More Circuses

  • -Air Circuses, More

    More Circuses!

    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:

    "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"

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

    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."

    Here are some of the circuses that thrilled the public during the 1920s and 30s

  • -Circus Company - 1931 C D Barnard

    C D Barnards Air Circus  / C D Barnards Air Tours Ltd / Indian Air Pageants (1931-34)

    "The World's First Air Circus"

    Charles Barnard formed 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.

    "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."

     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'."



    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


    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.

    "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.

    Indian Air Pageants

    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)


    - 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)

  • -Circus Company - 1931 Skywork

    Skywork's "Spartan Circus" (1931)

    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".

    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."


    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."

    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."


    Mr Oscar Garden

    Capt E D Ayre

    Capt J R King

    Capt E D Cummings

    Mr John Tranum

    Mr C E F Reilly



    - 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

  • -Circus Company - 1933 British Hospitals Air Pageant

     British Hospitals Air Pageant  / Sky Devils Air Circus 1933-34


    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."

    In 1934, it was called the "Sky Devils Air Circus, and run by Air Pageants Ltd


    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."


     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."

    "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, April 15th, 1934: "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

  • -Circus Company - 1934 Air Pageants Ltd

     Air Pageants Ltd (1934-37)



    - 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

  • -Circus Company - 1935 Empire Air Day

     Empire Air Day (1935)


    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!)

  • -Circus Company - 1936 British Empire Air Display

    British Empire Air Display (Tom Campbell Black) (1936)

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


    Displays for 1936

    "What a programme! No fewer than twenty-one items are planned for the enjoyment and interest of the great crowd who should on no account miss this superb flying show.  

    Visitors to British Empire Air Displays will enjoy thrill after thrill as each event, more exciting (if possible) than the last, comes to a climax"


     [I say, steady on...]


    THE FLYING "CHAIN GANG." The opening will celebrated by an aerial parade of the entire fleet of 'planes—an exhibition in itself. Then will follow items such as an air race over a triangular course—in which the Spectators will be invited to take part as passengers and for which there are valuable prizes to be won—then an amazing exhibition of formation flying in unison. In this event three machines—roped together, if weather permits—will loop, roll, dive and climb with uncanny precision.

    LEAP YEAR PARACHUTE RACE. Other features will include a novel demonstration of slow and up-side-down flying, advanced aerobatics, an amusing game of aerial skittles and other humorour stunts, a real surprise item and a topical Leap Year parachute race! Imagine the excitement as three 'planes climb into the sky to discharge their loads— intrepid parachutists who will hurtle earthwards at 115 miles per hour—and one's a girl.

    THE FLYING FLEA. But this is not all. Every year aviation advances with remarkable rapidity. Ever abreast the times, the organisers of the British Empire Air Displays have secured the services of Mr. R. Doig, the well-known pilot, to demonstrate the machine designed for the "little man"—The Flying Flea, the cheapest aeroplane on the market, an ideal machine for the owner-pilot of limited means. All those who contemplate taking up flying will do well to visit the ground especially to watch closely how easily the Flying Flea can be handled. The public will be able to obtain valuable practical information about the latest development in popular aviation. 

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


    British Empire Air Display Coupon Half-Price entry on the 16th July! (please note, this offer has now expired)

    Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su






































    Newcastle under Lyme















    (Sandyford Farm)
















    11 12 13 14   15 16  17 
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    26 27 28 29 30 31 

    Newcastle on Tyne





    10  11  12 























    Tonbridge Wells

    (Old Barn, Hildenborough)
















    Burton on Trent






















































    St Albans













    BEAD Stenson 1936-08-14


    Stoke on Trent

























    St Andrews















    2 May: "PILOT'S DEATH CRASH Third of Four Brothers to Lose His Life A pilot, Captain Walter Oliver Cadic (27) of Chalk, Gravesend, Kent, was killed yesterday during an air display in Hereford. Cadic was flying solo in an eight horse power 'plane when his machine crashed. Hundreds of people saw the accident. No-one else was injured. The machine which Captain Cadic was piloting was have been used the first 'plane for a flying club which it has been suggested should be started in Hereford.

