Aviators’ Certificates

Origins

The Royal Aero Club (‘RAeC’) began issuing Aviators’ Certificates [known as a ‘ticket’] in 1910, recognised by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (‘FAI’) as the sporting authority in the British Empire. The Certificate of Ronald Buck who passed his tests at Windermere on 30 July 1915, having trained on a hydro-aeroplane from the outset, includes the first line: ‘Fédération Aéronautique Internationale’ and the diagonal endorsement at top left: ‘Hydro-aeroplane’, with the RAeC details at the foot which on 7 August 1915 issued Certificate No.1542. The RAeC is still the UK representative on the FAI, albeit pilot licences and ratings have been issued by the Civil Aviation Authority since 1972.

History has come full circle with the successful nomination by the RAeC to the FAI for the award of the Phoenix Diploma to the builder and team of the replica Waterbird.

On 28 January 1913, Captain Edward Wakefield accompanied the representatives of the RAeC, Roger Wallace and Harold Perrin, to an Extraordinary Conference of the FAI in Paris. It was decided that ordinary Aviators’ Certificates should be valid for flights over both land and water. Further, that Certificates should be granted in respect of tests made over water, but that such Certificates should not be valid for flights over land. In the case of aviators who had passed the water tests only, their Certificates would be endorsed accordingly and did not imply qualification for land flights. The holder of a Certificate so endorsed could have it converted into a full Certificate on carrying out the land tests in force.

The log book of Donald Macaskie includes details of his tests accomplished at Windermere on 22 September 1915 whilst flying Waterhen, the successor to Waterbird.

‘Seaplane’       

The term ‘seaplane’ was coined by Winston Churchill, on 17 July 1913, when he answered a question in House of Commons as First Lord of the Admiralty.

Windermere

The first British Aviator’s Certificate with the RAeC tests on a hydro-aeroplane was achieved by 2nd Lieutenant John Trotter on 12 November 1912, when he was granted ordinary Aviator’s Certificate Number 360. The official RAeC observers for the tests were Reverend Sidney Swann, who like Edward Wakefield and Oscar Gnosspelius was inspired by having attended the Blackpool Aviation Meeting in 1909, and Major Robert Brocklehurst who also built an aeroplane. On 9 September, Trotter had been the first pupil of the Lakes Flying Company to receive a flying lesson. He served in France during World War 1 and was promoted Major, albeit his service record does not include aviation.

The cost of tuition was £75 until the Certificate was obtained. For Officers, it was discounted to £52 and 10 shillings upon signing an agreement, and £17 and 10 shillings on finishing tests. Extra practice was £9 for the first hour and £6 thereafter.

The private Seaplane School was taken over on behalf of the Government, and in May 1916 training operations at Cockshott Point and Hill of Oaks became Royal Naval Air Service Unit Hill of Oaks. Large numbers of probationary Sub-Lieutenants were sent to Windermere for basic instruction, most of whom had either already qualified on landplanes or did so afterwards.  In June 1916, the headquarters of the RNAS at Windermere moved from Cockshott Point to Hill of Oaks, and, with the departure of civilian instructors, the name was changed to RNAS Windermere. RNAS Windermere closed down at the end of June 1917.

Aeroplanes used for instruction were: Waterhen, Lakes MonoplaneBlackburn Improved Type 1P.B. 1Nieuport VI’s, F.B.A.’s, and Short 827’s.

The first 2 holders of UK Certificates endorsed ‘Hydro-aeroplane’ were Windermere-trained. Joseph Bland was granted Aviator’s Certificate No. 614 on 30 August 1913, and Oswald Lancaster was granted No. 765 on 15 April 1914. The next and the final pilots who achieved their Hydro-aeroplane ‘tickets’ at Windermere had in common that they both passed their tests on Waterhen and were sadly killed within a year later, aged respectively 30 and 22.

Subsequent Certificates, bringing the total to 22, were:-

21/08/1914 Petchell Murray No. 881. Joined RNAS, Flt Sub-Lt, killed in accident at Central Flying School Upavon 04/11/1914.

11/02/1915 Ralph Lashmar No. 1076. Killed in accident at Isle of Wight 07/09/1916.

0/07/1915 Samuel Sibley* No. 1596. 

07/08/1915 Ronald Buck* No. 1542. 

24/09/1915 Donald Macaskie* No.1788

04/10/1915 Harry Slingsby* No. 1818. 

04/02/1916 John Coats No. 2404. Joined Royal Flying Corps, Maj, Air Force Cross.

04/02/1916 Henry Reid No. 2416. Joined RFC.

12/02/1916 David Robertson* No. 2460. 03/06/1916 gave 1st lesson at RNAS Hill of Oaks

17/03/1916 Francis MacIntyre No. 2590. Seaplane pilot in RNAS and Royal Air Force.

17/03/1916 Joseph Ridgway No. 2593. Joined RFC, Lt, severely injured 24/03/1917, Distinguished Conduct Medal.

18/03/1916 Noel Lawton* No. 2595. Joined RFC.

02/04/1916 Harry Robinson No. 2694.

06/04/1916 Herman Shaw No. 2702.

