A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

Flt-Lt H M David

I think this must be Flt-Lt (later Sqn Ldr, Wing Cmdr from 1939, Grp Capt, CBE) Edward Hugh Markham David, who served in the Navy in WWI, as a cadet at Osborne in 1914 and Dartmouth, and a midshipman in the 'St Vincent', 'Whiteley', and 'Revenge'. He was one the very first tranche who trained at RAF Cranwell when it opened in 1920.

b. 10 Jan 1901 in Monmouth, he was posted to Iraq in 1921-25 and Aden in 1932-4, then became Adjutant of 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force.

DFC in September 1941; retired and moved to Malta after WWII; his daughter Diana Elizabeth Markham married in 1952.

d. 1957

King's Cup in 1934


RAeC 9053 - Joy Muntz

Elsie Joy Davison

nee Muntz

b. 14 Mar 1910, Toronto, Canada

joy davidson 1933

Elsie Joy Muntz, who was always known as Joy, and signed herself as ‘E. Joy Davison’, originally wrote to Pauline Gower in early December 1939:

“My Dear Pauline,
I have just this minute got wind of the W.S.A.T.A [Women’s Section Air Transport Auxiliary], and would very much like some further details about it.
At present I am flying for the N.A.C. with Portsmouth, Southsea and I.O.W. Aviation, based at Cardiff, but I am not particularly impressed, though the pay is reasonably good. Could you let me know how much the ATA are offering as a salary, and whether (if you know yet) there will be any chances of promotion later, or will one stay for ever as a Second Officer?
My experience at the moment is nearly 1,300 hours, of which about 600 is on twins and about 100 night. Normal peace-time occupation is Commercial Pilot; age is 29; not married any more (since 20/11/39!) ‘B’ Licence No 2567. Types flown: Moth, Avian, Puss Moth, Fox Moth, Cadet, Swift, Desoutter, Drone, Proga, Monospar, Tiger Moth, Klemm, Airspeed Courier, Airspeed Ferry, Miles Falcon; Privately owned: Cadet; experience: British Isles only.
My best wishes to Dorothy, if you should see her, and of course to yourself.”

By the 9th of December, however, she wrote:
My Dear Pauline,
Many thanks for your letter and dope enclosed, also for the further circular letter from BA detailing salary etc.
Sorry old thing, but I fear the dough isn’t good enough, particularly considering one would be flying open cockpit stuff for a large majority of the time! Afraid I’m getting soft or old or something, but when I’ve got a job which pays about twice as well and where one earns one’s money in more or less comfort, the change offers no worthwhile attractions! Nevertheless I wish you all very well, and if any of you should happen to come to Cardiff for any reason do look me up. Of course I may be away I can give no promises!
Let me know when you have time and things have progressed a bit further, which of our flying females you have roped in!
Best of wishes to you, my dear, and the very best of luck to you. Awfully glad they picked you to be at the head of this thing. May it and you go far together!”

Six months later, and things had moved on somewhat:
Dear Pauline,
Herewith the dope about me. Since chatting on the phone, I’ve managed to get some extra petrol to cover the trip to Hatfield by car, so think maybe it would save time if I were to come through while the contracts going through official channels – what do you think? If you agree send me a wire, and I’ll pack up and come pronto. Point is, the posts here are awful and I didn’t get your letter till this morning so a whole day was wasted which in these times is the devil!!
What sort of digs accommodation is there around Hatfield? Pretty crowded I reckon.
Am looking forward to coming a lot and so glad I can be of assistance. I’ll tell you more about what’s kept me out of it since N.A.C. cracked up, when I see you!”

joy davidson 1937

Joy started on the 1st of July, 1940.

Exactly one week later, unbelievably, tragically, she died in a crash.

miles master

The accident report said that the aircraft made a ‘spiral dive’ (not a spin) at about 600-700ft. "It continued in this spiral until it hit the ground and eye-witnesses, who are experienced pilots, state that they had no reason to consider that it was out of control but, for some unknown reason, it remained in the spiral until it hit the ground."