    A witness of the accident told our reporter ''The engine of the machine seemed to dry up, and then the 'plane went into a spin. We thought it was part of the display to show how it could manoeuvre, but then, to our horror, it crashed." Mrs Campbell Black told a reporter in London that, according to a message she had received from her husband, who saw the accident, the machine was not connected with the display, but was one which the pilot had been given permission to borrow for a flight.

    Cadic was the third son of Colonel and Mrs S. Cadic, of Manor House, Chalk, Gravesend, to lose his life. Two of his brothers were killed during the Great War and Major S. Cadic is the only surviving son. Mr Cadic was unmarried. "

    5 May: "FLYING FLEA CRASH Flight-Lieutenant A. M. Cowell was killed when the Flying Flea which he was piloting crashed at Penshurst, Kent, yesterday. A witness of the crash said to a ' Press and Mirror' reporter: "I was on Penshurst Station watching the little 'plane. It seemed to be going well, and had gone up a few hundred feet when it nose-dived. It went down like a plummet, but did not burst into flames." Flight-Lieutenant Cowell was 27, and was formerly in the Royal Air Force in India. had acted as a test pilot for the Air League of the British Empire. Before joining the League he was with Sir Alan Cobham's " circus." He was married and lived in London. The machine was undergoing its final test prior to going on tour with the British Empire Air Display* "

  • -Circus Company - 1936 C W A Scott's Flying Display Ltd

    C W A Scott's Flying Display Ltd

     Based: Croydon, 1936-39

    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

  • -The Aviators

    The Aviators

  • Ayre, E D

    Flt-Lt E D Ayre 

    known as 'Don'

  • Barnard, Charles Douglas

      Capt Charles Douglas Barnard

      photo: 1930

     Personal pilot to the Duchess of Bedford, 'ribald and golden-haired'.

    b. 8 Dec 1895 in London; his father, Charles Gilbert Barnard, was a master printer (and not related to Franklyn Barnard's father). He learnt to fly in 1915 with the RFC. After WWI, became a test pilot for Sopwith, then a pilot with the de Havilland Airplane Hire Service after meeting Alan Cobham, then their chief pilot, in Spain.

    In July 1920, he was convicted of manslaughter, for killing an elderly man in a car accident in which he failed to stop, and didn't report; "Charles Barnard (24), a demobilised airman from Watford whose machine was brought down in flames in France, was charged with the manslaughter of Alfred Sharp on the night of May 2, by knocking him down whilst driving a motor-car. A button, answering the description of other buttons from the deceased's coat, was found between the bonnet and mudguard of the accused's car. He was remanded, bail being refused." It also turned out that his driving licence had lapsed at the time, and he hadn't renewed it until some days after the accident.

    He was given 4 months imprisonment in the 'Second Division' (such prisoners were kept apart from other classes of prisoners, received more frequent letters and visits and wore clothes of a different colour). The Judge said there was "too much reckless driving by people who served in the war. Their war services were no consolation to bereaved relatives."

    Settling down a bit after that, he was the pilot in 1923 when an aeroplane belonging to the de Havilland Hire Service was used to ferry Commander Bristow to have a look at an Italian ship, the D'Aosta, which had become stranded in Malta. It was the first time the flight had been made, and it took over 14 hours, mainly (Charles complained) because the authorities in Pisa insisted on a deposit of 15% of the value of the machine.

    One of his other jobs for the de Havilland Hire Company was to fly G-EBGT 'Nulli Secundus', a perfectly good D.H.9c, while a certain Captain Spencer jumped out of it - see the video here.

    His first long-distance flight with the Duchess of Bedford was a tour in 1927 from her home in Woburn Abbey to France, Spain and North Africa, covering 4,500 miles in 3 weeks. Two years later, he piloted her Fokker monoplane, the 'Spider' to India and back, 10,000 miles in 88.5 hours; the RAeC gave him their Gold Medal for the year. It wasn't their first attempt at the flight to India and back - a year before they had tried the same thing, but problems with the propellor meant that the Duchess had had to come back by steamer from Karachi (which at the time was in India, of course).

    In 1928, described as a 'flying man', he was cited as the co-respondent in a divorce case. At the time, he and Mrs Melita Erna May were living together at his place in Monmouth Rd, Bayswater; they got married in December.

