Waterbird - Wings over Windermere

20 January 2020 – INTERACTIVE 3D MODEL

We now have an interactive 3D model of the replica Waterbird.


On the 108th anniversary of Waterbird’s first flight, there is a new page on our website about the history of Aviators’ Certificates and the 22 Certificates accomplished at Windermere.


Having flown as a landplane, work has now begun on the conversion of the replica Waterbird to a seaplane.


The prestigious Phoenix Group Diploma for 2018 has been awarded to Gerry Cooper and team for their remarkable achievement in building a faithful replica of “Waterbird” by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (‘FAI’) – the World Air Sports Federation.

The team comprises Gerry Cooper (direction and construction), Michael Sales (woodwork), David Seath (metalwork) and Jennifer Cooper (fabric).

This Diploma, established by the FAI in 1990, may be awarded for the best reconstruction or restoration of a vintage (more than 30 years old) aircraft achieved by a group of any size or description (e.g. museum, sponsored group, society, company). Each FAI Member may annually submit the name of one candidate for this Diploma for consideration. Only one Group Diploma shall be conferred each year. – In the ensuing 28 years, it has only been awarded 13 times.

In the UK, the Royal Aero Club began issuing Aviators’ Certificates in 1910, internationally recognised under the FAI. For example, the Aviator’s Certificate of Donald Macaskie who passed his tests at Windermere on 8 September 1915, having trained on a hydro-aeroplane from the outset, includes the first line: ‘Fédération Aéronautique Internationale’ and the diagonal endorsement at top left as a ‘Hydro-aeroplane’ Certificate, with the Royal Aero Club details at the foot which issued Certificate No.1788 on 24 September. For his fate, please click here. The Club is still the UK representative on the FAI, albeit pilot licences are now issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.

On 28 January 1913, Edward Wakefield, who commissioned Waterbird, accompanied the Royal Aero Club representatives, Griffith Brewer and Harold Perrin, at an Extraordinary Conference of the FAI held in Paris, when the Hydro-aeroplane Certificate was established, and also the Schneider Trophy for an annual international seaplane contest was accepted and the rules passed.


There is an exhibition at the Heaton Cooper Archive Gallery in Grasmere which includes the original tablet listing members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club killed in World War One. The plaque will be on display until May.


There is a new page on our website about Windermere’s heritage of the Catalina flying boat.


Today, it is 100 years since Flight Lieutenant Wavell Wakefield landed a Sopwith Pup on HMS Vindictive.


There is a new page on our website about Winston Churchill’s important influence on Windermere aviation.


Hornsea Museum is running an exhibition, Flying Sailors 1915-1919, to share the story of the Royal Naval Air Service base on Hornsea Mere, until the Autumn of 2019. It commences with an Open Day on 28 July from 10:00am to 4:00pm when there is free entry.

A Royal Naval Air Station was established at Killingholme in 1914, but from 1918 was operated as a US Navy Seaplane Station, when RNAS personnel were posted to Hornsea Mere. A Royal Naval Air Station was established at Hornsea Mere in 1915, and, when it closed in 1919, staff were transferred to Killingholme.

Flight Sub-Lieutenant Gordon Hyams began a flying boat course at Killingholme in 1916, and continued his training at Hornsea. On 1 May 1918, he observed a US Navy Curtiss H-12 flying boat which had ditched about 12 miles off Hornsea. Circling, he dropped his lifebelt. Flying back to Hornsea, he unsuccessfully attempted to obtain help. Firing the Lewis gun, he alerted two trawlers which rescued the Curtiss crew. For his actions, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

There are the following remarkable connections with Windermere:-

1. On 12 June 1913, ‘Waterhen‘ flew at Hornsea Mere, having been transported from Windermere by traction engine. The Horse Show event was reported in the Hull Daily Mail. The pilot was Herbert Stanley Adams, who joined the Royal Naval Air Service at the outbreak of World War 1, and during 1914-1915 was posted to the Royal Naval Air Station at Killingholme.

2. In March 1915, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Paul Robertson began his seaplane training at Windermere. By early 1918, he was an Acting Flight Commander in command of Hornsea Mere. On 28 February 1918, he was the observer on a seaplane which crashed at Hornsea, and was awarded the George Cross for trying to rescue the pilot.

3. Many parents living in the vicinity had occasion to remonstrate with the commanding officer Flight Commander John Cripps concerning the excessive amount of attention their daughters were receiving from his young officers. Locally the prefix to RNAS Hill of Oaks, Windermere was purported to stand for Rather Naughty After Sunset!

