11 SEPTEMBER 2020 – CLIFFORD FLEMING WILLIAMS
There is now a new page on this website devoted to Clifford Fleming Williams, who was a pioneer of making drawings from the air, an inventor, a seaplane ground school instructor, artist and general manager, a seaplane designer, a Royal Flying Corps officer, and a painter and illustrator.
28 AUGUST 2020 – AN ARTICLE ON OPPOSITION TO INITIAL FLYING AT WINDERMERE
Please click here for an article about reasons given against flying at Windermere in 1911-1912.
20 January 2020 – INTERACTIVE 3D MODEL
We now have an interactive 3D model of the replica Waterbird.
25 November 2019 – AVIATORS’ CERTIFICATES
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.
16 May 2019 – AWARD OF THE PHOENIX GROUP DIPLOMA FOR THE REPLICA WATERBIRD
The prestigious Phoenix Group Diploma for 2018 has been awarded to the builder 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 Diploma, established by the FAI in 1990, is 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 consideration. Only one Group Diploma is conferred each year. – In the ensuing 28 years, it has only been awarded 13 times.
In the UK, the Royal Aero Club (‘RAeC’) 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 RAeC details at the foot which issued Certificate No.1788 on 24 September. For his fate, please click here. The RAeC 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 RAeC 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.
1 February 2019 – FELL & ROCK CLIMBING CLUB PLAQUE EXHIBITION
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. Arthur Wakefield was President of the Club when the memorial was dedicated in 1924. The plaque will be on display until May.
20 November 2018 – THE CATALINA CONNECTION
There is a new page on our website about Windermere’s heritage of the Catalina flying boat.
1 November 2018 – FLIGHT LIEUTENANT WAVELL WAKEFIELD CENTENARY
Today, it is 100 years since Flight Lieutenant Wavell Wakefield landed a Sopwith Pup on HMS Vindictive.
17 September 2018 – THE WINSTON CHURCHILL CONNECTION
There is a new page on our website about Winston Churchill’s important influence on Windermere aviation.
13 July 2018 – HORNSEA’S FLYING SAILORS 1915-1919 EXHIBITION
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 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 Victor Bessette, who obtained his Aviator’s Certificate at Windermere on 23 June 1916, was posted to Killingholme in September 1917.
6. 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.
21 May 2018 – THE REPLICA WATERBIRD’S FIRST FLIGHT
She flies! We are delighted to announce that the replica Waterbird has made her first flights as a landplane and development continues.
21 May 2018 – WATERBIRD’S PLACE IN AVIATION HISTORY: FIRST STEPS
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 continue reading …
Waterbird was the first aeroplane outside France and the USA to make a successful flight from water when she took off and landed on Windermere on 25 November 1911.
Gee has held a pilot’s licence since 1979, but it was only when he started studying for a seaplane rating that he discovered claims for Curtiss to be given credit for his revolutionary invention.
“I was advised by an instructor to study text books, which are American, and I read that Curtiss’ most important contribution was the invention of the step.”
Typical is the introduction to ER Johnson’s American Flying Boats and Amphibious Aircraft, which states: ‘Glenn Curtiss built a flying boat during the summer of 1912 … The solution he finally hit upon was to incorporate a transverse step … Every flying boat, amphibian and seaplane that has flown since, is an heir to his efforts’.
“Comparing the dates with other books, magazines from the time and original documents, I realised that in fact Windermere had invented the step for hydro-aeroplanes and successfully flown with them before Curtiss.”
Captain Edward Wakefield applied for UK patents for the method of attachment and a stepped float on 11 December 1911, which were respectively granted on 12 September 1912 and on 18 March 1913:
‘For use with an aeroplane, a float approximately rectangular in cross-section and in plan, and the underside of which constitutes a hydroplane; this hydroplane being formed with a series of transverse steps.’
Curtiss applied for US patents for a hydro-aeroplane on 22 August 1911, which was granted on 12 October 1915; for a flying boat with a stepped hull on 4 June 1913, which was granted on 8 June 1915; and for a pontoon float on 18 November 1916, which was granted on 11 June 1918.
