A Fleeting Peace

Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire

As for the 'Aerial Circus', Britain was rather slow to catch on to the American post-WWI 'barnstormers' idea; there are no references in Flight to any 'flying circuses' (apart from WWI von Richtoven's, obviously) until 1929, when Neville Stack at National Flying Services formed his 'circus' - a short-lived formation-flying team of three D.H. Moths:


(ummm ... bit dull ... sorry, Stacko...)


"For the next event, the N.F.S. 'Heavenly Triplets', Flt.-Lts. Schofield, Wilson and MacKenzie, went up in their 'Moths' and put up some very nice formation flying, including simultaneous loops and concluding with a really excellent format landing"

Then along came Charles Barnard with his 'Air Circus' in 1931 (while Alan Cobham was still flying himself around Africa), obviously aiming to keep himself in the public eye after his long-distance flights with the Duchess of Bedford.

With support from the Daily Mail, he cobbled together a somewhat motley collection of aeroplanes (the old 'Spider', a Spartan 3-seater and an autogiro) and flew in a different place practically every day.

 "Barnard' s Air Circus—Final Performance!

CAPT. C. D. BARNARD' S Air Circus, which during the past summer has done so much to arouse interest in aviation in the principal towns in England, Scotland and Wales, will give its final display for the season at the London Air Park, Hanworth, next Sunday afternoon.

During their tour of 6 1/2 months, Capt. Barnard and his fellow pilots have visited 118 towns in 50 different counties, and have given 370 performances. More than a million people have witnessed the displays. In many districts visited the public have been given the chance of seeing and taking flights in modern aircraft for the first time. Approximately 40,000 people have been given flights.

Included in the programme will be exhibitions of aerobatics and crazy flying, the Daily Mail Aviation Lesson, demonstrations by the "Autogiro", a parachute descent by Mr. John Tranum, a display of aerial marksmanship and daylight fireworks, and other events which fill a programme of 2 1/4 hours."



Then Oscar Garden and John Tranum formed Skywork Ltd in October 1931, to (amongst other things) "promote, assist and encourage aerial navigation in all its forms", which soon turned out to mean "flying four aeroplanes (one of which they crashed almost straight away) called 'The Spartan Circus' around South Africa during the winter".


John Tranum, with revolver, as an 'aerial cowboy' astride one of the Spartans

"Tranum is the writer of his book "Nine Lives", which makes thrilling reading for the lay mind. He is a Dane,
but most of his air experience was obtained in America, as his American accent will confirm. Parachuting is only a  selection in his repertoire. He is a pilot, has crashed machines as such for films, and generally embraced every antic in the skies that film producers can conjure up."


The following year (1932) saw Sir Alan Cobham get in on the act, and his 'Air Circus' toured first the UK ...


"Let it be said at once, Sir Alan Cobham's National Aviation Day display will do a tremendous amount of good in getting people all over the country to talk aviation, think aviation and practise aviation. Sir Alan has the faculty of knowing what the man in the street appreciates, without making his show vulgar."



Eventually, Alan Cobham's Air Circus "carried 250,000 passengers during its first season", but, even more importantly perhaps, helped to persuade several municipal authorities that they too would really like an airport of their very own.

... and then Sir Alan toured South Africa in the winter of 1932. They had large crowds, but he had said he didn't expect to make much money, and wasn't disappointed; nevertheless, Charles Barnard took his Air Tour miscellany of aircraft there in 1933, and then to India in 1934.

February 1932: "Although joy-riding is, and has been, the only branch that can show a profit, it unfortunately created a table of false values for this reason. There were pilots, for instance, last year 'on tour' with joy-riding 'circuses,' who were receiving extremely good salaries. In addition to which they received a commission and their expenses. Of course, they stayed at the Grand or the 'Majestic,' made going to bed well under the surface a matter of duty, and generally putting out the boat on a pretty hefty scale. And this isn't romance, it's reality. There are certain people connected with operating companies to-day, unfortunately, who are under the impression that aviation is Nature's excuse for having a good time. Just look back into the history of joy-riding in this country, and what does one see?

