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Windermere Aviation Timeline

Something that beckoned …


18-25 October 1909

The Blackpool Aviation Week was attended by Captain Edward Wakefield and Oscar Gnosspelius (later Major). Independently of the other, Wakefield and Gnosspelius resolved to achieve flight from water at a time when nobody in the world had succeeded.

July 1910

The first aeroplane floats with a ‘step‘ in the world were designed and tested by Gnosspelius, constructed by Borwick & Sons, on Gnosspelius No. 1. – Statutory Declaration, 11 January 1913.

8 August 1910

Aviation pioneer Claude Grahame-White visited the hydro-aeroplane of Gnosspelius at Hill of Oaks (they had both attended Bedford Grammar School).

9 March 1911

​Wakefield commissioned a landplane from A. V. Roe & Company, which was constructed at Brownsfield Mills, Manchester. The drawings, dated ‘9.3.11.’, are the oldest surviving of any Avro aeroplane.

7 July 1911

Arrival of the landplane at Windermere, having been test-flown at Brooklands, for conversion to a hydro-aeroplane and to be known as Waterbird.

The central float and wingtip floats were made by Borwicks.

25 November 1911

Gnosspelius made the second successful take-off outside France and the USA by a hydro-aeroplane/ the second successful take-off in the world with a stepped float/ the first successful take-off at Windermere, in Gnosspelius No. 2. – The Westmorland Gazette, 21 December 1911.

Gnosspelius No. 2 was the first British hydro-aeroplane to employ auxiliary wingtip floats. – The History of British Aviation 1908-1914 by R D Brett.

25 November 1911

Herbert Stanley Adams (later Lieutenant Colonel) made the first successful take-off and landing outside of France and the USA by a hydro-aeroplane/ the first successful take-off and landing in the world with a stepped float/ the first successful take-off and landing at Windermere, in Waterbird. – Kendal Mercury and Times, 1 December 1911.

Wakefield described flying from water as “Something that beckoned …”. – Aeromarine Origins by H F King.

20 January 1912

Lieutenant Arthur Longmore (later Air Chief Marshal Sir) was the first member of the Royal Navy to take off and land a hydro-aeroplane/ the first member of the Royal Navy to fly at Windermere/ the only person other than Adams to fly Waterbird, when he test-flew Waterbird for the Admiralty and compiled a Report © Trustees of the National Museum of the Royal Navy; his arrival having been kept a secret.

23 January 1912

Rear Admiral Ernest Troubridge (later Admiral Sir), Chief of Staff, published a paper on The Development of Naval Aeroplanes. For the obtaining of personnel, he proposed ‘Bristol school or Wakefield hydro-aeroplane school to train those pilots that cannot be received at Eastchurch at present’.

14 February 1912

Gnosspelius made the first successful take-off and landing in the world by a hydro-monoplane of ‘normal‘ type/ the first in Britain by a hydro-monoplane of any type in Gnosspelius No. 2. – The Aeroplane magazine, 29 February 1912.

He was the only person at Windermere to design and fly his own hydro-aeroplane.

29 February 1912

Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was asked in the House of Commons about hydro-aeroplanes and the Royal Navy. He replied by referring to experiments, including at Windermere, and that “the results so far attained have been promising”.

29 March 1912

Waterbird was rendered beyond economic repair when the hangar collapsed at Cockshott.

60 flights on 38 different days, the furthest for 20 miles, had been accomplished and 800 feet attained. – The Aeroplane magazine, 25 January 1912.

16 April 1912

Churchill was asked in the House of Commons about hydro-aeroplanes at Windermere. He answered that tests would continue on the lake.

3 May 1912

The first passenger to fly in a hydro-aeroplane in Britain was Wakefield in Waterhen [Waterbird’s successor]. – The Aeroplane magazine, 9 May 1912.

By the end of 1912, about 300 fare-paying passengers had been carried.

