NOSTALGIA: The Nazi emblem put audience in a spin at airshow

A Government minister was among those who learned to fly at Wilmington Aerodrome
A Government minister was among those who learned to fly at Wilmington Aerodrome

We continue our look back at the last garden party held at Wilmington Aerodrome on Saturday August 12 1939 before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Author Peter Longstaff-Tyrell writes, “Under the intriguing heading of Back Your Fancy, the next part of the programme proved to be a handicap race between a Gipsy 1 Moth flown by FO O Hazel, a Whitney Straight piloted by L Bellairs and a Messerschmitt Taifun piloted by Herr E Scheidt.

“Unfortunately the handicapping went a trifle astray for the Taifun overhauled the little Gipsy as if the latter was part of the balloon barrage, when it still had another lap to go.

“The Whitney Straight apparently went astray for it disappeared behind some hills for quite a considerable time.

“While the race was on, George Solak was cruising in his Polish RW13 on his return from Shoreham where he had been sent to clear Customs.

“After a somewhat humorous interlude in which two Gipsy Moths were used to bomb a car driven up and down the aerodrome by villains being flour-bombed by policeman, Fraulein Vera von Bissing took off in her BFW M35 to give one of those highly polished and perfectly executed acrobatic exhibitions that have made her name famous throughout Europe.

“The onimnous Nazi emblem on the Messerschmitt tail fin was an alarm to the audience that day. After the exhilarating performance, a platoon of the Middlesex Regiment gave a demonstration of how the Bren Gun is used on aircraft daring to come within their range.

“For this purpose two Moths snooped around the countryside making, at intervals, dashes across the field of fire.

“While the various sections were deployed across the aerodrome, an innocent Hornet arrived to the horror of all concerned and Rex Stocken in particular (the latter was nobly doing the running commentary) and his comments sotto voce were heard very clearly over the loud speakers. They were at least explicit.

“Next came two brief demonstrations, one by Crossley Warren in the new Parnall trauiner and the other by George Solak in the RWD13.

“The former’s show was very polished and included a series of power dives into the centre of the aerodrome from behind the spectators. The latter however, wisely contented himself with a few gentle flypasts afterwards most politely doffing his hat to the applauding crowd.

“Before the Grand Parade of all the visiting aircraft which brought the afternoon programme to a close, Miss Ray Clark jumped from a Moth flying at 2,000ft. Her parachute opened immediately and she landed with perfect accuracy in the middle of the aerodrome.

“The prize winners for the arrival, distance and Concours d’Elegance were then announced. George Solak had flown that day from Lwow in Poland so naturally went home with the prize for having come the greatest distance.

“RP Mason won the award for the open class in the Councourse d’Elegance with his Moth Minor while Herr A Gerbrecht won the closed class with his superbly finished Arado 79, a roomy two seater side by side low wing monoplane with an inwardly retractable undercarriage.

“Herr Gerbrecht also won the arrival competition by a short head from FO Pickard in the BiBi-Be 550. Mr Anson of Hull won the distance test for English entrants.

“Eastbourne’s Garden Party in theory ended with the presentation of awards by the mayor of Eastbourne but in actual fact it continued well into the evening with the erection of a searchlight by detachment of the Queen’s Regiment – a very convincing show. The Grand Finale was a firework display by Wells to illuminate the August skies.”

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