The whole of its field is littered with wrecks of "Aviation" firms. Wrecked for the most part by rank rotten management, and spendthrift policies. The whole trouble has been that the majority of these firms have been inefficiently run by men with little or no business experience. They operated in the blissful belief that "the weather to-morrow will be O.K.," and spent their takings up to the limit. An error of judgment and a write off, or a spell of dud weather, and there was another joy-riding company up a gum tree. Few people can realise how precariously some of these firms exist, and what a struggle it is to see the winter through. Ask some of their engineers and pilots who are given holidays, sometimes lasting from September until the next March ! Do we have to look far to see evidence of this? We do not. A great many of these people " live on the posh " during flying days, and then in the fall and 'til the next spring eke out an existence on bread and jam! Who wouldn't be an airman?"

April 1935: "with a public that has, for the most part, become inured to the sight of mere flying, or even of aerobatic flying, a modern team of display pilots must be beyond criticism, and a modern display must rival, if in miniature, the great show at Hendon. Furthermore, Sir Alan Cobham's display, designed as it is to encourage people to use the air,
must blend the spectacular with the commonplace so that the "circus" element is not too dominant."

April 1936: "There is no doubt that the opening flying display of the year showed a number of distinctly new possibilities. Not only are the joy-riding rates lower, probably, than they have ever been before, so that more people will be encouraged to discover that there is really nothing very terrifying about this flying business, but the general public is also being shown at least a few types which might eventually appeal to them as private owners, flying lessons are being given and scholarships are being awarded to those newcomers who show the greatest aptitude."

December 1937: "Within the past two years, however, the novelty has  worn off the circuses and receipts from this source have dropped considerably."


Air Pageants Ltd

Active 1934-1937


- Avro 504N G-ACNV (K1808);

- D.H. 60M Moth G-ACOA (VH-UQA), which crashed Hanworth 1936;

- Avro 621 Tutor G-ACOV (K1791);

- Miles M.2D Hawk G-ACPC

British Empire Air Display (Tom Campbell Black)

[1936 - Tom was killed on the 19th September]

Pauline Gower and Dorothy Spicer were heavily involved giving joyrides (with a break in the middle after Pauline's accident).

Read More : A complete list of the 1936 displays

C D Barnards Air

Circus /

C D Barnards Air Tours Ltd


Indian Air Pageants



March 1931: "Capt CD Barnard commenced his tour of the country with his circus, comprised of the famous old Spider, an autogiro, and a Spartan three-seater. It looked a very curious combination taking off. It is understood that our old friend Mr Eskell has had quite a lot to do with the organisation"

Nottingham Evening Post: "CAPT. BARNARD'S AIR CIRCUS TO VISIT 150 TOWNS. An air circus to tour 150 towns is being arranged by Capt. C. D. Barnard, the well-known pilot. At each town a well-organised air pageant will held, which will provide a spectacular and instructive picture of air progress, including parachute descent, demonstrations by the autogiro (the windmill plane) aerobatics, and passenger flights. The 'circus' will travel by air from town to town, never staying in one spot for more than two days."

June 1931, at the Bristol Summer Meeting: "Barnard's 'Aerial Circus' (which wags have now dubbed 'Barnum's') was in full swing"

July 1931: "Capt. Barnard says:—"My aerial tour of the country has now completed three months' regular flying, and we have travelled practically all over Great Britain holding a pageant in a different town everyday. I have with me six machines of different types, three of which are fitted with Hermes Mark II engines. The first machine fitted with this type, a three-seater Spartan, G-EBJS (sic), has now completed 300 hr. without any trouble. I thought you would be interested to know this, as I consider it most wonderful service considering the extremely hard wear and tear the work entails on an engine. The three engines are standing up to the work wonderfully well and have given absolutely no trouble whatsoever."

October 1931: "Flying in formation, the six Circus machines will arrive at Hanworth next Sunday at 3 p.m. The Circus has increased considerably in size and interest since the tour began last April ... The events in the final display will be supplemented by a number of extra machines, including a formation of three 'Avians' and probably a second 'Autogiro'."


Days in action: 180

Towns visited: 118

Performances: c.370

Total miles flown, all aircraft: c.160,000

Passengers carried, all aircraft: c.60,000

Aircraft engaged: 6 average

plus 8 road vehicles, and 40 staff.



