson's impudent daring is the key to the cool courage that has characterized the work of the squadrons ever since. Sometimes they have made newspaper headlines. But mostly they have plodded ahead quietly and doggedly. Theirs is not the swift dramatic flash of the fighter plane, told in short dynamic sentences. Theirs is the hard 18 to 22-hour mission to pin-pointed targets, their reward high flames, explosions, and billowing smoke.

But you can get drama only secondhand from the Catalina boys. They will tell you stories about others, never about themselves.

When I was there, the Cats had just returned from their big "bash" at Ballale in the Solomons Buin-Faisi area. As at other places, they had destroyed ammunition and fuel dumps, stores, and grounded planes, and young Sq-Ldr Stokes was credited with "the biggest fire since Makambo." Today in the mess they sing to the tune of 'The Man on the Flying Trapeze":

'They head her for home and the skipper retires

To dream of the headlines next day the "the fires

Were visible 90 miles distant" - the liars.

The Cat boats are flying tonight.'

That's the other side of the Catalina boys. Light hearted over their parodies in the mess - deadly serious in their job.

 

Pioneer Pilots

Beginnings of the Catalina squadrons go back to Empire Fying boat days. With German raiders in the Pacific, reconnaissance on a much wider scale was essential. While orders for Catalinas were placed in America, Qantas flying boats were taken over by the Commonwealth.

The names of Sims, Gurney, Purton, and Hemsworth, all Qantas pilots, began to dot the islands of New Guinea and the Solomons. They plotted fuel 'hide-outs" and secret operational bases. Sims is back with Qantas now. Gurney was killed in an American bomber returning from Rabaul (a New Guinea airstrip bears his name); Purton is missing from early Japanese operations in the north-west; Hemsworth was shot down in the Coral Sea battle. Al Norman, second-pilot with Gurney on the first Catalinas, also went in the Coral Sea.

 

Godfrey Hemsworth's is one of the first names you hear when you visit the Catalinas. It is an indication of a good pilot and a strong character. He could have come home another way from his shadowing of the Japanese Coral Sea invasion fleet, instead, he chose to make an even more thorough job of his search. Enemy floatplanes got him.

They tell this story of Hemsworth in the mess:

"He was on a night raid to Rabaul. That was early in the 'piece.' Second 'dick' was Bill Miller, DFM. They were attacked by five Zeros just as they were making their run. Their port engine was disabled and the old crate was holed in 157 places, including the petrol tank. One Zero was shot down.

"It was a tough spot, but with guns blazing, 'Goff' got away on one engine. They were forced down at Salamaua to get petrol. 'Goff' got her off again, still on one motor, and reached Moresby all out. Flying time home was 15 hours."

" 'Goff' had all the 'guts' in the world." they say.

 

POSTSCRIPT


In theCoral Sea and Catalina Memorial Museum, Bowen, Queensland, Australia, there is a diorama showing two PBY-5 Catalinas:

A24-18, which was shot down on 4th May 1942, with a loss of nine aircrew, was piloted by Godfrey Hemsworth, whose brother Neville, also a WW2 RAAF veteran, dedicated the Museum on 8th May, 1992. The other aircraft is A24-20 shot down on 6th May. Both these aircraft were shadowing the approaching Japanese Fleet. A24-18 is credited with first locating the Fleet, and was subsequently ordered to identify and report back the size and content of the fleet. The plane did so and was not heard from again.

As to what happened then, 'there is no certain answer. We [the family] know he was shot down and that he and his crew were picked up; after that it becomes conjecture but there seem to be three theories:
1) picked up and then either clubbed to death or beheaded;
2) taken by ship to Rabaul and there killed, or
3) taken to Rabaul and transferred to a ship going to Japan that was then sunk by the Americans at some stage.

Hugh told me that Godfrey was killed on board the ship which picked him up but there is no actual proof, no records as to what actually happened.'