    In 1930 he and the Duchess made another record flight from London to Cape Town and back, 19,000 miles in 20 days, and he again flew to Malta and back in Puss Moth G-AAXW in 2 days: see the videos here : and here:
    In 1931, he was seriously injured when he, Lord Lovelace and their American mechanic crashed near Tripoli, as they were flying to Kenya.
    His marriage didn't last; Melita left him in 1933 and filed for divorce. He was in court again, when he was accused of assault by Mr Thomas Birks, a solicitor's clerk. Charles, described as a 'civil pilot wth a distinguished record' tried to persuade his wife to return to him, and somehow thought that a revolver might help; Mr Birks tried to intervene, and alleged that Charles fired a shot at him. Charles, however, won the case and was awarded 15 guineas damages (although he had asked for 50).
    He then formed his 'Flying Circus' - 8 aeroplanes which toured India in 1933 "giving displays of formation and stunt flying to over a million people who have never seen such a thing before... Joy rides will be offered to people at a small charge".
    He was back again by popular request in 1935, as co-respondent in yet another divorce case - this time with Mariska Marguerite Spurr.
    d. August 7, 1971. Only 2 people went to his funeral...


  • Cobham, Alan John

     Mr (Sir) Alan John Cobham KBE AFC

      in c.1934, aged c.40

     Alan Cobham

    see: Alan Cobham's Flying Circus


  • Crossley, Winifred Mary

     Winifred Mary Crossley 

      in 1934, aged 28

     b. 9 Jan 1906 in St Neots

    Winifred spent more than five years towing banners for aerial advertising and as a stunt pilot in an air circus. She served for the full 5 years of the ATA in WWII.

    Separated from her first husband; in 1943 she married airline captain Peter Fair, head of BOAC-owned Bahamas Airways in Nassau."

    Died in 1984 in Aylesbury, Bucks.

    Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII



  • Fielden, Earl Bateman

     Capt. Earl Bateman 'Safety First' Fielden

     EB Safety First Feilden  via Phillip Jones


    b. 14 Oct 1899, Shipley, Yorks

    May 1938: "Cdr. E. B. Fielden, of British Airways, has now flown over 100,000 passengers without so much as bruising the very tenderest of them. A lot of his flying was done in the early joy-ride days, operating from small fields, and when chief pilot to Sir Alan Cobham's circus he once took up 768 people in a day. "

    Just shows you can't believe all you read: August 25, 1933, "TWO MEN TRAPPED WHEN 'PUANE CRASHES. Pilot Jumps Clear In Time. Three airmen had remarkable escapes when an aeroplane crashed in arriving from Kidderminster for the Scunthorpe (Lincolnshire) hospital air pageant (BHAP) at Ashby yesterday. They were: Captain E. B. Fielden. of the Royal Club, London, the pilot; Mr Clifford Jones, of Blackwood; and Mr Frederick La Croix, Finchley, London. They were taken to Scunthorpe Hospital, but Captain Fielden was not detained.

    The aeroplane was about to land when it got into difficulties and crashed into a field of sugar beet near the ground where the pageant was held.  In striking the ground the 'plane toppled over but Captain Fielden managed to jump out. Mr Jones and La Croix were trapped in the cabin, but were soon rescued by Captain Fielden and officials who rushed from the pageant ground. On inquiry at the hospital early this morning it was stated that neither of the men who were detained appeared to be very seriously injured.

    Captain Fielden had a narrow escape in September, 1931. when an air liner, of which was the pilot, crashed in flames near Moortown Golf Course in the east Riding of Yorkshire. "

    He later 'transferred' to the British Hospitals Air Pageant, (a rival organisation which Alan Cobham regarded as rather a scam), together with Charles W. A. Scott, the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce, Pauline Gower. Dorothy Spicer, Capt. R. H. (All-weather) Mclntosh, Capt. Phillips, Capt. Rollason, Flt-Lt. J. B. W. Pugh. Flight-Lieut. A. G. Hill and Col. FitzMaurice, who was the first to fly the Atlantic from east to west.

    Later a Wing Commander in WWII; DFC in 1944 for having been responsible for the movements of loaded transports during the Wingate airborne invasion of Burma.