15 July 1912

Gertrude Bacon became the first woman in the world to be taken up as a passenger in a hydro-aeroplane/ the first passenger in a hydro-aeroplane to make a complete circuit of the lake, in Waterhen. – International Women in Science by C M C Haines.

16 July 1912

Wakefield became the first person in the world to fly as a passenger in a hydro-monoplane, an Admiralty Deperdussin. – Letter to Wakefield from Charles Grey, Editor of The Aeroplane magazine, 17 July 1912.

The Deperdussin had been converted from a landplane at Windermere, in compliance with an Agreement between the Admiralty and Wakefield which was subject to the Official Secrets Act.

16 July 1912

Gertrude Bacon became the first woman in the world to fly as a passenger in a hydro-monoplane, in the Deperdussin being tested for the Admiralty. – Charles Grey.

19 July 1912

An Admiralty representative came to Windermere to observe a new method of transmitting wireless messages from air to surface.

9 September 1912

Second Lieutenant John Trotter Royal Field Reserve Artillery, received the first lesson with The Lakes Flying Company, the first British hydro-aeroplane school which was established in 1911.

12 September 1912

Wakefield obtained UK Patent No. 27,770 for the means of attaching a float to a hydro-aeroplane.

30 September 1912

Hill of Oaks was inspected by Lord Rayleigh, President of the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. He was given an exhibition of flying by Trotter.

12 November 1912

Trotter was granted an Aviator’s Certificate by the Royal Aero Club (‘RAeC’) No. 360 – this image is of the RAeC’s index card. Trotter was the first person/ first member of the Army to achieve a UK Certificate with tests taken on a hydro-aeroplane.

‘Letter from Wakefield, of 21 February 1912, with regard to Hydro-aeroplane Certificates was read. It was unanimously resolved to grant provisional Certificates in respect of tests carried out on hydro-aeroplanes, such certificates to be subject to confirmation by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (‘FAI’)’. – Minutes of Executive Committee of the RAeC, 27 February 1912. Confirmation by the FAI was made at its Conference on 15 and 16 March 1912.

18 March 1913

Wakefield obtained UK Patent No. 27,771 for a stepped float for a hydro-aeroplane. After considerable experiment, he had combined features of construction in a novel way. – H Hatfield, Patents Judge.

12 June 1913

The only occasion when a Windermere-based hydro-aeroplane operated outside of the Lake District, save for flights in 1919 to/ from the Isle of Man. Having been transported by traction engine, Waterhen was flown by Adams at Hornsea Mere, near the Yorkshire coast, for Hornsea Horse Show. Passengers, on the first ever flights from the Mere, were taken up at £2 a time. – Hull Daily Mail, 12 June 1913.

25 August 1913

The first flight at Windermere with 2 passengers, by Adams in Waterhen.

30 August 1913

The first UK Hydro-aeroplane Certificate No. 614 was awarded to The Lakes Flying Company’s pupil James Bland, and on 15 April 1914 the second Certificate No. 765 to Oswald Lancaster.

On 28 January 1913, Wakefield had accompanied the RAeC representatives at an Extraordinary Conference of the FAI held in Paris. ‘The FAI decided that ordinary Aviators’ Certificates should be valid for flights over both land and water. It was further decided that Certificates should be granted in respect of tests over water, but that such Certificates should not be valid for flights over land.’ – Minutes of Executive Committee of the RAeC, 4 February 1913.

Also at that Conference, the Schneider Trophy for an annual international hydro-aeroplane contest was accepted and the rules passed.

13 November 1913

Wakefield obtained UK Patent No. 18,051 for a float of a hydro-aeroplane to support its own weight during flight.

12 February 1914

Gnosspelius obtained UK Patent No. 10,801 for a V shaped float. This gave a sharper angle, reduced drag and was advantageous for structural reasons and for aerial considerations.

The V shape is used on almost every float manufactured today.