His mother Mabel received his Air Force Cross from His Excellency the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, at Admiralty House on the 25th of January 1943. She herself died later the same year, from leukemia, in Manly.

Godfrey's nephew G E Hemsworth told me that "Anne's husband Andrew was a prisoner of the Japanese, he was taken at Singapore. Godfrey's brothers all served in the RAAF: John was too old to fly, but served in the Middle East for three and half years in ciphers and equipment, moving along the coast and setting up airfields and ensuring the plans and men had the equipment with which to fight. He used to take lots of photo’s including German POW’s and Montgomery standing in a jeep etc. Hugh, the youngest, was a pathfinder and flew many missions over Germany. He won a DFC & Bar."

 

There is a memorial to Godfrey in the Port Moresby War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea (Memorial No 23791928).

 

No. 20 Squadron was established at Port Moresby on 1 August 1941 for a general reconnaissance role. The Squadron conducted long range patrols in conjunction with No. 11 Squadron until the outbreak of war in the Pacific. It then commenced anti-submarine patrols and bombing raids against Japanese bases. As the Japanese advanced into the South West Pacific the Squadron was also responsible for evacuating white civilians from areas threatened by invasion. While the Squadron moved to Bowen, Queensland in May 1942 in response to the increasing frequency of Japanese raids on Port Moresby it continued to conduct reconnaissance, anti-submarine and occasional bombing operations over the waters around New Guinea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._20_Squadron_RAAF

The serial numbers may be wrong:

A24-20 386 RCAF VA735/
RAF V9735
Delivered 10/03/42. 20 Sqn 4/4/42. Crashed 06/05/42, off Misima Island in the Coral Sea. 9 Crew Died. Crew; SQNLDR Geoff Hemsworth (Pilot), SGT Jack Coulter (2nd Pilot), FLGOFF Leo Mclintock (Nav), CPL Col Marsden (1st Engineer), LAC Ken Arnott (2nd Engineer), LAC Norman Banville (1st Wireless Op), SGT Jack Bandy (2nd Wireless Op), LAC Eric Dorman (Rigger) and LAC Erwin Brown (Armour).
A24-18 350 RAF V9702 Delivered by Qantas as VH-AFS 23/10/41. 11 Sqn 30/1/42. 20 Sqn 3/4/42. 11 Sqn. Shot Down 04/05/42 while on a daylight reconnaissance mission the aircraft was shot down south of Bougainville and the crew where taken prisoners by the Japanese. On 4 Nov 42 the crew were taken to Matupi village and then executed. Crew; FLGOFF Allan Leslie Norman 407006 (Pilot), FLGOFF Frederick Arthur Donald Diercks 407708 (2nd Pilot), PLTOFF Francis O’Connell Anderson 403118 (Nav), CPL Alfred Harry Lanagan 6853 (1st Engineer), CPL Alfred Roland Hocking 18005 (2nd Engineer), LAC William Murdoch Parker 20343 (1st Wireless Op), LAC Vernon Holloway Hardwick 17635 (2nd Wireless Op), LAC John Joseph Burns 19574 (Rigger) and LAC Ernest John McDonald 10253 (Armour).

http://www.adf-serials.com/2a24.shtml

Godfrey was posted to No 11 Squadron 25/9/39 then to 20 Squadron 1/8/41

 

MacRobertson Race in 1934

photo: 1920, aged 32

Lt-Col George Lockhart Piercey Henderson

b. 15 Apr 1888 in Simla, India, a 'law student' in 1915

RFC in WWI; commanded 66 Squadron in 1917.

In 1919, he offered flights to the general public in an Avro at Hounslow Aerodrome: £1 a head. There was enormous interest; queues of 50 or more were patiently waiting and the aeroplane could hardly get up and down fast enough. Consequently, he was described as the 'best-known of the competitors' in that year's Aerial Derby.

He and a Lieut Herrstrom then opened a flying school in Sweden - "ideal conditions for winter flying", they said.