‘The RNAS was known locally as The Rather Naughty After Sunset Brigade!’ – The Royal Naval Air Service at Hornsea Mere and Killingholme 1914-1919 by Joe Gelsthorpe.

4. Wing Commander Arthur Longmore, who tested ‘Waterbird‘ at Windermere for the Admiralty on 20 January 1912, was commanding officer at Killingholme in 1916.

5. Captain Cooper Pattinson, from Windermere, was based at Killingholme where he was the commanding officer. On 10 May 1918, he was first pilot of a flying boat which shot down a Zeppelin, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.


She flies! We are delighted to announce that the replica Waterbird has made her first flights as a landplane and development continues.



Aviation history recognising that Glenn Curtiss ‘The Father of US Naval Aviation’ invented the step-hydroplane for a seaplane is being challenged.

Ian Gee has collated documentation which, he claims, proves that the step-hydroplane was in fact discovered and first successfully used by a team working at Windermere in the English Lake District.

Gee is familiar with the stepped float as for seven years he has been involved in a project to build an airworthy replica of the breakthrough aeroplane, known as ‘Waterbird’, which was commissioned by Captain Edward Wakefield. This telegram from the pilot Herbert Stanley Adams to Wakefield confirms the initial flights by Waterbird and that no damage was sustained. 


Click here to read more..



To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force, please see the sections of this website about Cooper Pattinson and Wavell Wakefield. Whilst serving in the RAF, on 10 May 1918 Pattinson was a pilot of a Felixtowe flying boat which shot down a Zeppelin, and on 1 November 1918 Wakefield landed a Sopwith Pup on the after deck of HMS Vindictive. Also, it is 75 years since Pattinson and Wakefield flew a glider from Windermere on 3/7 February 1943.


To commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, here is the story of a pilot named Donald Macaskie, who qualified for his Aviator’s Certificate at Windermere.

Donald Stuart Calthorpe Macaskie (1896 – 1987), born at Headingley, Yorkshire, of The Red House, Laleham, Middlesex, had been apprenticed in 1913 to the Bleriot works at Brooklands (where Waterbird was tested by Avro in 1911). On the outbreak of World War 1, he joined the Royal Naval Air Service, being posted to Calshot, then under the command of Flight Commander Arthur Longmore (later Air Chief Marshal Sir), one of the 4 officers selected for the first flying course at Eastchurch in 1911 and who had test-flown Waterbird for the Admiralty on January 20, 1912. He was advised by Longmore to obtain his ‘ticket’ at a civilian school and then apply for a commission so as to have the cost of the tuition refunded.

Macaskie’s pilot training was on seaplanes from the beginning. His first flight was at Calshot on October 2, 1914, and at Windermere on January 29, 1915.

On September 24, 1915, Macaskie obtained his Royal Aero Club Hydro-aeroplane Certificate having passed his tests on a seaplane at Windermere. Soon, he was flying a fighterplane at the Western Front.

Having transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, as a Second Lieutenant in 23 Squadron, he was posted to France.

Wounded following a fight with a Fokker, he was forced down behind enemy lines whilst flying an F.E.2b over the Somme on July 20, 1916, when he lost his right leg.

Reported as ‘Missing’, then as ‘Prisoner of War’, he was repatriated via Berne through the Red Cross.

His log books, pilot’s certificate and letters have survived.


Following historical precedent, a Windermere Boatbuilder is making the stepped float for the replica Waterbird. Founder of Franklin Eldridge Yachts, Richard Pierce, and his son James, who built wooden yachts and steamers at Ferry Nab, Windermere in the late 20th century, have studied the surviving 1911 float built by Borwick & Sons of Windermere, undertaken a hydrostatic analysis of it and have prepared building drawings for the replica.

Although the FE partnership has moved from its lakeside premises, it continues to thrive in Ambleside now specialising in the construction of Ship and Yacht Research Models, and the adaptation of traditional boat designs for building in the 21st century.

Having measured the surviving but fragile 1911 float, Richard and James are now building a ‘new’ one, alongside technical research models for the world’s leading superyacht and ship designers. The float is very similar in size to towing-tank models; as with aircraft construction, lightness and structural integrity are vital elements.

Aero Engineering is within the heritage of the FE partnership. James’ grandfather, Eric Stutchfield, became a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, working on the design of the Bristol Brabazon airliner in the late 1940’s. In the 1980’s, Eric tutored Richard in structural engineering principles whilst working on the construction of the 1980’s championship winning Windermere Class yachts Freedom and Falcon; meanwhile, James as a youngster became a dedicated aeromodeller and is now well-known in the Lake District as an adventurous Paraglider pilot.

