A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

1936 Miles M.11a Whitney Straight 1936 Miles M.3a Falcon Major

Between the wars, the annual race around Britain for the cup originally presented by King George V, was Britain's premier air race: the event to be seen in. It had its detractors - most people moaned about the handicapping system (now there's a surprise), and, frankly, it could be a bit boring to watch, but my dear, everyone who was anyone competed in it at some stage.

It had an absolutely fascinating mixture of aeroplanes and aviators. The aeroplanes (remember that the race started in 1922) were, to begin with, G-E-registered stringbags, barely able to stagger off the ground, let alone do 800-plus miles round Britain; only half of them actually finished the first race. Then the ubiquitous de Havilland Moth swept all before it for a few years but, by 1935, the race was regularly being won by the new breed of racing aeroplanes like the Percival Gull, eventually averaging well over 200 mph.

As for the aviators, the 'old-timers' - those who had distinguished themselves during and after WWI, and were still active (if sometimes slightly bad-tempered) middle-aged men, and the newcomers (mostly, it has to be said, the landed gentry, rich industrialists and their sons and daughters), competed side-by-side.

And then there are the names; positively famous people, like Geoffrey de Havilland himself (and his two sons, Geoffrey junior and Peter); the Atcherley brothers Richard (of Schneider Trophy fame) and David; the Honourable Lady Mary Bailey; Alex Henshaw; Bert Hinkler; Caspar, the son of Augustus John ... Nick Comper and Edgar Percival ... 'Mutt' Summers...'Roly' Falk...

The splendidly-named Rollo Amyatt Wolseley de Haga Haig, Charles Frederick Le Poer Trench, and who can forget William Francis Forbes-Sempill, 19th Lord Sempill (even if some would like to)?

Click on a link below to see the details of that year's race:

1920s

1922: A Band of Pioneers

KC1922 g-ebem 

 Winner: Frank Barnard

1923: A Decidedly Interesting Race

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Frank Courtney

1924: Landplanes and Seaplanes

DB49-RULE-2

Winner: Alan Cobham

1925: We All got Lost in the Fog

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Frank Barnard

1926: The Triumph of the Light 'plane

 

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Hubert Broad

1927: A Terrible Handicap

 

j c cantrill jul 1927

Winner: Wally Hope

1928: Miss Spooner bags third but Guy Warwick crashes

 

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Wally Hope

1929: Amateurs and Pros

 

G-AADX ACM Jackaman

Winner: Richard Atcherley

1930s 

1930: Over 100 Entries, but Miss Sawley Brown wins

 

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Winnie Brown

1931: Sphinx Triumphant

 

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Cecil Edwards

1932: Easy Third for Wally

 

KC1932 - start

Wally Hope

1933: Sir Geoffrey First

 

KC1933 - Lois Butler

Winner: Geoffrey de Havilland

1934: Gabrielle's Lament

 

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Harry Schofield

1935: Tommy Rose to the occasion

(Ha!)

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Tommy Rose

1936: Charles and his Percival

 

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Charles Gardner

1937: Charles Wins Again, but two more Fatalities

 

Charles Gardner

1938: Under Darkening Skies

 

KC1938 - Alex n Ken

Alex Henshaw

I hope you find them as fascinating as I do (although I am aware this is rather unlikely, somehow).

p.s. I'm aware, of course, that the King's Cup continued after WWII. Frankly, however, it had probably already outlived its usefulness even by 1939 (Discuss).

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