Later, President of the Federation of Pilots; in 1924, he and Frank Barnard were in talks with Lord Thompson about the dispute over terms and conditions for the pilots of the newly-formed Imperial Airways.

He was still competing in 1927, coming third in the Poole Handicap for owner-pilots.

He got some flak in 1928 when he opened a service from Cape Town and Johannesburg using Junkers tri-motor aeroplanes but, as he pointed out, it was the cheapest option.

He was killed 21 July 1930 in Junkers F.13ge G-AAZK belonging to the Walcot Air Line, which crashed near Gravesend, Kent. His co-pilot and the four passengers also died. The inquiry concluded that the aeroplane had broken up in flight due to 'buffetting', but Junkers produced convincing evidence of pilot error, suggesting that he pulled out of an inadvertent dive too violently.

His ashes were scattered from an aeroplane over Croydon.

His book 'A Complete Course of Practical Flying' was published almost the same day.

Aerial Derby in 1919

Flt-Lt E A Henley

King's Cup in 1934

photo: 1932, aged 20

Mr  Alexander Adolphus Dumfries Henshaw

b. 7th November, 1912.

The extraordinary Mr Spitfire. Leant to fly in (of all places) Skegness. "After 25 hours solo bought a Comper Swift and in the 1933 King's Cup Race won the Siddley Trophy with it." In 1936, still the youngest competitor in the race.

King's Cup in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938

d. 24th February, 2007

Capt Denis George Westgarth Heslam in 1920

b. 29 Jun 1885

Test Pilot for Avro.

d. Dec 1972 in Aldershot

Aerial Derby in 1920

James Duff Hewett

 

Died 27th October 1955 in Kerikeri, aged 64

 

James Duff Hewett was born on January 18, 1891, in a near-Auckland district which is spelt Kihikihi and pronounced " Kee-kee " to avoid confusion with kai kai. which is Maori for "food." The R.Ae.C. gave him its certificate in June, 1916, two months after his transfer into the R.F.C. Whilst serving in France with Nos. 4 and 23 Squadrons he was awarded the C. de G. Post-war he put in a year with No. 20 Squadron on the Indian North-West Frontier. Thence, with rank of Sqd. Ldr., back to New Zealand. One of Hewett's brother officers in No. 23 was " 2nd Lieut. C. K. Smith," nowadays better known as Air Com. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.

In 1924 Hewett joined the N.Z.A.F., of which he is still a member. Since 1927, when he bought one of the first Moths " seen in the Dominion (a " Gipsy I "), his connection with aviation has been mainly commercial, as managing director of Falcon Airways, Ltd., Auckland, which has its private aerodrome at Oraki. Hewett has flown some 4,000 hr. Now in his 44th year, he is perhaps senior to every competitor in the race.

HEWETT, a war-bird, is in command of No 1 Squadron, New Zealand Territorial Air Force. He is one of the Dominion's most successful commercial pilots and has flown 26 types of 'planes.

(ABCs guide, 1934)

 

MacRobertson Race in 1934

 

photo: 1911, aged 47

Mrs Hilda Beatrice Hewlett

Wow, nice... ummm... what is that exactly? 

RAeC Certificate No :122 - 29 Aug 1911

b. Hilda Beatrice Bird, 17 Feb 1874 in Vauxhall, London; married novelist Maurice Hewlett. Created and ran the first flying school in the UK, and then a successful aircraft manufacturing business with Gustav Blondeau. Her 20-year-old son Francis got his RAeC certificate shortly after she did (No 156). He later became an Air Commodore.

Emigrated to New Zealand (to get away from "crowds, convention and civilization") and died there 21 Aug 1943.

See Hewlett, Gail (2010) 'Old Bird - The Irrepressible Mrs Hewlett' (Troubadour Publishing Ltd, Leicester, ISBN 978 1848763 371)

First British Woman to hold an RAeC Certificate.

bridget hill 1939Bridget Grace Marian Ledger Hill

 bridget hill signature

 Bridget was born 7 May 1914, in Camberley, Surrey; her father was Major-General Walter Pitts Hendy Hill and they lived in Amesbury, Wilts.