    His son, Aircraftman 2nd Class Stanley Earl Spensley Fielden (RAFVR) was killed 8 Mar 1943, age 18.

    d. Feb 1985 in Exeter


  • Gower, Pauline Mary de Peauly

      Pauline Mary de Peauly Gower MBE




    b. 22nd July 1910 in Tunbridge Wells; younger daughter of Sir Robert Gower, M.P for Gillingham, Kent.

    5 feet 5 in height, in case you wondered.

    The Bystander Special Aviation Edition, 1933

    "In England you can count on one hand the women who are making a living directly from flying. Probably foremost among them are the two girl flyers, Pauline Gower and Dorothy Spicer, who work in partnership at joy-riding. Miss Gower is the pilot and Miss Spicer the mechanic." - Amy Mollison, writing in 1934

    "Pauline Gower, one of the few women who has already achieved a successful commercial flying career, did joyriding last year in 185 different towns with a travelling air circus." - Mary Bertha de Bunsen

    pauline gower with spartan 1932  1932

    She was fined £222 in 1933, having taxied her Spartan into a stationary Moth at Cardiff while giving joy-rides in an air pageant (although she reckoned it had definitely moved since she checked where it was). Three years later, she was taken to hospital suffering from concussion and 'lacerations of the scalp' after she... collided with another aeroplane on the ground, this time at Coventry airport.

    During her air-taxi career, she was reckoned to have piloted more than 33,000 passengers.

    In 1937 she, Amy Johnson and Dorothy Spicer invited "all women pilots interested in the idea of a central meeting-place for women aviators in London" to write to them, but I don't think it ever happened.

    Founder and first Commandant of the Women's Section of the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1940; from 1943, a board member of BOAC. She had a narrow escape in August 1943 when 'Fortuna', an old Imperial Airways airliner, with her and 7 other BOAC officers aboard, made a forced landing near Shannon and was written off.

    See here for more: Gower, Pauline Mary de Peauly (W.25) (


    Married Wing Commander William Cusack Fahie in June 1945, but died of a heart attack in March 1947 giving birth to twin boys, one of whom, Michael, later published 'A Harvest of Memories' about her.

    She owned:

    a 1929 Simmonds Spartan, G-AAGO, (the one which she wrote off in the taxying accident in Cardiff in August 1933), and then

    a 1931 Spartan Three Seater, G-ABKK, the one which she wrote off in the taxying accident at Coventry in May 1936.


  • Mollison, James Allan

      James Allan Mollison MBE



    SAC with Jim and Amy 1933

    with Amy and Sir Alan Cobham in 1932 or 33


     Born 19th April 1905 in Glasgow, and educated at Glasgow and Edinburgh Academies.

    RAF commission in 1923, transferred to reserve 1928, then a lifeguard and air-mail pilot in Australia. Made many record flights; his philosophy seems to have been " cannot be young for long, and it has always been my practice to live for the moment." He and Amy were married in July 1932, but They Said it wouldn't last, and it didn't; Jim had to fly Black Magic back by himself after the Race; Amy went on KLM.

    Jim joined the Air Transport Authority (ATA) early in WWII, and carried on right through until 1946, ferrying more than 1,000 aircraft, comprising nearly every type used by the RAF - he was a 'Class V' pilot (authorised to fly any type of aircraft without previous instruction). He reckoned he had "on a conservative estimate, successfully delivered not less than 15 million pounds' worth of aircraft." - see

    Jim re-married and divorced twice, continued drinking [he once said that, when he was cold, tired and frightened, he recommended "brandy, lots of it"] and ended up as the owner of a hotel in Surbiton, bought for him by his third wife Mary [Kampuis], on the strict understanding that it would never be licensed to sell alcohol.