The pilot/instructor, Sgt l’Estrange was an exceptionally experienced instructor and was well acquainted with Master aircraft; Joy, as we have seen, was an exceptionally experienced pilot on many different types of aircraft.
No cause was ever found for the crash. One theory was that carbon monoxide leaked into the cockpit (despite Joy’s prediction, and unlike many pre-war Miles designs, the Master had an enclosed cockpit) and rendered the two of them unconscious.

Her many friends were aghast; Jennie Broad, who had also just joined the ATA, wrote to Pauline the very next day (9th July):
Dear Miss Gower,
I would appreciate any information you are able to give me of Mrs Davison’s accident. We were old friends and if there is anything I can do please do not hesitate to let me know at once.
I have written to Mrs Davison’s mother, but as she will probably be in Hatfield before she receives my letter, will you be so kind as to give her, or anyone else representing her, my address and ask them to get in touch with me?”

Pauline wrote straight away to Joy’s mother:
“I should like you to know how we shall miss your daughter. She was a most kind and cheerful member of this Section, and a first class pilot. May I offer you our most sincere sympathy in your bereavement."

Nearly a year later, on the 4th July 1941, Joy’s sister, Hope Muntz, wrote to Pauline Gower, asking her if possible to ‘write a few lines to my mother on the 8th…. If you could give any news of the ATA and of Jenny Broad & Mrs Patterson I know she would be so pleased.”

Pauline, of course, did write, to say; “we shall be thinking of Joy and wishing she could still be with us.”

One of the ATA Women

F/O Cyril G Davies

MacRobertson Race in 1934


photo: 1917, when a 2nd Lieut., RFC, aged 27

Flt-Lt Wilfrid Leslie Dawson

b. 2 Apr 1890 in Huddersfield.

One of the first tranche of cadets at Cranwell when it opened in 1920.

Posted to RAF Staff College, Andover from January 1934, for 'Staff College Course No 12', then posted to 'Headquarters, Palestine and TransJordan' the following year.

Sqn Ldr from 1936. Married Elizabeth McIntyre, and their daughter was born in the Government Hospital Jerusalem in 1936, while he was also learning 'colloquial Arabic'.

216(Bomber Transport) Sqn in Egypt in 1937, Wing Cmdr from 1939. In December 1939 he was one of 6 who survived the crash of an Imperial Airways airliner which crashed in the Mediterranean (5 died).

Grp Capt and CBE in 1943; Air Commodore and CB in 1945; Air Vice Marshall in 1948; Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations at NATO in 1953.

King's Cup in 1931

photo: 1911, aged 29

photo: 1936, aged 54

Capt Geoffrey de Havilland

Sir Geoffrey de Havilland O.M. K.B.E A.F.C Hon.F.R.Ae.S.; putting Hatfield on the map, and thereby inspiring generations of air-brained youth like me

King's Cup in 1925, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1933, 1934, 1936

photo: 1936

Mr Geoffrey Raul de Havilland

Geoffrey Junior, aka 'Young D.H.' born in 1910 and learnt to fly at Stag Lane at a tender age. Took over as chief test pilot at de Havillands when Bob Waight was killed.

Second Brit to fly a jet-propelled aircraft on its first flight, the Vampire in 1943. Killed when the second DH108 Swallow broke up and crashed in the Thames estuary in 1946.

Flight 18th April 1946

As a test pilot young D.H., as he is universally called,has not an exceptionally long history. He took over the chief test pilot's position in October, 1937, when R. J. Waight unfortunately lost his life on the T.K.4. Being, however, the son of his illustrious father, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, who designed, built and test flew his own aircraft from 1911 onwards, young Geoffrey can be said to have been ''in the industry'' from the very cradle. It is not generally known that Sir Geoffrey took his R.Ae.C. ticket No. 53 in February, 1911, on the second machine of his own design and construction, and that he has made many of the first flights on new D.H. types right up to the Moth Minor in 1938.