She earned her RAeC Certificate in Feb 1939 in Wiltshire. That September, within a fortnight of war being declared, she wrote to Marion Wilberforce;

"I am writing to know if you have any sort of flying job to offer me. I had almost completed my instructor's course, during which I did some blind flying - this was interrupted by the outbreak of war. I do hope you can find some use for me, as I adore flying and have spent everything on my training as an instructor."

And, to back her up, her instructor wrote "I hereby certify that Miss Bridget Hill has carried out 108 hours flying, of which 78 have been solo. During her training as a pilot she has shown very good progress, and as a cross-country pilot I would place her as above average.
She has learned quickly and has displayed remarkable common sense in the matter of estimating the weather in the interests of safety.
While flying here she started an instructor's course and, although this was not completed, she gave evidence of ability as an instructor."

ATA Bridget Hill

She was actually a bit too early: "I regret to inform you that we are not considering employing lady pilots in the ATA at the moment. In any case the minimum solo flying experience requred is 250 hours. We are filing your letter, however, and if in the future the position should change we would get in touch with you."

They didn't, of course, get in touch with her, so in May 1940 she wrote again, and was offered a test.

This, as she admitted later, was a disaster: "I am more than aware what a mess I made of my test, but I think the strongest nerves could hardly help being affected by waiting from 10 to 5 with so much at stake!"

However, by December of 1940, she was brave enough to write to Pauline Gower, again; "There has been so much in the newspapers of the expansion of the ATA, that I have decided to risk bothering you again by writing to know if there is any hope for me."

This time they wrote back to say No (again) - and you still need at least 150 hours.

Most people would probably have given up by now, but Bridget was made of sterner stuff. She took a job driving a mobile canteen but, here she is again, on the 10 Mar 1941: "I am answering the appeal made on the wireless this evening by Lord Londonderry to members of the Civil Air Guard and holders of 'A' licences .... I am hoping that there is some chance of my being able to be of service."

At last, they relented, and offered her another test on the 2 April 1941. She was grateful, excited, and a bit apprehensive; "One is bound to be a bit rusty not having flown for so long..."

Her test was with Margaret Cunnison, and this time it went OK - "quite good, but would need some further training".

Even then, there was another couple of months' wait until, finally, she got the call: "Please report 15 July for 15 Aug."

She was delighted.

Kitty Farrer, the ATA Adjutant, filled in a little essential background knowledge: "She tells me she is a Baha'i, but would be satisfied with any form of christian burial!"

After 4 months at Hatfield, she was posted to Hamble, then Training Pool. Her flying instruction went well. "She is shaping very well indeed. An intelligent, hard-working pilot. Expected to do well." She completed 23hrs on Tiger Moth, 4hrs 45min on Magister.

She was seconded to No 15 Ferry Pool (Hamble) on the 19th Jan 1942, and made 75 ferry flights, totalling 129.35 hrs, in the following few weeks. She flew Tiger Moths, Puss Moths and a Wicko.

ATA Bridget Hill 2

Sadly, however, she was killed at 12.20pm on the 15 Mar 1942 when flying as a passenger in Fairchild Argus HM178, which stalled and crashed onto a bungalow when returning to land at White Waltham after bad weather.

fairchild argus

Yorkshire Evening Post, 17 Mar 1942: "AIRWOMEN KILLED Ferry Pilots' 'Plane Hit Bungalow. The Ministry of Aircraft Production announces that Flying Officer Graham Lever, Third Officer Bridget Hill, and Third Officer Bessie Sayers lost their lives in a flying accident on Sunday. The accident occurred in the course of their duties with the Air Transport Auxiliary. The 'plane crashed on to a bungalow. A fourth passenger in the machine, also a woman A.T.A. officer, was injured. Twenty-six people were injured when they rushed to the house to extricate the passengers in the 'plane. It is believed that the petrol tank in the machine exploded. The injured woman passenger was Third Officer P. D. Duncan."

