Urgent appeal – help to save historic British Air Cushion Craft

Britten Norman CC7 Cushion Craft of the Isle of Wight

Britten Norman CC7 Cushion Craft of the Isle of Wight

Wight Aviation Museum (WAM) has launched an urgent appeal to raise enough money to save an historic British Cushion Craft from being sold abroad. Originally built on the Isle of Wight at St. Helens, on the shores of Bembridge Harbour, this particular hovercraft is at risk of leaving the UK to an overseas buyer at auction in January. Read the full appeal below with details of how you can donate and help to keep this British invention where it belongs. Here!

Can you help us save a historic British Air Cushion vehicle from ending up overseas?

Hello, I am John Kenyon Chair of Trustees of Wight Aviation Museum, a UK registered charity and we are URGENTLY appealing for your help to rescue an important part of the Hovercraft story on the Isle of Wight. We are asking for donations to rescue an original Cushioncraft CC7 built here at St Helen’s Duver.

We need to raise around £15000 to cover the purchase, transportation and refurbishment of the Cushioncraft, which we will bring to the Island so the museum can put the craft on display to the public at Sandown Airport. Additionally we would like to use the skills and knowledge of those that were originally involved in its production who are still here and able to assist us.

Warwick Jacobs, Hovercraft Trust trustee.

Warwick Jacobs, Hovercraft Trust trustee. Copyright Anne Grant.

The reason for the urgent request is the unexpected availability of the craft. We had a call from Warwick Jacobs, who founded the world’s first Hovercraft museum in 1986. He said “My first thought was this naturally belongs on the Isle of Wight, paying tribute to the work of Britten Norman!” And our Trustees agreed!

We have to act quickly if we are to secure this icon of engineering excellence for British aviation heritage as it is highly likely this will be sold off to a potential buyer from overseas at auction in January.

Please donate now as much or as little as you can afford to return this Cushioncraft to the Island where it was made. This will be a fitting tribute to those who worked at St Helens and later went on to manufacture a wide range of hovercraft that continued right up its transfer to Griffon Hoverwork in 2008.

Finally should we not be successful in raising the total sum needed we guarantee that all money donated will be placed into restricted funds and will be used only to purchase further acquisitions for the museum.

For all those contributing to this appeal we will keep you posted with our newsletter so you can see the progress being made by our volunteers and members just email us at  wightaviationmuseum@gmail.com

Here is a bit more about the history of the CC7 Cushioncraft…….

Britten Norman Cushion Craft

Britten Norman Cushion Craft. Courtesy of Mark William.

In 1960 Britten-Norman Ltd began trials of their new “Cushioncraft” —their name for an air-cushion vehicle built which needed to be” flown” above the terrain. It was used initially to assess the potential of this type of vehicle for the carriage of bananas from plantations in the Southern Cameroons. Together with its associated company, Crop Culture (Aerial) Ltd, Britten-Norman studied the potential for the Cushioncraft in many different countries. These investigations revealed the possibility of a break-through market in transportation techniques by the use of air cushion vehicles which could accelerate the pace of development in territories where roads are non-existent and costly to build and where rivers are seasonally unnavigable. A very similar concept to that used to promote the BN Islander’s “Land Rover “capabilities in the air, and still in service today, all across the Globe. Cushioncraft was eventually sold to The British Hovercraft Corporation in 1972.

Remember too marine skills were used to develop the first aircraft and it was aviation skills that were used to develop Cushioncraft using reverse engineering concepts which is why the first hovercraft were flown….. by pilots!

If you need convincing about the unique importance of this craft that demonstrates vividly how aviation skills can be used to advantage in Land, Sea and Air applications, take a look at this Pathe News clip on our appeal pages on https://mydonate.bt.com/events/wightaviationmuseum/479553

Do please make a donation on line by credit or debit card its very quick and easy and you can do so anonymously if you prefer, but if you can accept your donation to be gift aided, this will benefit the charity by an extra 25%. BT does not take a penny out of your donation. They only charge us a card processing fee of 15p. For a Donation of £10 we get £12.35.

So thank you for helping us to conserve and display this important part of the Isle of Wight’s Aviation Heritage. You can find more on our website at www.wightaviationmuseum.org.uk


Unless We Forget

First World War Poppies Wave Installation : Over The Top at Portsdown Hill.

WW1 Poppies Wave : Over The Top at Portsdown Hill. Copyright Anne Grant.