Geoffrey's first flight is lost in the dim past, but certain it is that at the tender age of six he was flying with father at Hendon in a D.H. 6 (also known as the Clutching Hand). When 18 years of age he left school and came to de Havillands as a premium apprentice for 4 years and learnt to fly on Moths at the firm's reserve training school. After spending two years in the drawing office—much of the time being spent looking out of the windows envying the pilots—he joined the Air Operating Company, who were doing a lot of air survey work in South Africa. This, however, gave him but very little flying, and at the end of six months, he came back to England to become a flying instructor to the D.H. Technical School. The aircraft were wooden Moths built by the students. In 1929 he took his B licence; a very simple business in those days. Some 20 or 30 hours' solo flying, a little cross-country work, a simple "Met" exam, and about one hour's night flying at Croydon was sufficient to qualify.

In 1934 Capt. Hubert Broad was chief test pilot of de Havillands, and Bob Waight looked after the production side. There was so much work, however, that Geoffrey was given the opportunity to lend a hand testing Tiger Moths, Dragons, Rapides, Express Air Liners, and Hornet Moths.

Broad left the company in 1935 and Waight took over, starting, with the Dragonfly and later the Albatross. It was during the period when the prototype Albatross was going through its development flying that Waight lost his life, and de Havilland took over as chief test pilot. Nobody could have taken on a more interesting or more complex job because the Albatross was completely experimental from tip to tail. Engines were new, construction was new, and the layout was extremely advanced.

He had a curious experience on the Albatross. While its strength was ample for all flying loads, some unfortunate drilling had weakened the fuselage under ground loads, and shortly after landing from a test flight the machine broke in halves on the ground.

When war broke out lie was busy testing Oxfords and Flamingoes, but when things became desperate at the time of the Battle of Britain, de Havillands did a big job doing emergency repairs to shot-up Hurricanes.

Dick Reynell of Hawkers came over and gave Geoffrey the "know how" on Hurricanes. A little later Dick went out on operations with his old squadron (No. 43) and was, unfortunately, shot down.' He was an excellent test pilot and a gallant gentleman.

Improvised Runway

Geoffrey flew the first Mosquito at Hatfield on November 21st, 1940, but he is more proud of the first flight of the prototype Mosquito fighter. This was built at a dispersal factory with no airfield. To save some six week's wasted time in transport and re-erection at Hatfield, Geoffrey used local fields by having bridges built over ditches to give him a 450yd run for take-off, and then flew the fighter to Hatfield.

He is, of course, one of the only two men in Britain to have made first flights on jet-propelled aircraft. The Vampire was flown for the first time on September 21st, 1943, but Geoffrey had already flown the Gloster E.28 at Farnborough. The first airing of the Vampire proved it to be a tribute to the D.H. design and aerodynamics staff, as it behaved almost exactly as they had forecast. There was, however, somewhat of an aileron overbalance which limited the speed to 250 m.p.h. and a rather severe tip stall.

Geoffrey de Havilland had made a number of investigation flights on Mosquitoes for compressibility effects, but on the Vampire he has done extensive work. The Vampire, under the effects of compressibility, executes a series of sudden high-speed stalls: the path of the machine is similar to an artist's conception of a streak of lightning, and unless the pilot is strapped-in tightly he is likely to be knocked out by hitting the cockpit roof.

Geoffrey, with another pilot, has flown the Vampire in tight formation at over 500 m.p.h., and to investigate snaking, which is causing considerable trouble on most jet aircraft, he has flown the Vampire with rudder locked.

Like most of the test pilots, he is living on borrowed time, they having at some stage of their careers had close shaves. Strangely enough, Geoffrey's nearest go was on about the mildest type he ever flew. It was the first production Moth Minor. The prototype had completed its spinning tests, and the same tests on the production model appeared to be only a matter of form. He was flying with John Cunningham (now Group Capt., D.S.O.,D.F.C., and test pilot for the D.H. engine division) at the time. The Minor was put into a spin at 5-6,oooft, but after it had failed to come out in five turns and the engine had stopped, a panic decision was made to abandon ship.

Test-flying a Hurricane, too, almost saw him off. This particular aircraft had had a gruelling time in the Battle of Britain, and the whole canopy came off at 4,000ft.hitting him in the face as it blew backwards. At first blind through the amount of blood in his eyes, he flew more by instinct than anything else until he found he could get a little relief by holding his face close to the instrument board. The blood dispersed a little and he was able to land through what appeared to be a thick yellow haze. He wears the scars across his nose to this day, and there was a terrible moment during that flight when he thought he was really blind.