    Died 30th October 1959 in Surbiton, London, aged 54, from alcoholic epilepsy.

     jim mollison RAeC 1939 RAeC 1939

    Educated: Glasgow and Edinburgh Academies
    Commissioned RAF 1923, transferred to reserve 1928, subsequently air-mail pilot in Australia
    Record flights:
    Australia-England. July/Aug 1931. 8 days 19hrs 28min
    England-Cape (first flight by West coast Route) Mar 1932 - 4 days 17hrs 5min
    First solo Westward North Atlantic flight. August 1932
    First solo westward south Atlantic flight, and first flight England-South America, February 1933
    First flight England to USA (with Amy Johnson) July 1933
    England to India (with Amy Johnson) October 1934. 22 hours
    New York-Newfoundland-London (North Atlantic record crossing coast-to-coast 9 hours 20min) October 1936
    England-Cape by eastern route, November 1936. 3 days 6hrs.
    Joined ATA early in war. Released in 1946, after ferrying more than 1,000 aircraft, comprising nearly every type used by RAF - single, twin and multi-engined)
    Rank: Flight Captain
    Category as pilot: Class V (authorised to fly any type of aircraft without previous instruction)
    Ferried aircraft all parts of England, Scotland, North Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland.
    On conservative estimate successfully delivered not less than £15,000,000 of aircraft.
    For his war-time service in the ATA, Mr Mollison was awarded the M.B.E.


  • Phillips, Percival

      Capt Percival Phillips




    Western Morning News - Thursday 31 January 1935:


    PERCIVAL PHILLIPS, M.C, St. Austell, was seriously injured when a two-seater aeroplane which was piloting, making forced landing in the dark, crashed into the grounds of Springfield Mental Hospital. Lower Tooting, London, S.W., last night.

    He was first taken to the Springfield Hospital, but was later transferred St. James Hospital, Balham, where it was stated early this morning that he was in a critical condition, with a fractured skull, a broken nose, broken leg, and other injuries.

    His passenger, Mr. James Edward Fry, of Gloucester-terrace, who received injuries to tbe left eye and nose, and was also transferred to the Balham Hospital, was later able take his discharge. The machine, which was owned by Air Services, of Croydon, and was making a flight round London when the mishap occurred, was slightly damaged.

    WAR SERVICE R.A.F. Capt. Percival Phillips, whose London address was given as the Aerodrome Hotel, Croydon, lives in St. Austell. During the war he served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Coming down the Turkish lines in Mesopotamia, he was taken prisoner.

    He is partner in the motor firm Messrs. Hill and Phillips, of St. Austell, and is senior partner in the firm of Cornwall Aviation Company, whose headquarters are at St. Austell. He has been one of tbe pilots in Sir Alan Cobham's Flying circus, and his acrobatic stunts in the air will be  remembered by many from the West country who visited the circus. His wife last night informed Western Morning News representative that she had intimation of the accident from London. Mrs. Phillips is the elder daughter of Mr. H. Rowse, of the firm of St. Auslell auctioneers. There are two young children."


    d. 1938:

    FLIGHT greatly regrets to record the death of Capt. Percival Phillips, D.F.C., R.A.F.O., managing director and chief pilot of Air Publicity, Ltd. It appears that Capt. Phillips, on his way home to Heston from banner-towing work at Hull, put his 504 Avro down in a field at Gamlingay, between Bedford and Cambridge, in order to call upon friends for lunch. In taking-off afterwards in gusty weather the machine struck a tree top, hit the ground, and caught fire.
    Capt. Phillips, who had been with Air Publicity since their inception in 1935, was formerly managing director of C. W. A. Scott’s Flying Display, and had safely carried many thousand passengers as a joy-ride pilot. During the war he had seen flying service in Iraq and elsewhere.
    Last summer, flying a veteran Lynx Avro used daily for banner towing, he won the Devon Air Race. Those of us who met him on that occasion and elsewhere recall him as a particularly charming and modest man, with an almost boyish zest for flying which belied his 45 years. To his equally sporting and enthusiastic wife – who was his passenger in the Avro during the Devon Race, and on many other flights – and to his two children, FLIGHT extends most sincere sympathy in their loss.’"


  • Schofield, Harry Methuen

      Flt-Lt Harry Methuen Schofield


    mini - h m schofield

    photo: 1934, aged 35



    Director and General Manager of General Aircraft Limited, who built the  Monospar aircraft. Spent four years after WWI building church organs.

    He was a Schneider pilot in 1927 but crashed before the race, because they'd put the aircraft back together wrongly - he was thrown clear in the crash, but his clothes were dragged off, leaving him clad only in a shirt; wrote a couple of books; died 1955.