 THROWN CLEAR At the inquest, which was adjourned until April 14. the Coroner stated that Miss Duncan, who was in hospital, had had "an extraordinary escape." It is understood that she was thrown clear of the house as the 'plane crashed, and escaped with cuts and bruises. Among the injured were children who were in the street. The petrol tank exploded some time after the crash, owing, it is believed, to contact with a fire in the kitchen. A man named Croft, living in an adjoining bungalow, was blown through a window into the street and badly hurt but a child in the front room of the bungalow was rescued almost uninjured. "

She is buried in Britford Cemetery.

"My Dear Miss Gower, I must write and tell you once again how happy in, and proud of, her Corps Bridget was. It was all one great adventure for her, and her purpose in life was to make it a success ... The man who stood next to me at her graveside would have been her husband and it is so sad to think that they were deprived of that great happiness."

"I wouldn't have had my darling in any other service... it was a wonderful life and she was so supremely happy."

One of the ATA Women

Lieut Cmdr C N Hill, R.N.

MacRobertson Race in 1934

photo: 1937, aged 42

Wing-Cdr E G Hilton

A pilot at Martlesham. Made an attempt at the South Africa - England record in 1936 (flying 'Miss Wolseley', an Airspeed Envoy), but was delayed in Athens and abandoned the attempt.

Entered the 1937 Race, I'm afraid, "largely out of curiosity''. Was thrown out of the aircraft in very bumpy conditions near Scarborough; his passenger (the owner of the aircraft) Wing-Cmdr Percy Sherren, a native of Crapaud, Prince Edward Island, was also killed in the subsequent crash.

King's Cup in 1937 (killed during the race)

1916

in 1927

Mr Walter George Raymond Hinchliffe

b. 10, or 11 Jun 1893, or 1894..

'Hinch', the one-eyed pilot who disappeared with Elsie Mackay in 1928 trying to cross the Atlantic from east to west.

WWI fighter pilot (7 victories, the last of which cost him his left eye); he then became a well-known pilot for Daimler Air Express, which formed part of Imperial Airways in April 1924.

On 18 December 1924 he flew G-EBBX, a D.H.34  single-engine airliner, from Croydon to Amsterdam but, after setting off on the return journey, the engine oil pressure started fluctuating alarmingly and he turned back; the engine was overhauled, and he tried again, with the same result. Again, the engine was overhauled and tested thoroughly and they finally got back to Croydon on Christmas Eve, although the engine was still running rather roughly.

The next person to fly the aeroplane was David Stewart; the aeroplane took off from Croydon later the same day and crashed within a few minutes, killing him and his 7 passengers. It was the first fatal crash suffered by Imperial Airways, and it led to the first Public Enquiry into a civil aircraft accident in the UK.

Hinch carried on as one of Imperial Airways' senior pilots; two years later, for example, he flew Geoffrey and Mrs de Havilland, plus another man and four other women, to India, to inaugurate Imperial Airways' Egypt-India Empire service. He came 4th in the King's Cup in July 1927.

 

Then in August 1927 he was asked by wealthy American businessman Charles A Levine to try an east-west trans-Atlantic flight in the Bellanca monoplane NX237 'Miss Columbia'.

  Clarence Chamberlin had set the world long-distance record flying from New York to (near) Berlin in this aeroplane, with Levine as passenger; indeed, they had missed being the very first 'long' trans-Atlantic flight by only a few days.

However, this idea was abandoned after Leslie Hamilton, Lt-Col Minchin and Princess Lowenstein-Wertheim disappeared in their Fokker FVIIa G-EBTQ when they tried the same thing [see above]. Instead, they decided to try to break the long-distance record by flying to India, but only got as far as Vienna when oil pressure fluctuation (again!) and bad weather forced them to land.

