Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 10 October 2002


No pilot!
THE RAPID development of aviation, many aspects of which were pioneered or tested in Kent, is a fascinating story and one man who revels in researching the subject is Memories reader Roy Humphreys, of Hawkinge.

He has been writing about and researching the history of aviation in the county for many years, and has produced several books on the subject which are well worth reading.

"Kent Aviation, A Century of Flight," his most recent book on the subject, with a feast of photographs, I dip into frequently.

And Roy tells me with great enthusiasm how he has just tracked down a picture after a search taking more than 30 years, such is the determination of the man!

Discovery of the picture of a Cirrus-engined aircraft known as the B.A. Swallow

- seen above - with the registration letters GAEVC, is particularly satisfying for it is the 'star' in a remarkable story.

The true story begins on a pleasant summer's evening 65 years ago at the Cinque Ports Flying Club at Lympne airfield.

Members had been busy all day, says Roy, having started in the early hours with a dawn patrol flight to Horsham, in East Sussex.

"These early morning excursions were almost a weekly event in those days, with the emphasis on early, so that sufficient club aircraft got back to Lympne in time for the 'ab initios' - (novices) - to get on with their
circuits and bumps," he writes.

A local dental surgeon had recently acquired the Swallow, of which he was justly proud and, on this particular Sunday evening, had asked a young apprentice to start up the aircraft while he logged his intended flight in the club's flight register.

But he never made that flight.

As Roy writes, "Murphy's law - 'nothing is ever as easy as it looks' - was about to foul up his day.

The apprentice strolled over to the aeroplane, checked petrol switch 'On,' then went to the front to swing the propeller. After several unsuccessful attempts he decided the fuel mixture was too rich, returned to the cockpit and switched off.

Next he set the throttle wide open, then went back to the front end to swing the propeller anti-clockwise to clear the carburettor.

Shock take-off

Back to the cockpit, satisfied the engine was clear, he switched 'On' again, returned to the propeller and gave it an almighty swing.

"But," writes Roy, "Murphy's Law came into play again 'If anything just cannot go wrong, it will anyway!'

"The Cirrus engine coughed and started with a great roar from its stub exhaust pipes. The young lad attempted to jump clear only to be bowled over by a wing as the Swallow began to move across the grass."

This aircraft suddenly seemed to have a
BELOW: The Swallow monoplane that took off without a pilot, flew around Shepway for 45 minutes and then almost made a 'safe' but rough landing close to Hawkinge RAF airfield as shocked and baffled airmen and ground staff could only look on with bated breath!

The incident took place 65 years ago and has been researched by local aviation enthusiast and author Roy Humphreys, of Hawkinge, who searched for this picture for over 30 years.
mind of its own — dispensing with the need for a pilot, it was about to take off!

"No doubt the tail trim lever was well back from the last landing, but the hand-brake had not been applied," explains Roy.

"The Swallow began to gather speed and, after little more than a normal run, took off in an easterly direction, making a slow, rather flat climb to about 1,000 feet.

"This naturally upset the owner-pilot standing on the tarmac watching his pride and joy head towards Folkestone, where he envisaged a disastrous calamity if it was to crash.

"Beside him stood the aged and larconic bar steward, Warner who, turning to the almost demented owner, and hardly the soul of tact, said 'Never seen the bloody thing fly better!'

"The Swallow remained flying for about 45 minutes, by which time it was being hotly 'pursued' by airport staff in a collection of motor cars and a policeman on a motorcycle.

"North of Folkestone, at RAF Hawkinge, the CO of No.25 Squadron, Sqdn Ldr Donald Fleming, phoned Lympne to complain that a light aircraft was 'shooting-up' the officers' mess in a highly dangerous manner!

"All efforts to placate him were to no avail — the very idea that no one was on board was just to preposterous to contemplate!"

But says Roy, worse was to follow.

"Probably due to a down-draught, the Swallow
'attempted' to land in a field next to the C.O.'s garden. It was almost a successful 'three-wheeler' - and, if someone had been available to close the throttle it might have been a rough, but reasonable landing.

"In the event the aeroplane careered across the field and came to a sticky end. This provoked the CO to phone Lympne again to say: 'The bloody fool has crashed and we can't find the pilot'!"

It took some gentle persuasion to finally convince him there was, indeed, no pilot!

Empress Ballroom party

Alderman and Mrs Hollands were in the centre of a Memories photo back in August, of a Coronation party photograph taken in the Empress Ballroom, in Dover Road, in 1953, and recently I had an e-mail message from Roger Harrington, of Sellindge, whose mother was also in the picture.