November 1933: "The B.A.C. "Drone" which is being shipped out to India as part of Capt. C. D. Barnard's Air Circus, has been tested in the workshops and dismantled."

"CAPT. C. D. BARNARD has recently organised a flying circus which he is taking to India. He himself will be flying out his Fokker (Bristol " Jupiter XIa "), the Spider, as it is now known, and is leaving on Saturday, November 11. With him will go Mr. R. L. Palmer and Mr. J. B. Pugh, both on " Fox Moths " (" Gipsy Majors "). The rest of the pilots will follow by boat, arriving at Bombay on December 8. They will be Messrs. J. Mackay, E. R. Andrews, W. A. Burnside, and J. R. Hatchett, flying a " Tiger Moth " (" Gipsy Major "), Spartan three-seater (" Hermes IV "), Segrave "Meteor " (two "Gipsy III") , and a "Fo x Moth" (" Gipsy Major ") respectively. From Bombay the wholeparty will go to Delhi and Calcutta, and before they finish at the end of next April will have visited some 70 towns, where displays will be given and, it is hoped, many thousands of people taken up for flights. Among the attractions of the Display there will be two parachutists, Messrs. C. E. Longmore and R. Wyndham ; both will be using Irvin Chutes for their daily display drops.

The " Tiger Moth " which Mr. Pugh is flying is fitted for inverted flying, and on this machine aerobatic displays will be given. Mr. A. H. Dalton, of Furlough Cars, Ltd., is Capt. Barnard's partner, and he is already in India with the advance party. A circus like this one demands the attendance of a fairly large ground staff with transport, particularly as it is operating away from England. Considerable material must therefore be carried with them all the time, and for this purpose a fleet of Vauxhall cars and Bedford motor trucks is being taken, while for the fuel and oil for both ground transport and aeroplanes the organisations of Shell and Wakefield are being relied upon."

December 1933: "The Barnard Circus off to India. FLYING in his Fokker monoplane Spider ("Jupiter"), Capt. C. D. Barnard left Heston on Saturday for India. Capt. Barnard has planned a six months' tour with his "circus" of eight aircraft, on which he will visit between 60 and 70 different centres. This means that over a million people will see formation and stunt flying who have never seen such a thing before, and the visit should do much to create air-mindedness in India. Accompanying Capt. Barnard in the " Spider " are his wife, Mr. J. Mackay, the second pilot, a parachutist, a mechanic and an announcer. The trip to India should take about ten days."

"Mr. A. Auping, who took his licence last year, has bought a "Fox Moth" and is on his way to India to join Capt. Barnard's circus." (no record - suspect this was R L Palmer)

Jan 1934: "During the four days' exhibition at Dum Dum aerodrome, Calcutta, of Capt. Barnard's Air Circus, Mr. Longmore crashed a "Drone" into a tank. He was removed to hospital suffering from a fractured arm and other injuries."

May 1934: "During a visit by the Barnard "Circus" to Patiala, an Indian friend of the Maharajah, who had been deaf for many years, went up with Mr. McKay. On returning to earth he astounded everyone by claiming that his hearing had been restored."

October 1934: "A "Fox Moth" left Heston for India last Thursday, piloted by Fit. Lt. Sullivan. The aeroplane is going out to join Capt. Barnard's air circus, with which it will carry out joy-riding Two passengers are travelling in the cabin, one of whom is the ice-hockey international, F/O. H. E. Mayes. The party is travelling via Rome, Cairo, and the Persian Gulf. "



(l to r) J R King, Neville Stack, R A C Brie, G Hill, E Cumming, A C Stace (sic), C D Barnard (Evening Telegraph, Dundee, 21 September 1931)

- C D Barnard

- Mr F S Crossley

- Mr E D Ayre (Spartan)

- Mr R A C Brie (autogiro)

- Mr L H Stace of Henlys (Avian)

- Mr C E F Riley (Spartan)

- Capt E Cummings (Ladybird)

- Mr W F Parkhouse (Gipsy Moth)


- Neville Stack

- Jim Mollison


- Mr. R. L. Palmer (Fox Moth India 1933)

- Mr. J. B. Pugh (Fox Moth India 1933)

- J. Mackay (Tiger Moth India 1933)

- E. R. Andrews (Spartan three-seater India 1933)

- W A H B Burnside (Segrave Meteor India 1933)

- J. R. Hatchett (Fox Moth India 1933)

- Mr A Auping (Fox Moth India 1933)?