One of Britain’s most important aviation pioneers, Captain Edward Wakefield of Kendal, had bought an aircraft from A.V. Roe & Company.
It was converted to a floatplane at Wakefield’s base at Hill of Oaks, on the shores of Windermere and Herbert Stanley Adams carried out numerous flights including of 20 miles duration with a height of 800 feet.
Waterbird was sadly rendered beyond repair in March 1912, when her hangar collapsed during a storm. Her life was short, but very productive. It provided the vital springboard to establishing a twin centre of technical innovation and flying expertise.
This combination drove the development of more sophisticated aeroplanes at such a pace that by the end of 1914, just some three years later, viable carrier-borne Royal Naval Air Service aeroplanes were in action over Germany. Whilst Wakefield had advocated defensive scouting, originating from his experience of the Boer War, Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, came to the view that attack was the best form of defence.
On 14 March 1912, Wakefield entered into a contract with the Admiralty for stepped floats and undercarriages, or royalties, and to convert Admiralty Deperdussin M1 (a monoplane) into a hydro-aeroplane, which was first flown by Adams at Windermere on 11 July 1912.
Hill of Oaks soon became a key Admiralty training centre and by the beginning of World War I was a major facility for pilots before their often short deployment to the Western and Mediterranean fronts. This led to the establishment of a Royal Naval Air Station at Windermere in 1916.
In 1918, a Felixstowe flying boat, piloted by Captain Cooper Pattinson from Windermere, shot down a Zeppelin for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Gee is very keen to point out that he does not want for a moment to disrespect the remarkable genius of Curtiss.
“In fact the Windermere team had a great deal to be grateful to him for. They used Curtiss’ aeroplane designs for Waterbird, including the float.
“But the Curtiss float was flat-bottomed.
“The first actual design and test of floats with steps in the world was by Oscar Gnosspelius in July 1910 at Windermere.
“The first successful flight with a stepped float in the world was by Waterbird on 25 November 1911 at Windermere.
“It was not until July 1912 that Curtiss flew with a stepped hull.
“However, Gnosspelius did not protect his invention. An objection to Wakefield’s patent application by The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company was dismisssed. It is ironic that all these years later I have read his declaration in support of the objection which helps prove that Wakefield was ahead of Curtiss.”
Gee adds: “I want to praise Curtiss for all his wonderful achievements and thank him for the technological developments for the aeroplane and the step-hydroplane, but what is claimed as his most important contribution wasn’t his”.
Gee is a trustee of a charity, The Lakes Flying Company Limited, which has built an airworthy replica of Waterbird. The replica has so far achieved land-based straight hops, reaching 10 feet high.
The ambition is to fly it from Windermere, for which permission has already been granted in principle to break a 10 knots speed limit on the lake by the Lake District National Park Authority.
How the idea of a seaplane developed in the frantic years before the First World War:-
It was a clergyman, the Rev. Charles Meade Ramus, who first suggested the hydroplane, in 1872, and he drew the attention of the Admiralty [for warships] to his experiments with models and their results, but the scheme as a whole was abandoned.
UK Patent No. 17,360, which was applied for on 2 August 1906 and granted on 10 January 1907, to Albert Edward Knight, is the first patent on record relating to stepped hydroplanes [for boats].
The flying boat and the waterplane with stepped floats were originated on paper by Knight in 1909 in a document sent to the Admiralty.
On 28 March 1910, Frenchman Henri Fabre made the first successful flight from water. However, his float was not stepped but had a flat part underneath, with a curved upper surface, so as to generate lifting force when moving on water or in air.
During July 1910, a pair of floats were built at Windermere from the designs of Oscar Gnossspelius and tested. These were the first floats in the world to incorporate a hydroplane step.
In November 1910, having designed another stepped float, Gnosspelius No. 1 made a few ‘hops’, however the 20 horsepower engine was of insufficient power.
Glenn Curtiss flew from water on 26 January 1911 at San Diego Bay, California, the world’s first practical hydro-aeroplane flight.