22 January 1915

Flying tuition by moonlight: drawing by Clifford Fleming-Williams (later Major) was a record. – The Aeroplane magazine, 27 January 1915.

21 October 1915

The first seaplane (Waterhen) to alight on Esthwaite Water, flown by John Lankester Parker with pupil John Coats.

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


18 March 1916

The first seaplane (Blackburn Improved Type 1) to alight on Coniston Water. This photo was taken back at Windermere of Henry Reid standing in the front cockpit and Parker behind. – Blackburn Aircraft since 1909 by A J Jackson.

May 1916

The school was taken over by the Government, so that training operations at Cockshott and Hill of Oaks became Royal Naval Air Service Unit Hill of Oaks.

3 June 1916

The headquarters of the RNAS at Windermere moved from Cockshott to Hill of Oaks, and, with the departure of civilian instructors, the name was changed to RNAS Windermere.

19 July 1916

RNAS Windermere was inspected by the First Sea Lord, Sir Henry Jackson.

July 1916

Shortly after discharge from hospital, Flight Lieutenant James Ferrand (later Major) was posted to RNAS Windermere as an instructor, where he remained until 20 November 1916. On 28 November 1915, whilst piloting an F.B.A. off Ostend, he had attacked an Albatros seaplane accompanied by 3 more seaplanes and a destroyer. Ferrand’s gunner brought down the Albatros and he then attacked the destroyer, whilst under heavy shell fire from the destroyer and shore batteries. It was the first time that a seaplane had shot down another. For this action, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 1 January 1916.

22 June 1917

On 20 May 1917, 2 ex-pupils, Flight Sub-Lieutenants Charles Morrish and Henry Boswell, were the pilots of Curtiss H-12 Large America 8663 flying boat near Flushing in the North Sea, operating under the ‘Spider Web’ system of searching for submarines. Bombs were dropped on a U-boat, which was ‘the first submarine sunk by the Royal Naval Air Service’. – The Royal Navy Day by Day by L Phillips. Both were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 22 June 1917.

Within the same list, ex-pupil Flight Sub-Lieutenant Charles McNicoll was also awarded the DSC, for his services in convoy protection and combatting submarines whilst stationed at RNAS Dundee.

June 1917

The White Ensign was lowered at RNAS Windermere.

1 October 1917

Adams (then Squadron Commander) was awarded the DSC for services in the Eastern Mediterranean.

22 February 1918

Flight Commander Guy Price, a Windermere instructor November-December 1916, was awarded the DSC and a Bar on 16 March 1918 [a gap of only 22 days], an ace having downed 12 aircraft.

10 May 1918

Captain Cooper Pattinson, from Windermere, whilst based at RNAS Killingholme shot down a Zeppelin over Heligoland Bight. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, amongst the first list of recipients in the London Gazette. On 1 May 1918, he had been Mentioned in Despatches.

17 May 1918

Flight Lieutenant John Hume began his training at Windermere in May 1915 and was awarded the DSC posthumously for services in Mesopotamia.

3 June 1918

The first list of Distinguished Flying Crosses ‘gazetted’ also included ex-pupils Captain Harold Gonyon, for bombing a U-boat near Dunkirk on 3 April, and Captain Victor Bessette, for services over the North Sea.

(The DFC was instituted after formation of the Royal Air Force as the equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross for acts of valour at sea: between the level of these awards and the Victoria Cross is the Distinguished Service Order.)

18 June 1918

Paul Robertson was posted as an instructor to RNAS Windermere on 30 June 1916, where he served until 29 January 1917. On 28 February 1918, now Acting Flight Commander, he was the observer in a seaplane which crashed near Hornsea Mere and he endeavoured to extricate the pilot. For this gallantry, he was awarded the Albert Medal, which was exchanged to the George Cross.