- Mr C E Longmore (BAC Drone India 1933)




Wednesday April 1st, Luton

Friday May 1st, Newark

May 13-14, Bath:

The Cirvo auto-gyro (sic) attracted the attention of many visitors to Bath's Air Circus at Lansdown, yesterday. (Western Daily Press, 15 May)

May 16-17, Plymouth

May 18, Yeovil

May 29, Blackpool

May 31, Hull

June 4, Grantham

June 7, Tollerton

June 20, Bristol

June 22, Ilfracombe

June 24, Bideford

June 25, Camborne

July 13, Bridlington

August 9, Plymouth again

August 10, Camborne

August 11, Bude

August 12, Camelford

August 13, Teignmouth

August 14, Bath again

August 21, Chelmsford

September 10, St Andrews (Dundee)

September 12-13, Turnhouse (Edinburgh)

September 18, Tullibardine (near Auchterarder, if that helps)

September 19-20, Dundee

A different autogiro in this case (Evening Telegraph, Dundee, 21 September 1931)

September 26-27, Perth



- 1927 Fokker F.VIIa G-EBTS 'The Spider';

- 1931 Spartan Three Seater I G-ABJS;

- Cierva C.19 Autogiro G-AAYP

later joined by:

- 1930 Avro 616 Sports Avian G-AAXH belonging to Henlys Ltd;

- Desoutter

- 1931 Potez 36.17 'Ladybird' F-ALJC / G-ABNB


- 3 Fox Moths (India 1933), one of which presumably was 1933 D.H. Fox Moth G-ACKZ belonging to R L Palmer;

- Tiger Moth (India 1933)

- 1933 BAC Drone (India 1933) VT-AEU which crashed Calcutta Jan 1934

- Tiger Moth (India 1933)

- 1930 Segrave Meteor G-ABFP belonging to Mrs F S Burnside (India 1933)


British Hospitals Air Pageant 1933

April 1933: "AIR PAGEANT TO MISS DUNDEE. LACK OF SUITABLE FLYING FACILITIES. Infirmary May Lose Substantial Subscription. Dundee Royal Infirmary is likely to lose a useful subscription through the lack of flying facilities in the city. An air circus known as the British Hospitals Air Pageant is at present touring 200 cities and towns in Great Britain. Infirmaries and hospitals in the various localities visited are to benefit as a result. Recently an effort was made to obtain the use of a field at the Barns of Claverhouse as a flying ground. The space available was placed at their disposal, but was found to rather small. The circus consists of 16 aeroplanes, and is larger than Sir Alan Cobham's which recently visited the city."

"For the 1933 display season, Sir Alan Cobham’s rival, the British Hospitals Air Pageant (BHAP), had obtained the use  of Cornwall Aviation Company’s aircraft, which were normally used by Sir Alan Cobham"

November 1933: "FROM the official report (1933) of the British Hospitals Air Pageants it is evident that the organisation has achieved its object. The report states that between April 8 and October 8 flying took place on every day except four, when the weather conditions were unfavourable. Aerial displays of 20 events each, in many cases two a day, were given in 180 cities and towns in England, Scotland and Wales, and it is estimated that they were watched by over 1.000,000 spectators, of which 800,000 passed through the entrance gates. It is reckoned that the tour has created a great stimulus to aviation. 70,000 members of the public had flights in the 15 machines used. The auditor's certificate shows that as a result of the campaign local hospitals have benefited to the extent of £6,854 6s. lOd. The campaign gave employment to a staff of 108, of whom 102 were absorbed from the ranks of the unemployed. The director, who devoted his whole time to the organisation, received no remuneration, and help of immense value was given by the Hon. Sir Arthur Stanley, the Patrons, the hospitals' Committees, and the Press. It is claimed that ls a result of the campaign 11 orders for new aircraft have been received by various firms. Arrangements are well advanced for next season's campaign, and already certain well-known pilots have signified their intention of accompanying the organisation on its tour. Next year the name of the organisation will be called " The Sky Devils' Air Circus.''