06/04/1916 Arthur Salton No. 2703.

14/06/1916 Flt Sub-Lt Paul Gadbois No. 3067. 1st pupil of RNAS Hill of Oaks to be awarded Certificate. Seriously injured in accident at RNAS Calshot 09/07/1916.

21/06/1916 Flt Sub-Lt William Wallace No. 3117. Died following accident at RNAS Calshot 21/07/1916.

23/06/1916 Flt Sub-Lt Victor Bessette No. 3125. Qualified as Curtiss flying boat pilot, RNAS and RAF, Capt, Distinguished Flying Cross.

16/08/1916 Edward Haller No. 3420. Joined RFC, 2nd Lt, killed in action 03/06/1917.

* For more about these pilots, click here

New Regulations Were Introduced to Provide for Hydro-aeroplanes in the Royal Aero Club’s Tests, Effective 1 January 1914

1. Candidates must accomplish the three following tests, each being a separate flight:-

A and B. Two distance flights, consisting of at least 5 kilometres (3 miles 185 yards) each in a closed circuit, without touching the ground or water; the distance to be measured as described below.

C. One altitude flight, during which a height of at least 100 metres (328 feet) above the point of departure must be attained; the descent to be made from that height with the motor cut off. The landing must be made in view of the observers, without restarting the motor.

2. The candidate must be alone in the aircraft during the three tests.

3. Starting from and alighting on the water is only permitted in one of the tests A and B.

4. The course on which the aviator accomplishes tests A and B must be marked out by two posts or buoys situated not more than 500 metres (547 yards) apart.

5. The turns around the posts or buoys must be made alternately to the right and to the left so that the flight will consist of an uninterrupted series of figures of 8.

6. The distance flown shall be reckoned as if in a straight line between the two posts or buoys.

7. The alighting after the two distance flights in tests A and B shall be made:

(a) By stopping the motor at or before the moment of touching the ground or water [referred to as ‘vol plané’];

(b) By bringing the aircraft to rest not more than 50 metres (164 feet) from a point indicated previously by the candidate.

8. All alightings must be made in a normal manner, and the observers must report any irregularities.

9. Each of the flights must be vouched for in writing by observers appointed by the Royal Aero Club. All tests must be under the control of, and in places agreed to by, the Royal Aero Club.

Windermere: birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes

World War One

Waterbird

On 25 November 1911, from Windermere, Waterbird achieved the world's first successful flight to use a stepped float. Waterbird was an Avro Curtiss-type hydro-aeroplane. The pilot was Herbert Stanley Adams (later Lieutenant Colonel).

Waterbird was commissioned by Captain Edward Wakefield from A. V. Roe & Company. Wakefield patented the stepped float and means of attachment, for which he entered into a contract on 14 March 1912 with the Admiralty, and also to convert a Deperdussin naval serial M.1 to a hydro-aeroplane.

'We believe that with the exception of the hydro-aeroplanes of the Unites States Navy no other machine of like nature has been so successful.' - Kendal Mercury & Times, 22 December 1911.

Deperdussin at Windermere

The dismantled Deperdussin arrived by rail at Windermere on 13 June 1912, and, having been successfully converted from a landplane, was flown during July by Adams, Lieutenant Reginald Gregory and Lieutenant (later Air Commodore) Charles Samson. On 10 January 1912 off Sheerness, Samson had achieved the first aeroplane launch from a British warship - HMS Africa, and on 2 May 1912 off Weymouth, the first take-off from a moving ship - HMS Hibernia.

Quotes

In a letter to the Times, on 11 January 1912, Wakefield wrote 'I yield to no one in love for the scenery, and loyalty to the interests of my country. But many, who along with me learnt during the war in South Africa, the value of scouting, believe that scouting by hydro-aeroplane will shortly become a necessity for the safety of this island. England is far too behind other powers in aircraft and in flying men for both Army and Navy.'

'Edward Wakefield was convinced that the future for Naval hydro-aeroplanes lay in scouting for the fleet and relaying back information – extending the Naval battle space over the horizon. He knew that Naval aircraft could be the eyes and ears of the fleet.' – Commander Sue Eagles, Fly Navy Heritage Trust, in the Fleet Air Arm diary 2012.

'Not only did Edward Wakefield correctly predict the need for floatplanes in the Great War but also the role for the Sunderland flying boats that were to be built on the lake 30 years later.' – Wings on Windermere by Allan King.

The Importance of Private Enterprise

On 28 February 1912, the Report of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Standing Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence was approved, which recommended that the Naval Wing of the Flying Corps should be established and that it attached importance to the maintenance of private enterprise in the field of aeronautics. Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and a member of the Standing Sub-Committee, when asked in the House of Commons about the Royal Navy and hydro-aeroplanes, referred to the experiments at Windermere and that 'the results so far attained have been promising'.

On 16 April 1912, Churchill confirmed in the Commons that private hydro-aeroplane tests would continue on Windermere. Click here for image.

The term 'seaplane' was coined by Churchill when he answered a question in the Commons on 17 July 1913.

