RAeCT Research Subjects
The centenary of the first crossing of the English Channel, by Louis Blériot, was commemorated in France in 2009. The Trust provided the organisers of the French celebrations with copies of photographs taken at a reception for M. Bleriot in London in 1934, when he was nominated as a life member of the Royal Aero Club.
William Robinson Clarke
William Robinson Clarke was from Kingston, Jamaica and a Sergeant in the RFC, when he qualified for an Aviator’s Certificate (number 4837) in April 1917. His photograph and index record card were loaned to the Imperial War Museum, where they were on display as part of the exhibition “From War to Windrush” about the stories of West Indian men and women in warfare.
George W P Dawes
Captain Dawes was the first serving officer of the British Army to be awarded an Aviator’s Certificate in England (number 17). By coincidence, he was granted his certificate at the same time as A V Roe. Dawes was one of very few officers who served actively in the Boer War and both world wars. Following an enquiry from Dawes’ family, the Trust was able to provide information about his career.
In May 1919, Hawker and Lieut-Cdr K Mackenzie-Grieve attempted to fly across the Atlantic in a Sopwith aeroplane. However, they had to ditch part way and were picked up by the Danish ship SS “Mary”. (Alcock and Brown completed the first transatlantic flight a month later.) Interestingly, Hawker’s ’plane did not sink and was retrieved by a passing American steamer and brought to England. The Trust’s collection includes a photograph of the wrecked machine, taken when it was displayed on the roof of Selfridge’s store, as well as portrait paintings of both Hawker and Mackenzie-Grieve themselves.
Lawrence of Arabia
Most people know about the exploits of T E Lawrence in Arabia, and the end of his life in a fatal motorcycle accident in 1935. However, it is less well-known that he enlisted in the RAF in 1922 under the name of AC2 J H Ross. Unfortunately, his true identity became known and the ensuing publicity caused his removal from the RAF. He changed his name to T E Shaw and joined the Royal Tank Corps instead. Later, he rejoined the RAF as Shaw. The Trust’s collection includes a photograph of Lawrence in uniform, astride the motorcycle on which he subsequently met his death. The RAF Museum holds journals that include accounts of Lawrence’s abortive career in the RAF.
Edward “Mick” Mannock VC and James McCudden VC rose from modest backgrounds to become two of Britain’s greatest fighter aces in World War One. Mannock held Aviator’s Certificate number 3895, and McCudden held Certificate number 2745. McCudden’s older brother William held Certificate number 269, and it was after a flight with Willie that James McCudden requested a transfer to the RFC and began his flying career. Information about the McCuddens from the Trust’s collection was provided to the BBC for the “Aces Falling” documentary in the Timewatch series, first broadcast on 21 March 2009.
Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey
The airfield at Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey played a significant role in the history of British aviation from 1909 when Frank McClean acquired Stonepits Farm, on the marshes across from Leysdown, and converted the land into an airfield for members of the Aero Club (later Royal) of Great Britain. Later, McClean loaned his aeroplanes there to the Royal Navy to train officers in the skill of flying. 2009 saw the 100th anniversary at Eastchurch, and the Trust made available a number of its historic photographs for a documentary entitled "A Dream of Flight" to celebrate that centenary.
Francis K McClean
One of the 13 pioneer airmen, whose names are inscribed on the memorial at Eastchurch, is Frank (later Sir Francis) McClean. McClean (Aviator’s Certificate number 21) is aptly referred to as the founder of naval aviation in the UK. Early in 1914, McClean organised a seaplane journey up the River Nile from Alexandria to Khartoum. The party included Alec Ogilvie, Horace Short, Jack Spottiswoode, and McClean’s sister Anna. The Trust holds an album of nearly 400 photographs that illustrate their incredible flight up the Nile. Trust volunteers have recently compiled an accompanying descriptive record, based on contemporary accounts of the journey.