Replicas are nothing new to Richard. He has recently returned from Lake Huron, Michigan, where he led a community project in the design and construction of a traditional Mackinaw boat; closer to home, he prepared lines drawings for Tony Walshaw’s replica 19th century Albert Strange yawl, not long ago launched at Windermere.

A photo of the float is here


ENGLAND’s longest lake is poised to play its part in an aviation epic following the decision to allow a speed limit exemption.

Lake District National Park Authority (‘LDNPA’) approved the application, paving the way for a £160,000 replica of Britain’s first hydro-aeroplane – which flew from the lake over a century ago – to take to the skies.

For the Lakes Flying Company, which has long dreamed of recreating one of the most significant sagas in aviation history, the decision means its wood and fabric construction can reach the necessary speeds of 30mph for lift-off.

Decried by novelist Beatrix Potter, but with the support of Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, Waterbird’s 1911 maiden flight dispelled the belief it was impossible to take-off from water.

For Captain Edward Wakefield, thrice mayor of Kendal, Army officer, barrister and landowner, it was testimony to his determination to achieve an ‘unattainable’ feat.

“His creation captivated the country and when the replica makes its momentous ascent, enthusiasts everywhere are expected to join in the celebrations”, said Mr Gee.

The Waterbird replica is being built near Lincoln by former RAF serviceman, Gerry Cooper, who will be at the controls for her Windermere flight.

A few parts survived the original’s destruction, only four months after she first took-off from Windermere’s cold November waters. A storm caused the hangar to collapse, leaving her beyond salvage.

Mr Gee added: “Several significant sections, including the rudder, bearing the name of her builders, A.V. Roe & Co, of Manchester, are held by the RAF Museum.

“A long-term goal is to establish the Edward Wakefield Memorial Seaplane Centre, but for now we are delighted to be playing a part in recreating important local history.”

Beatrix Potter and Canon Rawnsley, co-founder of the National Trust, fronted a heated campaign against Wakefield’s airborne activities on Windermere.

It made national headlines, and a public inquiry came out in Wakefield’s favour.

Wakefield became one of Britain’s most important aviation pioneers; a forefather of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. President of the replica project is retired Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Benjamin Bathurst.

Naval and Civil Aviation at Windermere from 1909 to 1919

Unlikely though it might seem in an area known for its mountains, the Lake District and, particularly, Windermere has a proud aviation heritage which stretched through some thirty six years until the departure of the last Windermere-built Short Sunderland flying boat in 1945. Windermere’s story of aviation started when two friends, Edward Wakefield, a lawyer, land owner and three-time Mayor of Kendal and Oscar Gnosspelius, a talented engineer and local resident, attended an air show at Blackpool in 1909. Having witnessed that flying is potentially hazardous, they pondered the possibility of flying from water, which would provide a softer landing in the event of mishap! Such an idea was ridiculed by the experts at Blackpool, but Wakefield and Gnosspelius were undeterred and returned home to the Lake District to put their ideas into practice. Both achieved success, with Edward Wakefield’s ‘Waterbird’ taking the honours on 25 November 1911.

On the evening of Thursday 30 July, Lancaster Military Heritage Group will present an illustrated talk by Waterbird Project Director Ian Gee. Ian will show that Windermere was the birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes and his talk will explain the origin of the concept of flying from water, through to its achievement, and then the detail of aviation activities at Windermere, including the establishment of a Royal Naval Air Station. Also covered is the story behind the replica of Waterbird. The audience will hear that there was considerable opposition to flying at Windermere, led by Beatrix Potter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a founder of the National Trust.

The venue for this summer evening talk is a delightful location on the shores of Windermere, virtually next door to Hill of Oaks, the very place from which Waterbird taxied out to make that historic flight in 1911.

Venue: The Boathouse Cafe, National Trust – Fell Foot Park, on A592 near Newby Bridge, LA12 8NN (near the southern tip of Windermere lake).
Date and Time: Thursday, 30 July 2015, starting with buffet supper at 7.00 p.m.
Tickets: £10 including buffet supper. Booking essential. Order tickets from Adrian Legge – adrian.legge@hotmail.com
(or text 07970 45 90 30 or call 01539 44 52 52)
Parking: in upper car park – free of charge. Disabled parking immediately outside Boathouse Cafe (wheelchair access)
Further information: please contact Adrian Legge.