Seaplanes in War

Churchill wrote in a Minute of 10 February 1914 that 'The objectives of land aeroplanes can never be so definite or important as the objectives of seaplanes, which, when they carry torpedoes, may prove capable of playing a decisive part in operations against capital ships. The facilities of reconnaissance at sea, where hostile vessels can be sighted at enormous distances while the seaplane remains out of possible range, offer a far wider prospect even in the domain of information to seaplanes than to land aeroplanes',

Whilst Wakefield advocated defensive scouting, derived from his experience in the Boer War, Churchill, however, came to the view that attack was the prime tactic for defence: 'The great defence against aerial menace is to attack the enemy's aircraft as near as possible to their point of departure'. Three years and one month after Waterbird's first flight, carrier-borne seaplanes were launched against Germany. 'The Cuxhaven raid marks the first employment of the seaplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service in an attack on the enemy's harbours from the sea, and, apart from the results achieved, is an occasion of historical moment. Not only so, but for the first time in history a naval attack has been delivered simultaneously above, on, and from below the surface of the water.' – Flight magazine, 1 January 1915.

Training for Naval Marine Aeroplanes at Windermere

A private Seaplane School was formed at Hill of Oaks on the south east shore of Windermere. For an example of the fate of Windermere students, click here.

Following the outbreak of war, Adams joined the RNAS becoming a Lieutenant Colonel with the DSC and MBE, and Wakefield joined the Cheshire Regiment becoming commander of a Labour Battalion on the Western Front. On 11 November 1914, the Cockshott Point hangar lease, together with Waterhen, Seabird and Lakes Monoplane were sold by the Lakes Flying Company to the Northern Aircraft Company Ltd.

'Large numbers of probationary Sub-Lieutenants R.N. were sent to Windermere for basic instruction, in addition to those who had already qualified on land machines.' - Britain's Seaplane Pioneers by M H Goodall, Air Pictorial January 1988.

The School was taken over on behalf of the Government, and in May 1916 training operations at Cockshott Point and Hill of Oaks became RNAS Unit Hill of Oaks. In June 1916, the headquarters of the RNAS at Windermere moved from Cockshott Point to Hill of Oaks, and, with the departure of civilian instructors, the name was changed to RNAS Windermere.

A Royal Naval Air Station was established at Hill of Oaks 1916-1917. At various times, the fleet included 4 Nieuport VI seaplanes, 9 F.B.A. flying boats, and 3 Short 827 seaplanes.

The first pupil to obtain a Hydro-aeroplane Certificate at RNAS Hill of Oaks was Paul Gadbois, on 14 June 1916. He departed Windermere on 26 June 1916, but two weeks later was seriously injured in a seaplane accident. The last pupil to obtain a Certificate at Windermere was Edward Haller, on 16 August 1916. He joined the RFC, but was killed on 3 June 1917, when shot down flying a Sopwith 1½ Strutter.

RNAS personnel involved themselves in the local community, even putting on a concert. However, parents of daughters complained that the prefix to RNAS Hill of Oaks stood for Rather Naughty After Sunset!

A Tribute to Windermere

'Perhaps the greatest tribute we can pay Hill of Oaks, Windermere is that but for its existence, just a few years later Britain could quite easily have starved to death as a result of the U-boat blockade. Thankfully the deterrent aspect of seaplanes and other aerial craft forced enemy submarines to stay under the surface and therefore make them less effective.' – The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust.

On 20 May 1917, two ex-Windermere pupils, Flight Sub-Lieutenants Charles Morrish and Henry Boswell, were officially credited with the first aerial sinking of a U-boat whilst flying a Curtiss H-12 flying boat.  Both of them were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

On 3 June 1918, ex-Windermere pupil Captain Harold Gonyon was amongst the first recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross

Borwick & Sons, boat builders of Bowness-on-Windermere, who constructed the floats and aeroplanes of Oscar Gnosspelius (later Major), Waterbird's floats, floats for the RNAS and pinnaces for the Admiralty, were sub-contracted in 1918 to manufacture Felixstowe flying boat hulls.

On 10 May 1918, Captain Cooper Pattinson from Windermere was first pilot of an S.E. Saunders Ltd-built Felixstowe flying boat which shot down a Zeppelin at Heligoland Bight, for which he was among the first recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross. On 16 May 1918, whilst carrying out an anti-submarine patrol, he achieved the record for the longest duration flight during World War 1 at that time of 9 hours 45 minutes. It is claimed that Pattinson invented the spotlight altimeter in 1918, wrongly attributed to Guy Gibson in 1943 in the Dam Busters film.

Wavell Wakefield

On 1 November 1918, Flight Lieutenant Wavell Wakefield (Edward Wakefield's nephew, later Lord Wakefield of Kendal) landed a Sopwith Pup on the after deck of HMS Vindictive at Scapa Flow.

Arthur Wakefield

Doctor Arthur Wakefield (Edward Wakefield's brother) unveiled a memorial on 8 June 1924 at the summit of Great Gable to the twenty members of The Fell & Rock Climbing Club who fell in World War One.

 

Windermere: birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes

Admiralty Deperdussin

Cuxhaven Raid