Cirrus Hermes '' engines have distinguished themselves during the tour. A Spartan 3-seater (" Hermes IV ") operated by Mr. P. Phillips, D.F.C., M.S.M., Proprietor of the Cornwall Aviation Company, has carried more than 8,000 passengers, made over 4,000 landings and has flown about 36,000 miles without a forced landing. Mr. Phillips bought his Spartan in March this year, and at the end of the tour, in October, his engine hours amounted to 454. The total number of passengers carried was 70,148. About half the joy flights included aerobatics. Miss Pauline Gower's " Hermes " Spartan carried 6,000 passengers during the tour, which entailed flying 320 hours at a cruising speed of approximately 80 m.p.h. Altogether, Miss Gower flew about 25,600 miles. The " Hermes " engine, which was completely overhauled and modified at the beginning of the tour, was not touched except for top overhaul and daily maintenance, and Miss Spicer, who signed it out every day, experienced no trouble whatever."

April 1934: "The City of Glasgow, G-EBFL, one of the original " Argosies " of Imperial Airways, Ltd., has retired from air route work after long and faithful service. The machine, minus cloak room and luggage compartment, has been fitted with four extra seats, and now accommodates 26 people for pleasure flying. The " Argosy " left Croydon—not without shedding a tear upon the tarmac, one may suppose—on Saturday, April 14, in charge of a pilot of British Hospitals Air Pageants, and during the summer it will appear in the aerial circus ring over numerous provincial towns."


British Hospitals Air Pageant 1934 - Sky Devils Air Circus

(run by Air Pageants Ltd)


Stag Lane, April 15th, 1934

March 1933, Nottingham Evening Post: "The Greatest Air Picture ever filmed: Humour is extracted from wartime events in "Sky Devils," at the Regal. Spencer Tracy and George Cooper play two American stowaways who ship in a liner which they believe to be bound for South America. Actually it is an army transport conveying U.S. airmen to France. There are some amusing comedy air scenes, some realistic bombing and crashing, and a glimpse of the celebrated aerial "circus" led by Baron Ton Richthofen. William Boyd and Ann Dvorak are in leading roles."

"A glorious day, almost like summer, which we hope was a good omen for their success. This year they are working on a somewhat different plan. They propose, instead of giving a number of free tickets to each hospital, to donate 10 per cent of the gross takings to a selected hospital in each district.

Stag Lane hardly seems, at first thought, to be a good place for getting money out of people for joyriding, but we imagine that the population around there must after all feel that they want to fly in the aeroplanes of which they see so much, because the crowds on Sunday were really large, and what is more important they queued up for flights."



June 1934, Dundee Evening Telegraph: "The circus is one of a series of about 200 similar displays to be given this year. A feature will be the largest air liner ever seen at a touring air display. This 28-seater 1500 horse-power Argosy will be available for passenger flights and cruises over the town and district. Among the other aircraft is the machine in which Mr C. W. A. Scott flew from England to Australia in 8 days, 20 hours, a solo record yet to be beaten. A 200 horse-power Lynx Tutor commissioned for advanced aerobatics; three Lynx Avros and a Miles Hawk, the latest three-seater low-winged monoplane."


- Capt E B ('Safety First') Fielden (Argosy)

- R Robinson;

- E W Bonar;

- R E Watts;

- M E Hearn;

- G Williams;

- B Bulmore

- Mr H W 'Baby' Ward (parachutist)



June 1, Hereford

June 4, Ross-on-Wye

June 6, Exeter

June 13, Clevedon

June 14, Gloucester

July 6, Crieff

July 7, Dundee

July 8, St Andrews

July 9, Brechin

July 10, Montrose

July 16, Banff

July 18, Arbroath

July 19, Pitlochry

August 1, Barnstaple

August 2, Sherborne

August 9, Hull

August 18, Bristol

September 6, Taunton

September 26, Cheltenham




- A. W. Argosy G-EBFL 'City of Glasgow' leased from Imperial Airways;

- Avro 504 x 3

- Miles Hawk

- D.H. Gipsy Moth (ex C W A Scott);

- Avro Tutor


C W A Scott's Flying Display Ltd

Based: Croydon, 1933-39


December 1935: "Sir Alan Cobham's Air Circus has been disbanded, but all the equipment has been acquired by C. W. A. Scott's Flying Display, Ltd., which has recently been formed. The chairman of the new company will be Mr. C. W. A. Scott, the managing director Capt. P. Phillips, and the other directors Mr. T. A. Pawlyn and Mr. John Leggitt. Mr. D. L. Eskell will be general manager."