As the First World War commemorations draw to a close, we are much better informed about what our ancestors experienced and endured.  These four commemorative years of TV and newspaper coverage has educated us to a greater understanding than we ever had before.

Tiger Moth G-AAHI at D-Day Southwick Revival 2018 with Tiger 9 Display Team

Tiger Moth G-AAHI at Southwick Revival 2018 with Tiger 9 Display Team. Copyright Anne Grant.

Behind every staggering statistic are the tragic stories of each individual who comprised those appalling numbers.

The artistic interpretations, like the deeply moving Poppy Installation at the Tower of London in 2014 and now the lighting of the candles in the Tower Moat in November 2018, have the power to touch us with lasting visual memories.

It is hard to think of something to say which hasn’t been said before by all the historians and television coverage.

But next time you hop onto a holiday flight to foreign shores, ponder on this sobering thought:
More British airmen died in WW1 as trainee pilots then were killed in action against Germany’s Air Force.

First World War Poppies Wave Installation at Fort Nelson

First World War Poppies Wave Installation. Copyright Anne Grant

They died in accidents as a result of aircraft design faults or by instability when landing their planes. The knowledge gained from those awful accidents, in the early years of aviation, contributed towards improvement in aeroplane design and safety.

Those young men never saw action at the fighting Front but they too gave their tomorrows for your safety today.
Remember them and give thanks.


Black Arrow WAMs Home

Black Arrow arrival at Sandown Airport 13 July 2018

Black Arrow arrival at Wight Aviation Museum, Sandown Airport 13 July 2018

The replica of the Black Arrow has arrived at Wight Aviation Museum (WAM), minus the red ‘nose’ cone.

This is currently being manufactured on the Isle of Wight.  When completed it will make the road journey to Sandown Airport to finish the rocket assembly.

It will then be situated outside the museum as a distinctive sentinel, visible to all who arrive at the airfield.

There will be no mistaking the location of WAM amongst all the other hangars!

Alfred Buckham - The Sky Traveller exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater, Isle of Wight October to December 2018

Alfred Buckham – The Sky Traveller exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Go to the Notice Board for more details about organised tours from the mainland to aviation sites around the Island, including an opportunity to see the Black Arrow.

If you are already on the Isle of Wight then go to Wight Aviation Museum page for contact details of how to visit WAM.

Also on the updated Notice Board is news of events this Autumn including a fabulous photography exhibition in Freshwater, Isle of Wight. Vintage aviation images taken by Alfred Buckham are absolute gems of history, capturing a moment in time that has gone forever.

Buckham wanted to be an artist, until he saw pictures by JMW Turner. Alfred went home and destroyed his own paintings. He took up a camera instead. What he produced through his lens is of equal artistry to Turner.  The SKY TRAVELLER is not to be missed.

Also listed are details about a talk by a pilot with HM Coast Guard SAR Helicopter based at Lee-on-the-Solent.

What of the big event anticipated for 2019 – D-Day 75?

News that Government funding won’t be made available for Portsmouth, to stage a major event next June around the Southsea D-Day Museum, has come as a blow to Portsmouth councillors.

Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!! Re-enactment group at Southwick D-Day Revival event 2018

Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!! Southwick D-Day Revival showing the British Spirit. Copyright Anne Grant.

If this leaves plans for Pompey somewhat up in the air, the Southwick Revival stalwarts over the Portsdown Hill are almost guaranteed to put on something even bigger and better than their D-Day 2018 weekend. They won’t be beaten.

As the lady in this photo chalked onto her blackboard propped up under the green door of her Anderson shelter, ‘Bombed out but NEVER beaten !!!’    That’s the spirit, girl!

Go to the Notice Board for a review of what Southwick 2018 did to entertain and educate the crowds.

Memorable Day at Mary Ellis Memorial Service

Mary Ellis 2017 at RAF Brize Norton. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail

Mary Ellis 2017. Image courtesy of Oxford Times and Oxford Mail.

Two months after Mary Ellis slipped her earthly bonds and took her place in the history books of British Aviation, the Isle of Wight turned out to show respect for the Queen of Sandown.

Over 350 people of all ages and all walks of life filled St. Mary’s Church in Cowes, even taking their seats upstairs near rafters.

St.Mary's Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018

St.Mary’s Church, Cowes, flying the flag for Mary Ellis 24 September 2018. Copyright Anne Grant.

