Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Night Flight Stunts



This is another page from my Great Aunt Maud’s Autograph Album and dated 9.12.19; almost ninety-six years ago to the day, ‘HHP’ glued a little bit of history to the page and wrote an explanatory note. He completed it with the official Labour Corps Records stamp; both he and Maud were employed there after the war. I wrote about the album in Another Day at The Office, where you can see more pages of autographs.

The bombings stunts HHP refers to took place during the Spring and Summer of 1917, when the Handley Page bombers were brought in to reinforce the work already being carried out by the Royal Flying Corps and the four Royal Navy fighter squadrons, dispatched at the same time, in attacking the strategic naval ports and dockyards of Dunkirk, Ostend and Zeebrugge. The Handley Page could carry fourteen 112lb bombs as compared to the short bombers eight 65 - pounders, already in use. The Handley Pages were first used for daylight patrols with considerable success, but as their pilots became more skilled they were deployed on these very important night raids. During WW1 the word 'stunts' referred to ‘any performance of outstanding skill or effectiveness, on a large or small scale. You can read about these operations in more detail in ‘The War in The Air; being the story of the part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force’ *




This is what it was like to be ‘Up in the Air in a Handley-Page’**. The photograph is attributed to Tom Aitken. This later model O/400 bomber, was introduced in 1918 and could carry 2000lbs (907 kilos) of bombs and be fitted with four Lewis machine guns. 

The ex 'Observer and Pilot, R.A.F', who signed Maud’s album may have had many such views; in any case he held onto the old flying maps after the war, possibly as some sort of keepsake. Perhaps he was dividing the map and sharing it piecemeal with anyone who requested his autograph. It certainly makes his contribution stand out from the crowd. He could never have foreseen that some ninety five years later it would lead to the current guardian of the album setting out to find more of the details surrounding those ‘bombing stunts’ carried out by the famous Handley-Page aeroplanes.

Take a flight to Sepia Saturday and see what other contributors have come up with.



** The photograph was censored, because it could potentially be of use to the enemy. Original reads ‘Official Photograph taken on the British Western Front in France. Up in the air in a Handley-Page, showing another Handley-Page making for the enemy’s lines.’ Courtesy of Flickr Commons, National Library of Scotland.

10 comments:

  1. I sometimes get lost when using the Google satellite map views. It took real skill to identify landmarks from such maps while flying in an open airplane.

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  2. What an amazing photo for the time! Fantastic!

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  3. I agree, a wonderful photograph and Mr Aitken must have had great presence of mind, especially if he was the pilot.

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  4. A piece of history and a historic photo too.

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  5. We had autograph books as kids (they seem to have gone completely out of fashion now) and they were always a bit dull, just signatures and cheesy poems. I always so admired the beautiful creations that people had done early in the century, with paintings, drawings and quotations. I have never seen a map! what a wonderful thing to put in.

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  6. We had autograph books as kids (they seem to have gone completely out of fashion now) and they were always a bit dull, just signatures and cheesy poems. I always so admired the beautiful creations that people had done early in the century, with paintings, drawings and quotations. I have never seen a map! what a wonderful thing to put in.

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  7. I rec'd an autograph book for my 12th birthday & since I was singing with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, had the then director, Kurt Herbert Adler, sign my book ... except I was so excited, I presented it to him upside down so his signature is not only upside down, but at the back of the book instead of in the front. Oh well. I still have it. Six years after he signed it, I found myself at a summer music camp singing with his daughter. Small world.

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  8. Oh I must show this to my father who was a US Naval aviator. He began training in biplanes. He will love this.

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  9. I doubt I could ever have been a bomber pilot. I get too caught up in admiring the patchwork of the landscape.

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