March 1936: ""the Ferry is to be used by Scott's circus, and has been lying about in a wet hangar for a very long time - it was originally owned by Midland and Scottish Air Ferries."



- CWA Scott



- 1931 Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSI;

- 1933 Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ACFB;

- 1933 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACLU;

-1934 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACOZ;

-1934 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACPB;

-1934 Cierva C30a G-ACUT;

-1936 BAC Drone G-AEEO;

-1936 HM14 Pou-du-ciel G-AEFK;

-1936 D.H.82a Tiger Moth G-ADWG

Cornwall Aviation Co Ltd

Based St Austell, Margate, 1924-1936



The Bristol Summer Meeting, in June 1932



- P Phillips

- Jo Cameron


- 1926 Avro 504K G-EBNR;

- 1927 Avro 504K G-EBSE;

- 1928 Avro 504K G-AAAF;

- 1930 Avro 504K G-AAYI


and possibly

- 1930 Avro 504K G-AAUJ which crashed Harrogate Oct 1932

Coronation Air Displays 1937
Empire Air Day

February 1935: "Empire Air Day is to be organised again by the Air League of the British Empire in 1935, and the date fixed is Saturday, May 25. The Air League ... asks all 'B' licence pilots to put their services at the disposal of their local clubs so that every available aeroplane may take the air".

So, in May 1935, besides the 40 RAF stations which were open, there were displays and/or joyriding opportunities at:

- Heston: Airwork and Birkett Air Services operated a Short Scion. (Joy ride fares for first flights reduced from 5s to 4s);

- Hanworth: Aircraft Exchange and Mart;

- Croydon: Provincial Airways Ltd (50 per cent reduction on ordinary fares);

- Brooklands: Brooklands Aviaiton Ltd and Hawker Aircraft Ltd doing demonstrations;

- Gravesend: Gravesend Aviation Ltd;

- Reading: Philips and Powis Aircraft operating from 2pm to 3pm;

- Bristol: Joy-rides;

- Eastleigh: half-fare flights for people making their first flights;

- Portsmouth: Airspeed operating flights;

- Bekesborne: Kent Flying Club;

- Lympne: Cinque Ports Flying Club;

- Tunbridge Wells: Air-Trips Ltd (joy-rides in a 3-seater Spartan);

- Manchester: Lancashire Aero Club (joy-ride flights in Avro and autogiro);

- Liverpool: Blackpool and West Coast Air Services Ltd (giving short joy-ride flights at 2s 6d a head; good value, though, eh);

- Braunstone, Leicestershire: Joy flights at cheap rates(!);

- Cramlington: Joy flights;

- Norwich: Admission: Adults 4d and children 2d. Cheap joy flights;

- Nottingham: Joy flights at 2s 6d;

- Witney, Oxon: Universal Aircraft Services Ltd offering joy-flights reduced from 5s to 3s for people making their first flights;

- Redhill, Surrey: British Air Transport Ltd joy flights;

- Ipswich: Eastern Counties Aero Club;

- Yeadon: Yorkshire Aero Club;

- Brough: North Sea Aerial and General Transport Ltd, and Blackburn Aircraft Flying School;

- Doncaster: Crilly Airways Ltd offered a 10 per cent reduction for those making their first flight (skinflints);

- Leamington: Warwick and District Aero Club;

- Inverness: Special cheap flights operated by Highland Airways Ltd, in Dragons, 2s 6d a head. (barrrgain!)


Jubilee Air Displays Ltd



May 1935: "Jubilee Air Displays, led by Lt. O. Cathcart Jones, will be giving a show on Saturday, May 11 , at 2.15 p.m. Flights will be available in the ''Comet ' flown by Scott and Black in the MacRobertson race. On Empire Air Day the aerodrome will be open to the public from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at a charge of 3d. The first hundred "joy" flights will be given at half price."