In addition to her family and friends there were local politicians, local press and media organisations, Wight Aviation Museum members, IW Flying Club, young Air Cadets, and many octogenarians and hundreds of her many admirers.

Graham Rose of ATA Association paid tribute to Mary and recalled the long friendship between Mary and his mother, the late Molly Rose.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and 'bullet holes'. Vehicle parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day.

Vespa scooter decorated with Spitfires and ‘bullet holes’ parked at Northwood House on Mary Ellis Memorial Service day. Copyright Anne Grant.

Derek Hermiston Hooper gave his tribute, representing the Aircrew and RFC, RNAS Associations. It was Derek who was the force behind Mary receiving the Master Pilot award.

Group Captain Anne-Marie Houghton spoke of ‘Mary the inspiration.’ She had mistakenly thought her achievements in the RAF in the 1990s were a ‘first’. Then she heard about Mary Ellis and all the other women ATA pilots and she realised they had done it all before she was born.

The assembled even heard from Mary Ellis herself when one of her recent interviews was replayed from a BBC podcast ‘The Last Word.’

Councillor Clare Mosdell reminded us of Mary’s contribution to the Island ever since she moved here after she left the ATA, to work as personal pilot to wealthy farmer Mr. Clark. It was he who started Bees Flight and appointed Mary to run it all for him at Sandown. She built up the Airport into a thriving business, the legacy of which is that the airfield still exists today and still thrives.

Author and poet Alison Hill read her ‘Spitfire Salute’ which recollected some of the outstanding moments in Mary’s final years and happy memories of their recent last meeting.

After the prayers and uplifting hymns, the concluding music was the stirring ‘Battle of Britain’ theme tune.

Biggin Hill Spitfire 'Spirit of Kent' playing with the clouds - Mary Ellis style.

Biggin Hill Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ playing with the clouds – Mary Ellis style.

After the service the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar put on a magnificent display with a flypast over Cowes seafront and Northwood House. The Mark IX Spitfire ‘Spirit of Kent’ performed an acrobatic show of high skill, to the delight of the crowd. The pilot ‘played with the clouds’ and then he was gone.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

One of many Mary Ellis Memory Boards which displayed her long aviation career.

Everyone stayed on in the warm September sunshine to swap personal memories of Mary.
My own is this:
I was brought up in the old fashioned way to respect my elders and betters. This included waiting to be given permission to call them by their first name.  For years I addressed Mary as Mrs Ellis while I awaited her permission until finally I asked.
Somewhat amused she replied, “My name is Mary. It is the only one I have. Please use it.”
Blue skies Mary.   Follow this link to see the BBC coverage of Mary Ellis Memorial Service.

Now heavenly twins – Rest in Peace Mary

Mary Ellis took off on her final flight on Tuesday 24 July.

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis at White Waltham Air Show 2017. Courtesy of Alison Hill.

She left us mere mortals here on earth.

There is little more that can be said which hasn’t already been said today across the media. So let’s keep it simple.

When Joy Lofthouse died last year, Mary told Solent Aviatrix, “It is hard to lose a good pal after so many years, I miss her very much.”

Now Mary Ellis has rejoined her old pal Joy where they can play with the clouds.  Heavenly Twins back together.
Rest in peace.

Forgotten First Five Women Won RAF Wings

++ Press Release ++ Forgotten Famous First Five ++ 8 July 2018.

Five Women Make History. News headline in 1955. Jean Bird, Benedetta Willis, Jackie Moggridge, Freydis Leaf and Joan Hughes were the history makers. They gained their full RAF Wings when serving in WRAFVR.

Five Women Make History. Newspaper headline 1955. Jean Bird, Benedetta Willis, Jackie Moggridge, Freydis Leaf and Joan Hughes were the history makers. They gained their full RAF Wings when serving in WRAFVR.

Much has been written and filmed about the centenary of the Royal Air Force but one thing has been overlooked, some would argue deliberately ignored, during this media coverage of the RAF100 celebrations.

Benedetta Willis Won Her Wings. Image courtesy of The Echo (formerly Southern Evening Echo)

Benedetta Willis Won Her Wings. Image courtesy of The Echo (formerly Southern Evening Echo)

Other than the much deserved acknowledgement of the role played by the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) men and women, there has been little if any mention of the general contribution made by women in the RAF. Once again it has all been about the ‘Brylcreem Boys.’

