The 5th January meeting of The Martlesham Heath Aviation Society – was another “cracker” to a very good attendance.
Local Speaker Mike Hallet, presented the story of his Grandfather Wing Commander Harold Blackburn MC AFC.
This was of particular interest locally – as Harold commanded The Aircraft & Armaments Experimental Establishment (known in the RAF as A&AEE) between 1924 and 1928. His appointment was the apogee of a fascinating career with aircraft.
Born in Doncaster, his flying started in 1909 when he flew from Dagenham in a homemade Aircraft designed by Fred Walker – he was then involved in the Blackburn Aviation School at Hendon…. Using a Blackburn Type “D” aircraft 2 seater. The first scheduled airline in Britain between Sheffield and Leeds saw Harold as a Pilot. He was also an accomplished Air Racer.
At the start of the Great War he took himself and his aircraft to a recruiting airfield… he, and aircraft, were immediately impressed on 19th August 1914 as No 214 into the British Army Strategic Reserve, which meant he missed all the normal “Square bashing” and went straight into teaching recruits to fly.
In November 1914 he was sent by Steamer to Alexandria with No 14 Squadron – to help defend the Suez Canal from Turkish capture. His adventures continued as he flew from Cantara in Sinai – doing reconnaissance and attacking Turkish Troop concentrations. He survived the war untouched.
His RAF Career continued… and he eventually became Commander at Martlesham Heath in 1924 until he retired from the RAF in 1929.
As an experiment the Talk was videotaped by members of the Colchester Video Club, – we will see how that works out
Finally – the Martlesham Heath Guided walk scheduled for 27th December was cancelled due to appalling weather – this will be rescheduled – probably for around Easter. Look out for details
A Sports Day in the late 1920’s – which incidentally shows Mikes Great Grandfather and Grandmother. (see arrows at the bottom. In the background you can see a Prefabricated hanger, apparently erected in the Great War by German Prisoners of War.
A Picture at Martlesham Heath of Harold, (centre) with two other Officers – Mike would like to identify these other two – Can anyone help?