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1616 Early Aviation in Bournemouth by Adele Evans Bournemouth Aviation Meeting - 1910


In the very early years of flying, Bournemouth was a principal centre for aviation. During the first 3 decades of the 20th century, there were a number of important aerodromes locally; including what amounted to a water aerodrome on the seafront near Bournemouth Pier. In fact Bournemouth’s centenary celebrations in July 1910 included Britain’s first international aviation meeting, held at Southbourne Aerodrome. Te selected site was on a mile of grassland between Tuckton and Double Dykes near


Hengistbury Head. Tis prestigious event had been Bournemouth Council’s idea and cost a staggering £30,000 to set up, a colossal sum of money in those days. 20 celebrated pilots from around the world took part in a series of trials, but the competition was sadly marred by the fatal crash on 12th July of avant-garde motorist and aviator Charles Rolls, of Rolls Royce fame. Tis is quite remarkable when you consider that the earliest effective aircraft had been invented less than 7 years previously by the American Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur. Te new sport of aviation developed at a frenetic pace and quickly attracted many dare devil enthusiasts. A prominent Bournemouth garage owner, William McArdle, who supplied the latest automobiles to the local gentry, took a keen interest in all progress in the sport. Te first officially recognised flight in Britain had been by Colonel Samuel Cody (an American born but naturalised British showman and pilot) at Farnborough in October 1908; it had lasted 27 minutes. Te English Channel was then crossed by Bleriot in July 1909. McArdle decided to go to the Bleriot Aviation School in Issy, France to learn to fly and completed his training in Spring 1910. It was during this time that he met wealthy American J. Armstrong Drexel who had also qualified there. Tey returned to Bournemouth together and arranged a flying display for the people of Bournemouth at Vines Farm, Talbot Village (now the site of Bournemouth University) during Whitsun in May 1910, two months prior to the main Southbourne event which they helped to organise. Locals were so keen to see this new mode of transport that they travelled in great numbers by tram to Winton and then walked the rest of the way. Following this, during the summer of 1912, Lord Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail, promoted a ‘Grand Aviation Tour of England’. As part of this tour, one of the pilots, a Mr Fischler, gave flights in his Farman water plane from alongside Bournemouth Pier. Even Father Christmas arrived by plane in 1913, before travelling by the more traditional coach and horses to Beales department store. Frederick Etches formed Bournemouth Aviation Company and set up a flying school at the Talbot Village aerodrome in November 1915. Not only did the company train WW1 pilots but also offered civilian flights costing £3. Spectators could pay 6d or 1/- to watch proceedings. Unfortunately, there were complaints about the noise of aircraft flying over Talbot Village; the farmer at Vines Farm apparently took pot shots at planes that had disturbed his cattle. Etches then bought an 88 acre site at Ensbury Park and built a new aerodrome. By the end of WW1, it was the finest equipped flying school outside London, providing pilots for the RFC. By 1918, when the RAF was formed, the site became RAF Winton but within a year this shifted to Beaulieu and civilians took control once more. In 1919 William Sholto-Douglas began a passenger service to Cricklewood near London. Te airfield continued to be used for air races, joy flights and commercial flights until 1928. Talbot Village aerodrome was used until at least 1930. Te legendary woman aviation pioneer, Amy Johnson, landed there in that year on her way to open a hospital fete in Meyrick Park. In 1931, Sir Alan Cobham of Flying Circus fame recommended to Bournemouth Council that they build an airstrip at Hurn but it took until the outbreak of WW2 for work to begin there in 1940.


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