There is some footage of the preparations at Cranwell for this flight, (and of the Fokker 'St Raphael' in which Hamilton, Minchin and Princess L-W lost their lives) here.

So (Hinch having already agreed a month's leave from Imperial Airways) they then took a leisurely flight round Italy, including an audience with the Pope on 3 October; the Pope gave Mr Levine the apostolic benediction, "blessing his future enterprises". The next day, however, intending to drop a present for Signor Mussolini's new baby boy, they had to make a forced landing in a vineyard, doing serious damage to the aeroplane but luckily not themselves.

The Bellanca was repaired but later destroyed in a hangar fire; another one, painted to look like it, is now in the Virginia Aviation Museum: see http://www.vam.smv.org/pdfs/VAMHistoricAircraft.pdf


King's Cup in 1927

photo: 1927, aged 35

Sqn Ldr Herbert John Louis Hinkler

Australian 'Lone Eagle', aviation pioneer, killed in a crash in Italy in 1933

 

King's Cup in 1922, 1923, 1925

photo: 1937

F/O Alan Harold Hole

Personal pilot to Lindsay Everard MP (after Winifred Spooner), and 'manager of his private aerodrome at Ratcliffe'

 

King's Cup in 1937

photo: 1930

Flt Lt Cyril Thomas Holmes

An AT&T pilot, then one of the original captains of KLM, then a flying instructor in the Reserve of Air Force Officers (RAFO)


King's Cup in 1922

photo: 1917, when a 2nd Lieut in the RFC, aged 20

photo: 1928, aged 31

Capt Walter Laurance Hope

'Wally', technical director of Air Freight, and a Liverpudlian. A close friend of Bert Hinkler, he made an extensive search over the Alps at his own expense when Bert went missing on his fatal flight.

Winningest ever.

At the end of the 1928 race, "Thinking all was over he proceeded to loop and stunt before landing, and having landed switched on his well known winning smile. Suddenly there was a terrific hooting, and Sir Francis McClean in his white Rolls-Royce came tearing across to tell Hope he had not crossed the finishing line... Within 30 seconds Hope was in the air again, discovered the finishing line, landed, and again switched on the winning smile fortissimo." C G Grey

Entered for the MacRobertson Race in 1934 (No 24) but didn't take part in the end.

 

King's Cup in 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937

1935

Mr Edmund G Hordern

Test pilot for Heston Aircraft Company.

In 1937 he formed Hordern-Richmond Aircraft Ltd at Denham, which made propellors; now part of Permali Gloucester Limited.

King's Cup in 1930

 c e howell

Capt Cedric Ernest Howell

 

 

Killed 9 Dec 1919 in the crash of the Martinsyde A1 off the coast of Corfu, after running out of fuel, during the England-Australia Race in 1919

photo: 1920, aged 38

Sqn Ldr Thomas O'Brien Hubbard MC, AFC

b. 14 Aug 1882 in London

A really early flier - RAeC Certificate No 222, in 1912; up to then he had been the Secretary of the Royal Aero Club, but transferred to the RFC as a Second Lieutenant (on probation) in July 1912.

In 1911 he had helped to translate Robert Petit's "How to build an aeroplane' from the French, including the prediction that aluminium "will soon be completely abandoned in aeroplane construction".

He wrote several other books, including "The Boys' book of Aeroplanes" (1913).

After WWI he continued in the RAF in Egypt, Palestine and, er, Bircham Newton in Norfolk. His final posting was as commander of the RAF station in Hinaidi, Iraq from 1929-31, and he then retired as a Wing Commander.

Aerial Derby in 1920

Joan Lily Amelia Hughes MBE in 1935, aged 17.

b. 28 April 1918 in Woodford, Essex; educated 'privately'. 5 foot 2, build: slight, eyes: hazel.

