Updated: 14 Jan 12
Crazy flying was to reappear at the RAF Pageant in 1927, after an absence of three years. The old Avro 504K had been phased out of the act and replaced by the Avro 504N. That year saw the introduction of the crazy flying duo which was to be repeated at subsequent Pageants. Participants were the winners of competitions between the Flying Training Schools of the Home Establishment. Flt Lt H T Lidford AFC and Flt Lt F J Fogarty DFC from No 2 FTS, Digby, delighted and horrified the Hendon crowds, with a hair raising display, supposedly each flying a simultaneous programme at each end of the aerodrome. ‘Flight’ remarked, “They, however, seemed to be simultaneously all over it - at least one of them (we think it was Flt Lt Fogarty) flew most of the time on the aerodrome. He was evidently working out a scheme for aerial Lawn mowers, while his colleague seemed to be practising some new steps for the Charleston. The former’s evolutions consisted of banked turns, straights, and serpentines with wheels of wing-tips actually touching the ground, varied occasionally with a game of hide and seek with his colleagues among the three squadrons of day bombers which had just previously taken up their positions on the ‘drome. Anyway it was a most painful exhibition - as far us our neck muscles and hearts wore concerned.”
At the 1928 Pageant two different officers took over the crazy flying act. They were Fg Off C H G Brembridge and Fg Off G E Campbell DFM, again from No 2 FTS at Digby. They thrilled the crowds with a new manoeuvre which consisted of diving towards each other, passing, zooming, and then looping or flying upside down, each aircraft performing the same denouement simultaneously .
1927 and 1928 again saw sporting successes. The Wakefield novices cup for boxing was won by Digby in both years, while in 1929 not only the Wakefield but also the Junior Wakefield and Inter-Unit Boxing Championships came to Digby.
The first ‘Air’ George Cross was won at Digby on 20 June 1928. A DH9 number AJ8489, crashed and ignited on landing. The award was promulgated in the London Gazette dated 9 November 1928, and the citation tells its own story:
The EGM was later converted to the George Cross, and Arnold was presented with this on 25 November 1941.
In 1929 Group Captain Sidney Smith again became Commanding Officer. His Chief Flying Instructor was Squadron Leader R D Oxland. (In November 1926, Oxland had been in command of the nucleus of regular officers and airmen who had formed No 503 (County of Lincoln) Squadron, RAF Special Reserve). In the summer of 1929, to take advantage of the weather which was generally better during the morning, Oxland instituted a system of flying from 4 am until 12 noon! However, for reasons which one can only guess at, the experiment was not popular. Neither was it a success, and after a trial run of about 2 months it ended, to the relief, no doubt, of all concerned Officers undergoing flying training had to pay £90 a year for the privilege, presumably to stop frivolous applications. With Oxland about, it seems there were other deterrents.
Digby Oral Histories:
- A History
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