A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

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photo: 1926, aged 39

Sicele Julia Mary Annette O'Brien


b. 1 Apr 1887 in London [or Limerick?], daughter of Sir Timothy O'Brien, a well-known cricketer (it says here). She was an ambulance driver during WWI, and later a tennis player.

In 1927, the second woman to get a 'B' [Commercial] Licence. Supposedly, her parents were against her taking flying lessons, and the first they heard about it was when they saw a newspaper report.

Lost a leg in a crash (onto a golf course in Mill Hill, interrupting a four-ball match) a year later, but continued with an artificial limb."It was worth it", she said, "One has to take risks for anything that is worth while".

With Lady Heath, set a British altitude record of 13,400 ft in 1928.

Sicele oBrien Hon Miss Leath Cords  Cooke Lady Heath and Sec

l to r: Sicele, the Hon Miss Leath, Mr Cords, Mr Cooke, Lady Heath and her secretary.

Killed 18 June 1931 aged 44 in her Blackburn Bluebird III G-AABF, which crashed when taking off at Hatfield.

Sicele owned:

a 1926 DH.60 Moth (G-EBOS) (the aeroplane which she crashed onto a golf course in Mill Hill), and

a 1928 Blackburn L.1B Bluebird III G-AABF (which is the aeroplane in which she and co-owner Enid Merlin Gordon Gallien were killed).

photo: 1930

Flt-Lt John Oliver

King's Cup in 1930

photo: 1929

Sqn-Ldr Augustus Henry Orlebar CBE, AFC and bar

b. c.1897. From Podington, Northants.

Schneider Trophy pilot (and World Air Speed Record Holder) in 1929, Director of Flying Training in WWII; died 4th April 1943 from natural causes, and as far as I know not Bob Willis' dad.


King's Cup in 1930

photo: 1931, aged 21

Mr John Gladholme Ormston

known as Jack; a Speedway Rider from Durham. Yep; a speedway rider. Apparently, [it says here], a rider in the historic 1936 World Championship Final. [see also Arthur Franklyn, above].

"Mr Ormston has already used his Westland Widgeon on several occasions as a means of travelling between one speedway track and another, or from Wembley to his home at Coxhoe, Co. Durham."

Died 2006.

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King's Cup in 1931, 1932

photo: 1917, aged 19, when a 2nd Lieut on the General List

Mr Frederick John Ortweiler MC

'Freddy', b. 25 Feb 1898 in London

His father Simon came to England from Germany in the 1880s and, "conceiving an affection for British institutions", became a Britsh citizen in 1897. He then founded a company making ladies' handbags. The firm was subject to anti-German propaganda by their English trade rivals in 1915, but Simon sued them, successfully, and was awarded £250 damages.

Freddy and his brother Bobby then went to Officer Training Corps near London, and Freddy joined 29 Sqn RAF. Flying behind the German lines on 16 October 1917, he was attacked by 5 planes, shot down and taken prisoner. His account of his time as a prisoner-of-war is in the National Archives, and his diaries, some letters and photos are in the RAF Museum.

Of the Ingelmunster collecting station, he says "we were locked in our rooms most of the time, and we received the same food as the German soldiers, but it was poor to us"..."I have reasons to believe that there were microphones in use. The officers were taken out one by one to be interrogated... we naturally talked of what we didn't tell, and could be overheard."

On the train to Germany, "I can speak German, and insisted to the German officer commanding at the station that I was an officer and should at least go 2nd class"..."we had a little coffee, but no food. No heating in the train - very cold".

At Burg, "we got no parcels, and the consequence was that we got very weak and ill, as we could not do on the German food"...."we were always shouted at, instead of being spoken to in a civil way".

Transferred to Halle Camp with all the other British prisoners, he escaped in January 1918 but was caught on the Dutch border. "I had no trial, and was kept in solitary confinement for a month".

Later the camp commandant "shouted at me for about five minutes, and told me I was a German, and asked me whether I had been born in Germany. I said 'No, thank God', and he gave me three days' cells without reading, writing or smoking, and in his temper tore the bedclothes off the bed. A very violent man."

"Our great weapon was to laugh. The Germans cannot stand ridicule."

The original documents can be seen here and here

He escaped from Stralsund Camp, Germany, on 12th October 1918 and arrived back in England on 31 October (so, 12 days before the Armistice).

He was killed 14 Feb 1922 in a flying accident at Cuatro Ventos Air Base in Madrid, in a Bristol aeroplane which had been acquired by Spain. He was buried at the Willesden (Jewish) Cemetery in London.

Bobby died 18 Jun 1927 aged 27; Simon on 10 July 1938.

Their mother, their surviving brother Ernest and sister Martine put 'In Memoriam' notices for both Freddy and Bobby in the newspapers, right up until 1946. They were obviously both sadly missed.

Aerial Derby in 1921


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