Roger is an old friend of David Sheppard, now living in Saudi Arabia, who sent me the photo. Roger also has a copy of the picture because he is in it — next to a Mrs Hall, a lady in a white blouse in the second row. And, what's more, he told me:

"Alderman and Mrs Hollands, after whom our street was named, just happen to be the grandparents of Babs Harrington, who is married to my late father's younger brother, Brian Harrington! Brian and Babs are former mine hosts of the Two Bells and are at present in house at Folkestone Invicta Football Club."

Church window tribute to JP and local Methodist

| NEW stained glass window was

XS/Urfi unveiled to the memory of John Holden JP mid his wife. ;it the Grace Hill Wesleyan Methodist Church. Mr Holden was twice mayor and chief magistrate of Folkestone, closely concerned with development of the west end of Folkestone and a stalwart of the Methodist Church. Companies of soldiers had been known to march down narrow Dover Street, believing it to be Dover Road, reported our man Felix, who calling for decent enamelled street nameplates to help people, particularly visitors to the resort, find places they were looking for. In case anyone in the town was doubling the action of the Council in deciding to use an incinerator to dispose of the town's refuse, the editor quoted the tragic case of Portsmouth where there had been a serious "diarrhoea" epidemic causing several deaths, three in one family, all attributed to "insanitary refuse heaps" and flies contaminating food in people's homes. Folkestone's hospital and homes near a tip had been plagued with flies too, but without serious outbreaks of illness.

Shareholders claim lease of top hotel made too little

f QP/j FLOODLIGHT tests were being con ducted at Dungeness to sec whether lighting up the lighthouse might protect birds. Trinity House and the Bird Protection Society were cooperating in the test. The darling lighthouse beam was said to bo the cause of death of many birds which had dashed themselves to death by Hying into the structure. Fifteen teams were expected for a women's world hockey tournament in Folkestone. The triennial conference and tournament of the International Federation of Women's Hockey clubs, was planned for Sept 28 to Oct 10, 1953. Brothers A.L. and L. Josephs bought the lease and con tents of Hotel Metropole from Gordon Hotels Ltd, for 43.800 and announced plans to invest a further 25,000 in renovations with a view to opening with massively reduced charges to guests. The "low" sale price was the subject of a row among a group of shareholders. On Roinney Marsh the East Kent Road Car Co, took over services operated by Carey Bros, of New Roinney, the 132 Sunday service, from New Romncy to Lydd via Littlestone seafront and Dungeness, and the other 133, a Tuesday and FriHav servinn frnm Now Rnmnnv tn A;hfnrrl
Relic of days seamen had to row miles to find fish

A QA7 A LONG account of a fishing trip in the JL?> i Folkestone craft FE68, by Francis Q. Grant, told how the boat was so sound it only required pumping dry once in three weeks. The vessel had curious holes in the bulwarks which were relics of the days of sails and oarsmen sometimes rowing for miles. Felix was telling how he was frequently stopped by pedestrians in or near the parish churchyard and asked where they could find the 'famous' gravestone for Rebecca Rogers, aged 44, who died on August 22, 1689. Not easily found it read, with subtle humour: “A house she hath, its made of such good fashion, the tenant ne'er shall pay for reparation. Nor will her landlord ever raise her rent. Or turn her out of doors for non-payment. From chimney money too, this cell is free, Of such a house who would not the tenant be." Sadly, wrote Felix, unless renovated soon its future was in doubt. He said there was scarcely a day that he did not walk through the churchyard to and from the former Folkestone Herald and Kent Evening Echo offices, and wasn't stopped by someone asking about the stone.
Ownership riddle as town deals with landslip damage

H rt^^COUNCIL officials were trying to JL7 I ■ solve a mystery at Sandgate over the ownership of seaside properties threatened by a landslip. Emergency work had to be carried out after garden land moved forward six feet and part of a retaining wall in front of two homes fronting Riviera Road collapsed, and the road had to be closed. The Council wanted to serve notice on the home owners requiring them to take remedial action. A reader was calling for urgent action to stop the menace of dogs fouling footpaths and other areas by employing a dog warden to round up "strays," and providing designated areas to which people could take their dogs on a lead. A missing 27ft Union Jack, stolen from Saltwood village green, turned up again a fortnight or so later - not vandalised, but washed, ironed, neatly folded and placed, inside a paper bag, on the steps of Hythe police station — complete with a poem from the 'thief'! Controversy seemed set to rage for some time about skateboarding youngsters. Some pointed out the dangers as the enthusiasts let off steam in the Payer's car park. One told of two near accidents. A temporary extension was being planned by the Hotel Burstin.

If anyone should have any a better picture than any on this page, or think I should add one they have, please email me at the following address:-