19 July 1918

Flight Officer William Dickson’s first appointment was on 11 November 1916 as a pupil at Windermere. – High Commanders of the Royal Air Force by Air Commodore H Probert. Dickson was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 21 September 1918 for having taken part on 19 July in the first strike from an aircraft carrier (returning aircraft would have to ditch in the sea), when 7 Sopwith Camels from HMS Furious attacked airship sheds at Tondern, Denmark. The senior flying officer of Furious was Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell Davies VC, DSO. ‘The most outstandingly successful carrier operation of the war’. – Naval Aviation in the First World War by R D Layman. He became Marshal of the RAF Sir; the first Chief of the Air Staff to have begun his career as a Naval pilot and the last to have served in World War 1.

An attack on Tondern had been recommended by Captain Oliver Swann (later Air Vice-Marshal Sir), commanding officer of aircraft carrier HMS Campania. On 18 November 1911, he took off in an Avro D from Cavendish Dock, Barrow-in-Furness. The choice of aircraft was discussed with Longmore (then Wing Commander serving in the Admiralty Air Department) when he visited Campania.

August 1918

Borwicks were subcontracted by Dick, Kerr & Co. Ltd. of Preston to manufacture Felixstowe F.3 flying boat hulls. – Dick, Kerr & Co. Limited A History of the Company 1853-1919 by J Shorrock.

21 July 1919

Seaplanes returned to Windermere with the arrival of an Avro 504K operated by the Avro Transport Company and flown by Howard Pixton (later Captain), with a second the following week. They were based at the Cockshott hangar. The enterprise included joyriding flights which had been pioneered by Waterhen, passenger flights, instruction and delivery of newspapers to the Isle of Man.

4 August 1919

The first flight carrying newspapers to the Isle of Man, by Pixton. The Daily News was overprinted in red ‘Seaplane Edition’.

8 August 1919

The first fare-paying passenger from or to the Isle of Man, flown by Pixton.

8 October 1919

The end of Avro Transport’s operations at Windermere.

11 September 1931

Supermarine Southampton Mk. II S1228 of 204 Squadron landed en route from Oban to RAF Mount Batten, Devon.

9 October 1933

Saunders-Roe A.19 Cloud amphibian G-ABXW, known as the Cloud of Iona, landed and anchored in The Narrows near Belle Isle, departing the following day. 

11 September 1942

Parker test-flew the first Windermere-assembled Short Sunderland flying boat (No. DP176), 26 years after he last flew at Windermere.

35 Sunderlands were built at White Cross Bay through to May 1944 when the factory became a Civilian Repair Organisation. Then they were repaired and about 25 were refurbished in 1945.

3 February 1943

A Slingsby Falcon 1 water glider was flown by Pattinson, and also on 7 February by Flight Lieutenant Wavell Wakefield.

Late 1944

3 Consolidated Catalina flying boats landed in late 1944, and in the first part of 1945.

13 January 1945

The prototype Short Shetland flying boat visited.

The proposal to build 10 Shetlands at Windermere did not materialise.

13 August 1979

Tiger Moth G-AIVW landed at Low Wood Bay, departing the following day.

September 1983

A Cessna 180 amphibian came to Low Wood Bay, with a view to a business being set up for seaplane training, an air taxi service and pleasure flights.

28 June 1990

Sunderland G-BJHS, known as Islander, stayed until 17 July.

27 June 1994

Catalina G-BLSC stayed until 11 July.

13 June 2022

Replica Waterbird G-WBRD first flew, 110 years since the original last did so and 28 years since the previous seaplane at the lake.

23 September 2022

Wings Over Windermere:

The replica Waterbird carried out a public flying display, the first ever display from the lake.

10 May 2023

Wings Over Windermere:

Aviat Husky G-WATR stayed until 13 May and carried out a public flying display on 12 May.

11 May 2023

Wings Over Windermere:

Aviat Husky G-ODIP stayed until 13 May and carried out public flying displays on 11 and 12 May.

The replica Waterbird carried out a public flying display.