Joan Hughes celebrated her 17th birthday by qualifying for her RAeC Certificate, making her, at the time, the youngest female flyer in Great Britain.

She became an instructor with Chigwell Flying Club, then joined the Civil Air Guard at Romford in 1938.

ATA

The youngest of the 'First Eight' women ATA members who joined on the 1st January 1940, she mostly continued as an instructor, eventually at the Advanced Flying Training School at White Waltham. She did, however, ferry many types of aircraft, including Hurricane, Spitfire, Lysander, Typhoon, Mosquito, York, Fortress, Lancaster, Halifax, Liberator and Stirling.

She had a few mishaps (only one deemed to be her fault);  in August 1941, a forced landing in a Hurricane when the undercarriage jammed; a landing accident in June 1942 when she was instructing Jocelyn Hotham in a Hart, which swung and tipped onto a wing, and another forced landing in a Stirling in December 1943. This last one was due to a 'No 12 cylinder induction elbow blowing off' (so you now know as much as I do.)

Joan Hughes and Stirling One of the iconic images of the ATA - Joan, dwarfed by a Stirling (Brief Glory)

Her flying was always highly praised: "First Officer Hughes is an exceptionally good and level-headed pilot. She has worked extremely hard and conscientiously ... a capable pilot on the Stirling; of above average ability, who, in spite of her small stature, handled the aircraft in a most satisfactory manner. She is to be complimented on such an excellent performance."

One small criticism, however: "her technical knowledge is a long way behind her flying ability & she should spend more time in study of this branch."

After WWII Joan moved to the British Airways Flying Club at Booker, and in 1961 she was awarded the Jean Lennox Bird Trophy; she had trained more than 50 pilots during the year.

MUWW

In 1965 she flew a replica of a 1909 Santos-Dumont Demoiselle in the film "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines", and then a replica in simulated dog-fights for the film "The Blue Max". She later visited the US where she appeared on a television quiz show as a mystery guest.

Miss Hughes was one of the display pilots at the Shuttleworth Trust during the 1960s: "These aircraft are wonderfully removed from scientific aircraft. Everything depends on the pilot's skill, so you feel more personally involved. Apart from that you are open to the weather".

She retired in 1985 with 11,800 hours in her logbook, 10,000 of which were as instructor, and "devoted herself to tennis, music and country walks". She died age 74, on the 16 August 1993 in Somerset.

One of the ATA Women

mini - c f hughesdon

photo: 1933, aged 24

Mr Charles Frederick Hughesdon

Lloyds Insurance Broker; he married actress Florence Desmond after Tom Campbell Black's death. Honorary Flying Instructor to the Insurance Flying Club at Hanworth

King's Cup in 1936, 1937, 1938

Schlesinger Race in 1936

 photo: 1930, aged 19

Mr William 'Bill' Humble MBE

b. 14 April 1911 in Doncaster

The Aeroplane described him in 1936 as "A mining engineer ... has to climb up several thousand feet to get into his Speed Hawk Six - from the bottom of the family coal mine." (Ha!)

[From 1937 his father, also called William, was Chairman of the Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries, Ltd, until they were nationalised. William Snr was a keen racehorse owner; his horse 'Nearula' won the 2000 Guineas in 1953 and he died in 1964 aged 89.]

Bill didn't work in the family coal mine, however.

From 1939 to 1948, he was test pilot for Hawkers - initially testing Hurricanes, right up to the prototype Sea Hawk - then later in their Sales Department in the Middle East.

d. 1 Mar 1992

His grand-daughter is Kate Humble, the TV presenter. (See 'Who Do You Think You Are', Series 6). She says 'He was unbelievably handsome ... a rogue, a very good-looking rogue. I was 23 when he died. He lived abroad, but came back to England in the late 1980s, when he got ill. Because he wasn't a good father to my father, and didn't really like children, I only got to know him better when I was an adult.'

King's Cup in 1935, 1936, 1938

 

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