THIS IS FINDON VILLAGE — these
Findon Chronicles were created by Valerie Martin and contain scenes from her home
village of Findon,
West Sussex, U.K. Everyday stories about real people.
FLYING OVER FINDON
Copyright Valerie Martin 2002
Published in the Findon Valley and Village
Directory dated January 2008.
In 1930s Sir Alan Cobham brought
his Flying Circus to The Wicks in Findon (off Long Furlong A280 — immediately on the right
heading west after leaving the roundabout on the A24). He may have
made more than one visit over the years but of that I cannot be certain.
Oliver Clark has given me the date of
1938 that he thinks is correct for the Flying Circus giving its display when his
brother, Arthur, had such a trip. He has related ....."My
brother Arthur who suffered very badly from asthma was given a flight for about
5 bob, when he came down from the flight his asthma had gone ,at least for a
The display of
thrilling flying went on for two days for the enjoyment of the crowds and
bringing exhilaration and drama to the village. These were the innocent
days of open cockpits with the wind screaming past fragile wings; of dangerous
landings on mud or grass where no plane had been before.
The Wicks field was used as an airstrip and the displays were given by two aircraft, giving twenty minute trips
for 2/6 in an open cockpit and accommodating two persons. Aircraft
were still very much a novelty in those days.
2nd November 2007
Please see a pic from Alan
Cobhams flying circus?
Church Hill on the left and
the start of Clapham woods on the top right. Picture was taken on
John Stepney, Findon Village,
The question is.... are you one of those lads who
went to look at the aircraft when it was on the ground along the Long Furlong
I wondered if anyone would write in and tell me what
type of plane was depicted and they did.......
Valerie, The Aircraft is an Avro 504N, made in the 1920's for the RAF as a
You can see several RAF men with caps in the crowd.
I don't know if Alan Cobham ever had them in his flying circus. He certainly had
3 of the later Avro Cadets.
I attach a photo of a 504N.
TONY PRATT EMAILED..."Dear
Valerie, You may already have plenty of idents for the plane shown in the old
photo on Long Furlong, my research suggests it is an Avro 504N which was a
development of the WW1 trainer with a Lynx IVC engine. The definitive features
are the engine shape and two curved structures attached to the upper mainplanes
above the fuselage - these are not present on other marks of the 504.
If you search on the web for "Avro 504N" you will find a site "British Aircraft
of World War 11" which has the best photo showing these features found so far".
GERALD WHITE EMAILED...."Hello
Valerie.... Flying over Findon (the AVRO 504)......At Shoreham Airport, Cecil
Pashley, the Veteran flying instructor owned, and flew an Avro K 504, in the
1920s . It was registered as GTEAU . I have a photo of it, a banner
along the fuselage states, Flying display 29 july 1929, at Shoreham.
The Avro in your picture has no Registration number, and with the presence of
uniformed Airmen tends to suggests it is a Royal Air Force aircraft, Group Capt
E J Rowe AFC, now deceased told me that, when learning Ab Inito flying, the
Aeroplane was a Avro 504 . The Flying school based at Andover regularly
flew a navigation route , from Andover to Shoreham and return, although, the
Avro was reliable for its time. occasionally landed in fields on route , to
practise forced landing exercises.
The AVRO 504 may have been taking part in such an exercise. Groupie Rowe, who
served 36 years did his flying training in 1922. Gerald White."
The modern globetrotter who checks in at the departure lounge to be flown
from one part of the world to another, probably never gives a thought to how
extraordinary the idea of air travel was originally. One man played a greater
part than any other in convincing world opinion that flying could — and in all
probability would — become the accepted means of travelling.
The name of this
was Alan Cobham.
Born on 6th May 1894 the young
Alan John Cobham began his working life with clothing wholesalers in the
City of London. Following a brief exposure to agricultural work
he joined the Army's
Veterinary Corps at the outbreak of the First World War.
As the war progressed, Alan began to recognise the
importance of mechanical transport and in 1917, (by then a Staff Sergeant), he
secured a transfer to the Royal Air Force. On 1st January 1919, he found he
was a civilian once more.
Determined to secure a post-war career in aviation, he
joined the British Aerial Transport Company. It was a promising start
flying over a war-torn England, but
short-lived, and very soon afterwards he helped form the Berkshire Aviation
Company. During the latter half of 1919 and the early months of 1920, he
toured Great Britain giving joy-rides in a war surplus Avro 504K. A
deteriorating financial situation put an end to it all.
You cannot keep a good man down and Alan rapidly gained valuable experience as an aerial
photographic pilot. Following this and, fortunately for him,
on 1st January 1921, Geoffrey de Havilland who, throughout the war years had been Airco's Chief Designer, engaged him as the first pilot for his newly formed de
Havilland Aeroplane Hire Service.
In support of his new company's proud claim to 'Fly Anyone -
Anywhere', Alan was rarely found out of the cockpit of his aircraft. He was
endowed with not only charm and luck but also great energy and enthusiasm.