On another occasion the oxygen bottle contained only compressed air, and the effects from this were at first blamed on the previous night's party.

At the other end of the scale was the test of the T.K.5, a tail-first aircraft built by the technical school. Impecunious at the time, Geoffrey had already mortgaged the bonus for the first flight. Imagine his consternation then when, after roaring the whole length of Hatfield airfield, the machine showed no sign of lifting. The forward elevator was ineffective. The T.K.5 never did fly and was finally abandoned.

In the days of peace before the war Geoffrey de Havilland was to be seen at all the air meetings and twice finished 4th in the King's Cup Race flying the TK1 and TK2.

King's Cup in 1930, 1932, 1934, 1937, 1938

photo: 1931, aged 18

Mr Peter Jason de Havilland

middle son of Geoffrey; both his brothers were killed in flying accidents, but he survived and published his father's autobiography in 1979

King's Cup in 1934

photo: 1916, when a captain in the Royal Gloucester Regt, aged 22

Mr Rollo Amyatt Wolseley de Haga Haig AFC

winner, best name in a King's Cup competition

King's Cup in 1922


Roderick Peter George Denman

b. 1894

A descendant of William the Conqueror, apparently.

RPG Denman with cast of the Blue Squadron 1934

With the cast of 'The Blue Squadron' in 1934 - l to r: John Stuart, RPG Denman, 'Doc' Salomon (Studio Manager) and Greta Hansen.


A Civil Servant (Board of Education) who then worked for Airwork - by 1936, a director of Heston Airport. He seems to have specialized in wireless equipment.

M.A. (Cantab); member of the Old Etonian Flying Club; he was also a member of 'the Listeners', who won a spelling bee against the BBC in 1938. He was one of the few people who made no mistakes!

Later a Lt-Col in the Royal Corps of Signals.

Killed in WWII; 20 November 1941 in Libya, aged 46.


Aerial Tour in 1930

photo: 1932

Mr Albert Marc Diamant

b. c1898. From Warfield, Berkshire.

Flight, 1939: "Capt. Mark Diamant has been appointed as the new general secretary of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators. He has been associated with the work of the Guild almost since its inception. He was a [WWI] pilot, and was for some five years the manager of the aviation department of the Dominion Motor Spirit Co. Capt. Diamant is well known in the flying club world and is, if we remember correctly, actually a member of some dozens of clubs all over the country."

Killed in WWII: 30th January 1942, when a Wing Commander, 24 Sqn RAF(O); his remains were cremated at Oxford

King's Cup in 1933

Mr V N Dickinson

King's Cup in 1929

photo: 1914, when a midshipman in the Royal Navy, aged 18

photo: 1930, aged 34

Sqn-Ldr David Sigismund Don

King's Cup in 1930

 mini - roger douglas

Lt Roger Douglas



Killed in the crash of the Alliance 'Endeavour' on 13 November 1919, during the England-Australia Race 1919

rod douglas 2

c. 1955

Capt Rod Douglas

A Director of de Havilland South Africa, and one of the founders of the Johannesburg Light Aeroplane Club.

Rod Douglas and Geoffrey de Havilland

In 1932, with Geoffrey de Havilland

Flight, May 2, 1930: "S. African King's Cup Entrant CAPT. DOUGLAS, of the Johannesburg Light Aeroplane Club, who will represent the Aero Club of South Africa in the King's Cup Race, will fly to England in a Junkers five-seater monoplane."

HISTORY OF BARAGWANATH AIRFIELD AND JLPC: "In 1926 two WWI pilots, Captains Rod Douglas and Stan Halse, met at a little hotel run by Douglas, which later became famous as a Johannesburg landmark, known as Uncle Charlies, named after big game hunter and entrepreneur, Charles de Jongh, who also ran a filling station at the well-known intersection.
Over drinks, Douglas and Halse discussed the formation of a flying club and approached Rand Mines for permission to use the grounds previously used for the first aerodrome."