The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), which investigates civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within the UK, its overseas territories and crown dependencies, is celebrating its centenary this year. As part of their celebrations, members of the AAIB are undertaking a relay cycle ride starting at Belfast on 11 June and finishing at Farnborough on 15 June. During their journey, the cyclists will visit 11 locations that reflect the development of aviation, of which Windermere is one.

On 25 November 1911, Waterbird took off from Windermere and safely alighted, becoming the first successful British hydro-aeroplane. It was the first such flight outside France and the USA. Waterbird was commissioned by Edward Wakefield, thrice mayor of Kendal, Army officer, barrister and land owner. He had attended an aviation meeting at Blackpool in 1909, and, at a time when nobody in the world had successfully flown from water, concluded that the best solution to reducing the risks of flying accidents was an aeroplane capable of operating from water. His ideas were ridiculed by the experts present, but after two years of almost constant experiment he succeeded at Windermere; a wonderful example of success against the odds.

There was considerable opposition to flying at Windermere, led by Beatrix Potter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a founder of the National Trust. A national campaign was launched. Windermere U.D.C. applied for an order under the Aerial Navigation Act 1911 to prohibit aircraft over the lake. There was a public inquiry at Windermere in 1912.

On 28 February 1912, the Standing Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, which included Winston Churchill who was First Lord of the Admiralty and Louis Mountbatten who was Second Sea Lord, approved the Technical Sub-Committee’s Report whose remit included future developments for naval and military aviation. On 14 March 1912, Wakefield entered into a contract with the Admiralty for his float and its method of attachment and to convert an Admiralty aeroplane into a hydro-aeroplane. However, Wakefield’s hands were tied in relation to the protesters in that he had signed the Official Secrets Act.

10,000 signatures were obtained by the protesters. Deputations were made to the House of Commons and the entire issue came to a head on 16 April 1912 when a question was tabled. Click here for image.The determining answer was given by Winston Churchill, who confirmed that hydro-aeroplane tests would continue at Windermere.

In 1913, Winston Churchill coined the term ‘seaplane’.

On Saturday 13 June at 07.00, the AAIB cyclists will depart from the Glebe at Bowness, where the Windermere and Bowness Civic Society erected a Waterbird memorial plaque. In recognition of Wakefield’s pioneering contribution to aviation safety, the cyclists will present a pennant to the Lakes Flying Company (LFC). LFC will present the cyclists with a signed print of a painting of Waterbird in flight.

LFC’s Ian Gee stated “We wish the AAIB well on their cycle ride. I have twice visited the AAIB at Farnborough and have the greatest admiration for their work.

“For example, at Windermere on 5 June 1915, the Avro Duigan/ Seabird seaplane crashed tail first into the lake and was wrecked. The cause of the accident was a stall at 300 feet because the pilot, Ronald Buck, was unaware that new floats had moved the centre of gravity. He was uninjured, and was convinced that had the accident occurred over land, he would have been instantly killed. On each of 21 June and 23 June 1915, he made two flights at Farnborough with Frederick Raynham. In 1911, Raynham had flown Waterbird at Brooklands whilst it was being tested as a landplane.”

The AAIB’s Chief Inspector, Keith Conradi, said “The AAIB are happy to highlight aviation events, such as those that took place at Windermere, to bring into focus the significant advancements in aviation safety that have taken place since the pioneering days of aviation in the early 20th century”.


For detail about the plaque:


For detail about the history of aviation at Windermere 1909 – 1919:



We have submitted an application to the Lake District National Park Authority for permissions to exceed the speed limit and for approvals for an aeroplane on Windermere. 21organisations and groups will be consulted. At the end of the 6 week consultation on 28 May, the Authority will write a report and a decision should be made within 12 weeks of the application being made.


An extract from the film ‘Herford: the life and death of the Edwardian climber’ depicting a meeting between Siegfried Herford and Edward Wakefield


From 17 July 2014 to 20 December 2014 there will be a display ‘From Fells to Flanders’ at the Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry, Kendal.

This includes Waterbird’s original float and its patent, together with many other fascinating items about early flight on Windermere.

Windermere: birthplace of British naval and civil marine aeroplanes

‘To fly over water is certainly to taste to the full the joy of flight, and when the water is Windermere and the scenery the pick of English Lakeland, which is to many a traveller the pick of the whole world, in its soft intimate loveliness, the result is something not lightly forgotten.’
Gertrude Bacon in 1912