    To see some video footage (and to hear him say “Well, I am very proud to have won this cup…but, um, I think the man who should be speaking is Mr. Steiger who built the machine… I couldn’t have done it without the machine, and I think a lot of people could have won it in the machine, and that’s all there is to be said about it, really”),

    click here:  King's Cup Air Race - British Pathé (


  • Scott, Charles William Anderson

      Mr Charles William Anderson Scott


    photo: 1934, aged 31

     CWA Scott with his father with his father Charles


    Born 13thFebruary 1903 in London

    One of the truly great aviators of the 1930s, establishing many long-distance records and winning some of the most important long-distance races of the period, but rather went to seed after that and shot himself after WWII. Scott wrote a book, and enterprisingly called it 'Scott's Book'.

    "Scott is a splendidly-built six-footer, always in excellent condition. His other sporting recreations are golf and sailing."

    "Charles Wiliam Anderson Scott, aviation editor of the 'News Chronicle', is the elder son of Mr Charles Kennedy Scott, the musician and conductor.

    Educated at Westminster School, the future airman began his career as a sugar planter in Demerara, South America. The experience did not prove at all to his liking and he returned to England in 1922. Sailing was his passionate hobby - it still is - but as a youth trying to find his rightful career, flying did not occur to him until a friend suggested joining the Royal Air Force. Young Charles Scott sent in his application and thought little more about it until he found himself accepted and ordered to report to the Flying School at Duxford.

    The Royal Air Force occupied the next four years of his life [he was heavyweight and light-heavyweight boxing champion whilst in the RAF] and in 1926 he was again wondering what was the next move when chance played the deciding game again. A sharp shower of rain sent him scurrying into Australia House for shelter with the result that he was bound for Australia not many weeks later.

    There Scott became a pilot with Qantas Ltd., flying the mail routes in Western Queensland and acting as a flying instructor from 1927 to 1930. During that period he met the late Bert Hinkler, Mrs Mollison and the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and was inspired to break records.

    Scott resigned his flying job in Queensland and came to England in 1931 determined to break the England-Australia record, despite accumulating financial troubles caused by the rising Australian rate of exchange.

    He got there, reducing the record to 9 days 3 hours. That year he flew back again and made another record of 10 days 23 hours. Both flights beat Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's times.

    In 1932 he attacked the England-Australia record for the second time and regained it with 8 days 20 hours.

    The greatest adventure of his career was the magnificent flight in the Mildenhall-Melbourne air race of 1934 when he and the late Tom Campbell Black reached Melbourne in just under 3 days.

    CWA and Greta 1936

    On September 17, Scott was married to Miss Greta Bremner, younger daughter of Mr and Mrs E L Bremner, of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, only 12 days before the start of the Johannesburg air race."

    - from the Celebration Dinner programme after the race (October 14th 1936 at Claridge's Hotel).

    cwa sig

    In 1936, his "Flying for All" Display embraced over 150 centres in the United Kingdom and Irish Free State, and was aimed particularly at "familiarising people with some of the cheap, easy-to-fly light aeroplanes available to-day".

    Died 15th April 1946, in Germany, aged 43



    p.s. The £10,000 MacRobertson first prize would, using average earnings, be worth about £2 million today.


  • Spicer, Dorothy

      Dorothy Spicer

     mini_-_dorothy_spicer.jpg RAeC 9126

     Dorothy Spicer


    The 'tall and charming blonde friend' of Pauline Gower.

    b. 31 July 1908 in Hadley Wood, Middlesex.

    "Miss Spicer, however, holds a very high engineering diploma - the difficult 'B' licence for engines. A man holding this licence would have many excellent jobs at his command, but I doubt very much whether Miss Spicer will find her licence of any practical use."

    Amy Mollison, writing in 1934

    Amy was being a little too pessimistic; in 1936, Dorothy was appointed Chief Engineer to the 'British Empire Air Displays', which toured the country with 12 light aeroplanes.

    Dorothy Spicer

    She married Richard Courtney Pearse in April 1938 and they had a daughter, Patricia, in November 1939. Served at RAE Farnborough during WWII, eventually being promoted to Wing Commander.

    d. 23 December 1946 in the crash of a London-Buenos Aires flight near Rio de Janeiro. Her husband was also killed.

    Pauline Gower (only three months before her own death) wrote that "Dorothy is a great loss to civil aviation but even more so to her many friends".


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