The London Air Circus

August 1932: "PLYMOUTH AIR WEEK In order to popularise flying in Devon an "air week"  has been arranged by Capt. Dean, Plymouth Air Port Officer, to commence on Monday, August 22, and to last for six days.

The London Air Circus, recently formed at  Broxbourne aerodrome under the leadership of Fit. Lt.  Bannister, has been engaged to give aerobatics, displays and joyrides."



North British Aviation Co Ltd

Based in Hooton Park, Lake District,  1920-30





- 1923 Avro 504K G-EBGZ;

- 1924 Avro 504K G-EBIS written off Apr 1935;

-1927 Avro 504K G-EBSJ;

-1928 Avro 504K G-EBXA;

-1929 D.H. 60G Gipsy Moth G-AAGA (ex Dorothy Hamilton Gault);

-1930 D.H. 60G Gipsy Moth G-AAYL

Pauline Gower

Miss Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower and her engineer Dorothy Spicer were involved in the British Hospitals Air Pageants in 1933 and 1934 (when it was called the 'Sky Devils Air Circus')

April 1934: "" Piffling Poems." By Pauline Gower. Price Is. 3d, post free.
PIFFLING is a misnomer for the collection of poems by Miss Pauline Gower, published recently. They are not perhaps in the highest poetical style, but we don't suppose that they are meant to be. Some of them are parodies of well-known poetry, in an aviation vein, but they are all very readable and amusing. Miss Gower is a "B" licensed pilot who, working together with her Ground Engineer, Miss Dorothy Spicer, has probably done more hard work joy-riding than any other woman pilot in the country, and from her varied experience has gained an insight to the mentality of pilots which has enabled
her to make these "Piffling Poems" well worth getting."

September 1938: " Women With Wings," by Pauline Gower; 10s. 6d., John Long, Ltd.
A CONTRAST is found in this, another woman pilot's book. The reader must again be prepared to wade through a luxuriant profusion of cliches (everything happens with "a sickening thud"), but the going is made a lot easier by Miss Gower's gay insouciance.
Everybody in aviation knows now Pauline Gower, as pilot, and Dorothy Spicer (now Mrs. Pearse), as fully licensed ground engineer, operated a Spartan on taxi, joy-riding and air display work. Here Miss Gower offers the inside story of these activities. She flew thousands of joy-riders without mishap, though, judging by some of her confessions, a very special providence must have been watching over the Avian.
When travelling air circuses become totally extinct (and the time seems very near) the future historian will be able to learn a lot about them from Miss Gower's book. She succeeds completely in conveying the impression of the endless labour of touring—the long hours, car journeys and cross-country flights, problematical fields, accidents to aircraft and personnel, and always malevolent weather.
A definitely entertaining book, even if 10s. 6d. does seem rather a high price for 223 pages that can be read in an evening."



- Pauline Gower


- Dorothy Spicer



- 1929 Simmonds Spartan G-AAGO;

- 1930 Spartan 3-seater G-ABKK which crashed Coventry May 1936

Sir Alan Cobham in South Africa

"AIR CIRCUS FOR SOUTH AFRICA When Sir Alan Cobham leaves on November 4 for South Africa upon an organised tour, during which will visit 70 centres with a fleet of aeroplanes, he will carry among his equipment Osram valves, supplied by the General Electric Co., Ltd.

During the tour one of the 'planes will literally dance in the air to broadcast music picked up by the valves"

December 1932: "The outfit is  completed by a Public Address apparatus in its own van and a very comprehensive fleet of six-wheeled 2-1/2 ton Leyland lorries and Siddeley saloon cars to deal with all the equipment during the many moves from place to place."



17 Feb 1933: "DARING AIRMAN KILLED IN CRASH AT CAPETOWN. STUNTS IN GLOUCESTER Two airmen belonging to Sir Alan Cobham's air circus have been killed in a crash at Capetown airport. They were Captain H. Lawson and Mr. E. Ross. The two aeroplanes were stunting together over the airport, when one, piloted by Captain Lawson, crashed from a height of 3,000 feet. Captain Lawson was married only eight days ago to Miss Stella Parsons, a 21-years-old girl of Uitenhage. Their romance started when at Maritzburg when he took her up as passenger. Mr. Ross was the wireless expert.