In particular, the most glaring omission is the outstanding achievement of the First Five Women to get their RAF Wings in the 1950s. It is largely believed that the first woman to win her wings was Julie Gibson in 1991. Not so. In 1952, amid a fanfare of publicity, the first woman to achieve this distinction was Jean Bird. She was a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Pilot-Officer Bird was presented with her full wings at a ceremony at Redhill Aerodrome.

Jackie Moggridge Gets Her RAF Wings at Award Ceremony in 1953.

Jackie Moggridge Gets Her RAF Wings at Award Ceremony in 1953. Image from the Jackie Moggridge Archive courtesy of Candy Adkins.

Jean was the pioneer. Four other women followed in her trail blazing flight path. They were Benedetta Willis, Jackie Moggridge, Joan Hughes and Freydis Leaf. All five women were ex-ATA. All five overcame the rampant prejudice in the RAF to attain their full wings. But as soon as they did so, the RAF introduced new rules to exclude any other women from emulating the ‘Famous Five.’

What is worse, their achievement have been all but airbrushed out of history, or conveniently forgotten as the prejudice carried down through four decades until Julie Gibson’s wings award.

These remarkable women pilots will be the subject of a new documentary called, ‘Forgotten Famous Five.’

Candy Adkins, daughter of Jackie Moggridge, is determined that her mother’s story will be told. Together with her friends, film maker Jackie Wetherill and researcher Anne Grant, Candy has been working towards this aim since April. It followed her visit to RAF Hendon and their abject denial of the ‘First Five.’

Progress is at last being made towards a documentary, with interest in this story gathering pace.

The Telegraph were given the exclusive of this story today by Candy Adkins, Jackie Wetherill and Anne Grant.
The quote from the RAF in response disappointingly continues to ignore our ‘First Five’.

++ Press Release ends ++

Wave Goodbye to the Poppies Wave

First World War Poppies Wave Installation at Fort Nelson Museum, Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth. June 2018.

Poppies Wave at Fort Nelson Museum on Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth in June 2018. Image copyright Anne Grant.

June 24th is Midsummer’s Day. It is also the last day to see the ceramic Poppies installation called ‘Wave’ at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth. After this date it will be dismantled and taken to Manchester to the Imperial War Museum (North). There it will be reassembled for display until November 2018 – the close of the 1914-1918 First World War commemorations.

The Poppies Wave at the Royal Armouries Museum on Portsdown Hill has been very well attended since it opened in April.

WW1 Poppies Wave installation at Fort Nelson Royal Armouries Museum, Portsmouth

Small part of the Poppies Wave installation at Fort Nelson. Image copyright Anne Grant.

Over 5,800 poppies comprise the display. The whole ‘Wave’ took eight days to recreate on the slopes of the old Palmerston fort. The ‘Wave’ has been saved for the nation by the Clore Duffield Foundation.

The other major installation called ‘Weeping Window’, which was also part of the magnificent Tower of London Poppies exhibition in 2014, has been purchased by a charity too.

Poppies at Fort Nelson on Portsdown Hill

Poppies forming shadows on the land. Image copyright Anne Grant

It will be donated to the nation by Lady Sainsbury of the Backstage Trust. This will go to the Imperial War Museum in London.  The poignancy of the poppies artwork was perfectly summed up by one young person who visited Fort Nelson.

In the Reflection Tent area she wrote a postcard to record her observations and feelings. Charlotte of Doncaster, aged 12 wrote: “Every poppy represents a man or woman who died during the war. It is saddening to know but fills you with pride that they were willing to give up their lives for their country, for our futures.”

Those men and women are now shadows on the land but never in the shadows of our memories.

Single poppy from the Poppies Wave installation at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth in June 2018

Lest we forget. Image copyright Anne Grant.

One such man was Frederick William Attrill of the Isle of Wight. He was a sacrificial lamb on the alter of political stupidity.

It is hard to believe but true that one influential politician in 1914 refused to endorse compulsory vaccination of the troops against typhoid.

In his rarefied, sanitised bubble of a world, he insisted that all that was required to combat the disease was clean water and good hygiene.

He outshouted other common sense politicians who knew better than him.

Thousands of troops died of the illness until eventually the Army ‘top brass’ stepped in and overruled the politicians.

They began to inoculate the soldiers.

It was too late for Corporal Shoeing Smith Attrill. He had died some months earlier.

Rest in peace Great Uncle Fred.