See http://www.jlpc.co.za/History_of_JLPC.html


King's Cup in 1930

Malcolm Douglas Hamilton

from Flight, 1931

Lord Malcolm Avondale Douglas-Hamilton OBE DFC

b. 1909, the third of four brothers involved in aviation before, during and after WWII.

In 1932, Flight reported that "The amphibian service between the Clyde and Belfast was opened on August 13 when the new flying-boat Cloud of Iona made the first trip. The passengers included Lord and Lady Malcolm Douglas Hamilton."

He was granted a commission as a Flying Officer in June 1932, in 603 (City of Edinburgh) (Bomber) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force.

Later a Wing Commander / Acting Group Captain during WWII who, with his second wife Natalie Winslow, founded the American Scottish Foundation after the war.

Died 1964 in a flying accident in Cameroon.


Malcolm's younger brother David was killed in WWII when he crashed just short of RAF Benson to which he was returning from a mission in a Mosquito; his elder brother George married ATA pilot Audrey Sale-Barker (q.v.), and finally his eldest brother Douglas flew over Everest and later became an Air Commodore in the RAF - it was he who handed Rudolph Hess over to the authorities.

Here is Douglas, getting ready to go on Lady Houston's Everest expedition in 1933:

houston mt everest expedition 1933 marquess of clydesdale 0324 0212 20141208 1606331993

King's Cup in 1931, 1932

Archibald Havergal Downes-Shaw

from Bristol

b. 29 Dec 1884

Chairman of the Bristol and Wessex  Aeroplane Club, Ltd; later Sir Archibald.

Served in France, Salonika and North Russsia in WWI. Member of Bristol City Council from 1931; alderman in 1936.

d. 4 Sept 1961

[His father (also called Archibald), was an Anglican clergyman and missionary in East Africa between 1881 and 1888; in 1889 he transferred to Mauritius where he was appointed as "chaplain of Vacoas and Black River". In 1882 he had married Amy Havergal [hence Archibald Jnr's interesting second name], but Amy died in Mauritius in 1890 and Archibald Snr was invalided back to England, recovering enough to marry Alice Montagu in 1893 and have 3 more children.]


Aerial Tour in 1930

photo: 1913, aged 21

Maj Christopher Draper DSC, Croix de Guerre

b. 15 Apr 1892 in Bebington, Cheshire

WWI pilot known as the 'Mad Major'; he once challenged a colleague to an aerial duel ... with real bullets...

In 1919, "Major Draper's flying on the B.A.T. Bantam is easily one of the greatest attractions of the show ... it can truly be described as thrilling"; the following April, he was reported to be progressing well after his recent serious accident, his fractured ankle being in "splendid position".

Ten years later in September 1931, however, he was caught up in a strange little incident. Having not flown for many years, jobless and absolutely broke, he borrowed £5, hired an aeroplane and flew it twice under Tower Bridge and once under Westminster Bridge. He did this, he said, "to prove that he was still the highly qualified specialist that he used to be". The alderman in charge of the case said he had been intending to fine him £100, but bound him over rather than send him to jail for non-payment; "I am surprised that a man with such qualifications should find it so difficult to get a job".

Actually, the ruse worked and led to him becoming an actor and stunt pilot in several films in the 30s.

Then things got even more curious when his constant criticism of Britain's treatment of its war veterans came to the attention of the Nazi Party, and he was asked to spy for the Germans. He agreed, but also mentioned it to MI6, and spent four years as a double agent until the Germans obviously worked out what was going on and stopped answering his calls.

The pattern repeated itself after WWII - in May 1953, aged 61, having drifted into and out of a number of jobs, he hired an Auster and this time flew under 15 of London's 18 bridges, "for the publicity".

He escaped with a fine this time as well.

The Mad Major published his autobiography in 1962, and died in 1979 in London aged 86.

Aerial Derby in 1919

Flt-Lt G GH du Boulay

King's Cup in 1930

photo: 1930

Mr W A Dudley

King's Cup in 1930

Maureen Adele Chase Dunlop in 1944, aged 24.

b. 26 October 1920 in Buenos Aires.


d. Norwich, England 29 May 2012

One of the ATA Women


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