Cool and Accomplished Pilot Capt. Lawson was with Sir Alan Cobham's National Air Display at Partou Farm, Cheltenham-road, near Gloucester, on May 7  and 8 last year. He gave a most polished and daring exhibition of acrobatics. He flew upside down, executed a loop with the pilot the outside of the loop, one of the most difficult feats that is possible in the air, and slow rolls and turns without banking. He showed Gloucester that he was one of the most daring, cool, and accomplished stunt pilots that aviation has known."



- Sir Alan Cobham

- Fit. Lt. C. F. Turner-Hughes (aerobatics pilot)

- Fit. Lt. H. C. Johnson

- Fit. Lt. H. Lawson

- Fit. Lt.  A. H. C. Rawson (Autogiro),

- Mr. C. W. H. Bebb

- Mr. M.  Hearn

- Mr Louw (Vacuum Oil Co)



- Mr. Ivor Price



- 1931 D.H.66 Hercules G-ABMT 'City of Cape Town' (bought from Imperial  Airways, Ltd., and used for passenger flights);

- 1930 Cierva C.19 IV Autogiro G-ABGB (demonstrations and passenger flights);

- 1931 Armstrong-Whitworth A.W.16 G-ABKF (aerobatics);

and three Avro Tutors (chiefly for passenger aerobatics and trial lessons):

- 1932 Avro 621 Tutor G-ABZP belonging to National Aviation Displays Ltd;

- 1929 Avro 621 Tutor G-AARZ belonging to Avro;

- 1932 Avro 621 Tutor G-ABZR belonging to Avro


- Avro Avian (Vacuum Oil Co) - presumably 1930 Avro 594 Avian IVm ZS-ABQ


The Spartan Circus


Skywork Ltd

Toured South Africa in the winter of 1931-1932

"The upper picture shows John Tranum, with revolver, as aerial cowboy astride the 'Spartan'.


Mr Oscar Garden

Capt E D Ayre

Capt J R King

Capt E D Cummings

Mr John Tranum

Mr C E F Reilly


Oct 1931: "SKYWORK LIMITED.—Capital £3.000 in £1 shares. Objects: To promote, assist and encourage aerial navigation in all its forms, the study of aeronautics, and the development of all sciences connected therewith, and the construction of aerial conveyances or parts : aeronautical engineers and advisers, etc.

Directors :—J. Tranum, Royal Aero Club. W., professional aviator: O. Garden, c/o Vacuum Oil Co.. Westminster, professional aviator."

"IN FLIGHT last week there was an announcement of the formation of a new company, Skywork, Ltd., the directors of which were Mr. John Tranum and Mr. Oscar Garden. There has been much speculation as to what this company was going to do, and now we are able to make an authoritative statement about their projects. The company will take out to South Africa in the near future " The Spartan Air Circus." This is formed of three Spartan three-seaters, with Hermes II engines, and a Desoutter, also with a Hermes II. The pilots will be Messrs Oscar Garden, E. D. Ayre, C. E. F. Reilly, J. King and E. D. Cummings, while Mr.  Tranum will give demonstrations with an Irvin Air Chute. Messrs. Ayre and Garden are leaving on Friday, October 9, and the rest, including Mr. Groves, the mechanic, will follow about October 20. The programme will include a tour lasting about six months, and a route covering some 64 towns has already been laid out with the intention of starting from Cape Town and working round the coast. Great help has been obtained from the Cape Times and the Cape Argus, so that with ample publicity there is every chance of the tour being a success."

March 1932: "MR. J. TRANUM, who, together with Mr. Oscar Garden,  has been creating so much interest with the Spartan Circus in South Africa, arrived back home on March 21.
He tells us that the interest displayed by the larger towns out there was amazing and that he hopes to continue his tour the next winter. In the meantime he is staging a series of displays in this country, starting at Ramsgate this Easter week-end, where from Saturday to Monday he will give a daily display of parachute jumps."



- 1931 Simmonds Spartan G-ABPZ;

- 1931 Simmonds Spartan G-ABRA;

- 1931 Simmonds Spartan G-ABRB;

- 1929 Desoutter I G-AAPP belonging to J R King, scrapped in Nov 1931


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