Mike and Diane Wilson -
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Speeton Airfield in the 1950s

Two sounds were guaranteed to prise me from my bed on lazy Saturday mornings nearly sixty years ago. One was the distinctive whistle of a Standard steam locomotive, the other the drone of a light aircraft.

If it was the latter, a quick glance over the spires of Priory Church would find the speck in the sky and within minutes my (t)rusty bike and I would be pounding towards Speeton.

It was, I suppose, quite a punishing ride, all uphill from Queensgate to the Scarborough Road junction with Old Town. Then, onto open rising ground, past West Huntow, East Huntow and High Huntow to the right-hand junction to Speeton.

No doubt I had been keeping my eye on the aircraft, and had probably stamped on the pedals harder where I could gain some speed. I wanted to make sure the aircraft and I arrived at the airfield at the same time.

Even now, I can visualise myself leaning the bike on the hedge, before slumping in the lush grass at the side of the road, quite out of breath.

Also with me, slung over my shoulder, was my father's folding Kodak camera, loaded with 620 panchromatic film.

Then I'd have to wait until the puffing and panting subsided before the first exposures were taken. There before my eyes was a small array of aeroplanes: Tiger  Moths, Percival Proctors, Miles Geminis and Auster Autocrats.

Lockwood's Flying Service and East Riding Flying Club were offering joy rides over the cliffs at Speeton, some forty years after Wilbur and Orville Wright found their wings in America.

The airfield, and the club's HQ, had been formally opened on Thursday, 14th August, 1947. For a few weeks prior to this date, the Bridlington Free Press had carried advertisements for Bridlington Airfield.

As well as joy rides, the airfield listed among its services "coastal tours, air taxis, aerial photography and flying instruction." Ray Lockwood was Chief Instructor and his aircraft the Auster Autocrat G-AJIN.

The official opening was carried out by His Worship the Mayor, Cllr F. F. Millner, JP.

The Mayor was to have been supported by Hon. Richard Wood, President of East Riding Flying Club, but he was unable to attend due to illness and his place was taken by Cllr Marshall, the Vice-President of the Club.

Following his first-ever flight in an Aerovan, the Mayor said: "It was just like a ride in a car." He thought the new airfield "will put Bridlington on the map," and that "flying will become one of the foremost means of transportation. It will also help the town considerably."

The whole mayoral party took to the air in brilliant sunshine and later in the afternoon Bridlington's carnival queen flew over the field in an Auster from Carnaby.

A demonstration flight was given by a Blackburn Firebrand, followed by aerobatics by the club's instructor in a Tiger Moth and Auster.

Bridlington Airfield's advert was published several times during the late summer of 1947 as well as a smaller one from a competitor, John Good, of Hull. He was advertising an air travel and air freight service, with special flights between October 1 and 11 to London for Radiolympia.

The first aeroplane to be seen in Bridlington had been a Blackburn Mercy, flown by the owner, Jack Brereton. He flew from the sands and the golf course, before poor weather prevented more passes along the seafront. This was in July 1912.

In 1913, Mr Blackburn himself brought one of his aeroplanes to the town, and, on August 17, he and Miss Isla Tudor, said to be "the world's youngest aviatrix," climbed to 6,000 feet.

For years after the early fifties, the sight of a "wind-sock" and a cluster of small huts showed the existence of the East Riding Flying Club.

Since those early days, propellers have given way to jet power and all manner of aeroplanes have been seen over the East Riding. Airfields at Driffield and Leconfield have provided open days where military fighter have roared across the field. A docile De Havilland Rapide gave the writer his first taste of the air.

Since then, life has not involved much flying, apart from big jets to Paris, Spain, Tenerife and Vancouver. But those early days remain locked away in the photographic scrapbook.
Top left: Miles Gemini G-AMBH
Centre left: Auster Autocrat J1 G-AJIG
Top right: Two Percival Proctors
Centre right: Tiger Moth G-AMEZ
Left: A letter to the Editor of Around the Wolds some time in the late 1990s. The article above and these photographs had appeared in the magazine in October 1997. I sent a copy of a photo of his flying instructor to him in Vancouver. That was in 2001. In 2007 I met Tony in Vancouver. He was a wonderful host and treated Diane and me to a brilliant day out at Delta Airfield and Langley Museum and Airport.

He regaled us with tales from his service in the RAF, and his time flying in Canada.

He recounted other stories of his friends and colleagues in American Warbirds, when he owned a Harvard.

At a Canadian Mothers' Day breakfast he introduced us to one of the founders of a Canadian airline and other men and women instrumental in keeping Canadian private flying in the forefront of aviation.

One of his colleagues was kind enough to take me and then Diane on separate 20-minute flights over the Canadian countryside on the edge of Vancouver.  That kindness will be remembered for a very long time.

My aerial photograph of Delta Airfield is currently displayed on Google Earth.

If you read this, Tony, many thanks again.

This page was created in the late afternoon of 11th January 2008. I emailed Tony with a copy of his letter and by 10am on the 12th Tony had replied with the photograph of "Chippy" and his Autocrat (see the text above). Brilliant!

 


Mike Wilson