Waterbird’s float was a Curtiss-type pontoon. However, the Curtiss float had been shaped so as to rise on the surface and was flat-bottomed, not stepped, and it would not break free from a glassy sea.
On 22 August 1911, Curtiss applied for US Patent No. US1,156,215 for a hydro-aeroplane, which was granted on 12 October 1915.
On 18 November 1911, at Cavendish Dock, Barrow-in-Furness, an Avro D, fitted with a pair of stepped floats, was flown by Commander Oliver Schwann for 50 or 60 yards, but he had not undergone any flying training and was unprepared for the climb to a height of 20 feet. The aeroplane fell back into the water, damaging a float and wing. It did successfully fly on 2 April 1912, piloted by Sydney Sippe – the first such British flight from seawater.
On 25 November 1911, Gnosspelius No. 2 had been going for a minute when there was an untoward gust of wind causing Gnosspelius to lose control. Having only learned to fly straight and level, he overcorrected, causing a rapid bank to the right then to the left, following which the port wing tip was damaged and the propeller splintered upon striking the water, resulting in the aeroplane turning onto its back. Gnosspelius No. 2 did successfully fly on 14 February 1912, piloted by Gnosspelius.
Captain Edward Wakefield commissioned ‘Waterbird’ from A.V. Roe & Company, an Avro Curtiss-type. He undertook 2 years of almost constant experiments for the float.
Later on 25 November 1911, piloted by Herbert Stanley Adams, Waterbird took off from Windermere and safely alighted. This was the world’s first successful flight to use a stepped float. A step had been added to Waterbird’s float in September 1911, but success was only achieved when a second step was added at the stern.
On 11 December 1911, Wakefield applied for UK Patents No. 27,770 and No. 27,771 for the means of attachment and a stepped float, which were respectively granted on 12 September 1912 and on 18 March 1913. The object was ‘to provide an aeroplane with means for enabling it to alight, float and travel along the surface of water and to rise again therefrom’. Wakefield had combined features of construction in a novel way.
On 30 April 1912, Waterhen, Waterbird’s immediate successor, was first flown by Adams at Windermere. The float, with a single step, had been made wider so as to support the additional weight of a passenger.
On 11 July 1912, Adams flew an Admiralty Deperdussin which had been converted at Windermere to a hydro-monoplane.
In July 1912, at Hammondsport, New York, Curtiss first successfully flew with a step incorporated into a flying boat – Curtiss Model E (Flying Boat No. 2) known as the ‘Flying Fish’.
On 6 September 1912, Curtiss applied for US Patent No. 1,142,754 for a flying boat with a stepped hull, which was granted on 8 June 1915.
In a move away from the flat bottom of initial pontoon floats, designers developed the wave-cutting, spray-deflecting, V-shaped float bottom which is used on every float today. On 12 February 1914, Gnosspelius obtained UK Patent No.10,801 for a V-shaped construction.
On 18 November 1916, Curtiss applied for US Patent No. 1,269,397 for a pontoon float, which was granted on 11 June 1918.
2018 – RAF 100 COMMEMORATION
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.
20 JULY 2015 – BATTLE OF THE SOMME COMMEMORATION
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 20 January 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 2 October 1914, and at Windermere on 29 January 1915.
Having transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, as a Second Lieutenant in 23 Squadron, he was posted to France.
Wounded in his right leg and arm following a Fight with Fokker, he was forced down behind enemy lines whilst flying an F.E.2b over the Somme on 20 July 1916, when he lost his leg.
Reported as ‘Missing’, then as ‘Prisoner of War’, following internment he was repatriated via Berne through the Red Cross and ultimately able to complete his log book entry.
4 June 2015 – SUMMER EVENING EVENT
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. 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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
(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.
1 June 2015 – A SALUTE TO PIONEERING AVIATION SAFETY AT WINDERMERE
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:
An extract from the film ‘Herford: the life and death of the Edwardian climber’ depicting a meeting between Siegfried Herford and Edward Wakefield
25 July 2014 – FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY: FROM FELLS TO FLANDERS
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 Edward Wakefield’s patent, together with many other fascinating items about early flight on Windermere.