Frank Hedges Butler

Royal Aero Club Collection

Index of the Frank Hedges Butler Albums


These albums provide a unique overview of the early days of aviation not only in the United Kingdom but also in Europe and world-wide. Their pages chronicle the history of flying as a leisure activity, as a competitive sport, as a new military activity, and in later albums, as a commercial activity.

It should be noted that the Royal Aero Club played an important part in the development of flying in the United Kingdom. It became the godparent of the Royal Flying Corps, later the RAF and service airmen used its flying grounds at Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent to learn, to fly on members' machines, having none of their own. The Club was the unique authority that issued Pilot Certificates up until the late 1920 when this function was taken over by the Air Ministry. ( Note - The Royal Aero Club Trust intends to publish on its website facsimiles of these Aviators' Certificates, starting with Aviators' Certificates No. 1 which was issued to J T C Moore-Brabazon (later Lord Brabazon of Tara).

The Hedges Butler albums include private letters and telegrams between many of the early aviators and scientists that have never been published. They also include extraordinary news and feature articles published in newspapers and magazines that have not seen the light of day for many decades. For example there are articles on - how to pilot an aeroplane, the pioneering flights of many early aviators, the unfortunate accidents that befell some of them, competitive events and social events related to aviation.

In the meantime the Royal Aero Club Trust is convinced that the public in general and researchers in particular would wish to find out more about the contents of these albums and it has therefore been decided to index those albums that have now been restored and conserved. The Index contains information about: personalities concerned, description of relevant events; date the articles were published, the aerial vehicle or craft used and frequently the name of media in which is was published. It indicates the numeral of the album and the page where the information is to be found.

Those albums whose context has been indexed are now available for viewing by prior appointment in the Reading Room of the Department of Research and Information Services of the Royal Air Force Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London NW9 5LL.

If, at some future date, there is an acceptable level of demand, indexed CDs or DVDs of these Albums may be made available for sale.

The Trustees wish to express their particular thanks to Eric Grimes for compiling this Index.


Frank Hedges Butler, a balloonist and pioneer of flying, was born in London on 17 December 1855. He died in 1928. The son of a wine merchant, and one of the first persons in England to own a motor-car, he became the first Hon. Treasurer of the Royal Automobile Club. In September 1901 he made an ascent in a balloon "The City of York" from Crystal Palace in London, accompanied by his daughter Vera and the Hon. Charles Rolls (later of Rolls-Royce). While flying over Sidcup, Vera suggested the formation of an Aero Club and so the Aero Club of the United Kingdom was founded, which in 1910 became the Royal Aero Club. Frank Hedges Butler was the author of a number of books including: "Fifty years of travel by land, water and air".

There are 20 Hedges Butler Albums in the Royal Aero Club Collection. These contain press cuttings, letters, documents, aviation-related sheet music and photographs dealing with aviation paraphernalia and aerial vehicles such as kites, balloons, airships, early gliders and aeroplanes, as well as flying training, etc. The earliest of the press cuttings is dated 1756

All these albums were in a poor condition; many of the newspaper cuttings are fragile and many of the photographs are sulphating. For that reason the albums required restoration and conservation treatment to ensure that they will be available to future generations for their education and enjoyment. Since these albums are unique the Royal Aero Club Trust decided to have them microfilmed and digitised. All albums have now been processed.

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