Routine photographic work was supplemented by air taxi and charter flying which
included long distance
journeys throughout Europe and the Middle East. Within a year, he was
de Havilland's senior pilot. His duties also embraced the test flying of
new aircraft and entering them in performance competitions.
One of these was the
D.H.50 in which, flying the prototype G-EBFN, he won the 1924 King's Cup Air
Race at an average speed of 107mph, for this achievement he claimed the Royal
Aero Club's Gold Medal and, for the second year running, the prized Britannia
1924 was a momentous year. As well as establishing
himself alongside other famous racing aviators of the era, Alan was
picked to accompany the Director of Civil Aviation Sir Sefton Brancker to India
and Burma. The purpose was to determine the viability of setting up
airship routes. Upon returning home, Brancker had been convinced and
expressed his opinion that it would be the aeroplane and not the airship that
would conquer the sky in the future.
Also in 1924 Alan commanded one of the new experimental flying
boats around the entire perimeter of the African Continent. This was
back in the days of the Imperial British Raj and he completed the whole journey by
only landing in British Colonies lying on the coasts of Africa. This trip
altered history and proved that air travel was firmly on the way.
Knighted in 1926, Sir Alan Cobham (by now confident of his own resourcefulness), he branched out on his own. Leaving de Havilland in May 1927, he
founded Alan Cobham Aviation Limited with offices in New Bond Street in
which he shared with Malcolm Campbell (the racing car designer and driver).
By 1932, Sir Alan's enthusiasm had turned towards providing
touring air show. Although formally registered as National Aviation Day (later
Display) Limited, his travelling fleet of aircraft and airborne performers was
more popularly referred to as 'Cobham's Flying Circus'. Spectacular aerobatic
pilots, wing-walkers, parachutists and novelty turns excited the crowds the length
and breadth of the country, and also, during the winter of 1932/33, at locations
throughout South Africa.
This is how Sir Alan's Flying Circus came to be in the sky over Findon.
Passengers could enjoy having a joy ride
above the clouds and loop the loop over the village! No flying
restrictions in 1933. Those were the
days. Part crusader, part showman, Sir Alan helped
popularise flying by taking many of the Findon villagers on their first fight.
August 1933 — Sir Alan piloting a twin-engine airliner in
the lead of a formation of his flying circus as he flew over our skies.
On this occasion he landed in the grounds of Goring Hall (now Goring Hall
Hospital) to give the locals joy flights for a few shillings a go.
The air ace stayed at Shoreham
Airport with his flying circus of stunt pilots. He flew his
22-seat Astro airliner over to Worthing where, in his usual spectacular style,
he landed it in front of the large crowd at the now Goring Hall Hospital
grounds. Once landed, he promptly offered to take bystanders
on joy flights and, even more surprisingly, many of them accepted his invitation
Peter Trounce who originated from nearby Worthing e-mailed me
30th November, 2003.
Sir Alan Cobham and his "Flying Circus" used to come
regularly to Shoreham Airport in the 1930's.
I, along with my father and my brother, had my first
flight in one of his three Airspeed Ferries, which were designed by (the
later author) Nevil Shute, as mentioned in Shute's book "Slide Rule".
There were I think 6 seats, or rather canvas chairs, in
the biplane, which is the middle picture on your page "Flying Over
Findon". The Circus that time flew from a field near Parham Park.
The plane had 3 engines, one on top of the upper wing.
It was made from wood
and fabric. The vibration was enormous, your voice came out all wobbly.
The Air Circus was a revelation to me, aged about 12.
Stunting, a parachute
drop, clowns driving about the field in a Model-T being bombed with flour
bags by a man leaning over the side of a biplane cockpit,
Tyson stunting in a purple Gloster "Gamecock" and what I now know was a
dangerous stunt, picking up a hankerchief on the ground with a wire on the
wingtip. I still have a programme somewhere.
Sir Alan Cobham later ran "Flight Refuelling Ltd." in
resulted in all the later military inflight refuelling.
Peter Trounce, Toronto, Canada.
Sir Alan Cobham's flying circus also staged a thrilling show
over Sea Lane in nearby Ferring in 1935. The attractions included it
is reputed a
pilot flying upside down and 20 ft. above the ground. Also an
aerial bombardment of "policemen" with bags of flour.
The nearby Ford Airfield was also taken over for joy rides and
as Sir Alan's Cobham's headquarters.
10th March 2006
Sir Alan Cobham
I'm attaching the Programme front page from Alan Cobham's Air Display of
The programme has 36 pages of description, photos and adverts.
Not bad for sixpence !!
Peter Trounce, Toronto, Canada.
After retiring to the British Virgin Islands, Sir Alan returned to England and died on 21st October 1973.
Continue if you would like to read about
Chrissie the milkman's horse in
Did Chrissie Get As
Far As Findon Village?
Findon Village —
a continually growing record created by Valerie Martin exclusively for
documenting life in Findon.