Updated: 14 Jan 12
In 1930, Campbell achieved his hat trick of Hendon appearances. In that year, he had yet another partner, Pilot Officer Frank Whittle, who was later to gain fame as the inventor of the jet engine and to retire as Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, KBE CB FRS LLD. Although ‘Flight’ considered that the flying was not quite equal to past displays, they did describe it as hair raising. ‘The two Avro Lynxes (Avro 504Ns) executed impossible evolutions, about 5.999in from the ground all round the aerodrome. Sometimes they would charge each other, crabbing sideways and pass with apparently only inches to spare, or would allow each otter to pass by raising adjacent wing-tips. Then they skimmed across the grass in ‘mass’ formation, one banked to the right, the other to the left, and when they landed at the conclusion of their ‘turn’, they appeared to do so locked together in X-fashion.”
During 1931-32 the Vimys and Bristols went, and the following March the Avros left.
Wing Commander Charles Kimber in his book “Son of Halton” tells us that he was posted to No 2 Flying Training School, RAF Digby, Lincolnshire, on the 21 August 1931. His duties were in the airframe section which was in some respects a disappointment, since he had hoped for flight duties. However, he was to gain valuable experience and, in later years, had no reason for regrets.
One of the first voluntary measures he made at Digby was enrolment in further education classes for the Higher Education Certificate, which was on a par with the Higher School Certificate. The HEC was in 3 parts, each to be taken separately after 12 months attendance at evening classes at the Education Centre. The education officer was a Lieutenant Commander Gould RN (Ret’d).
In the airframe section, Kimber became the junior member of a small group of 4 headed by an experienced carpenter rigger named Patterson. When Kimber joined it, the work in hand was rebuilding a Bristol Fighter which had crashed some lays previously. This aircraft was being phased out of the RAF and this was one of the last to depart, to the regret of everyone. When work was completed it was sold to a private buyer for the absurd sum of £15 or so; the ‘buzz’ maintained that this sum had been mentioned by no less an authority than Squadron Leader ‘Dusty’ Rhodes, who was the officer in charge of the airframe section.
When Kimber returned from sunnier leave in 1932, he learned that he had been transferred from the airframe section to D Flight, which was equipped with Atlases and a Siskin lIla. The latter was the dual control version of the Siskin III, a fighter aircraft. (Although it was customary to give aircraft the names of birds, ome wonders why an aggressive type of aircraft should be given the name of Siskin, which is a small songbird). The flight commander in D Flight was a Flight Lieutenant Harston, an excellent flying instructor arid well liked by all. Kimber was responsible for his aircraft, Atlas K 1194, and made many short duration flights with him. D Flight was the advanced flying training flight for the officers who had completed their ab initio training on the Avro 504N and 504K. Completion of advanced flying was marked by the pupil officer taking a passenger for the first time. The idea behind this was to increase the officer’s sense of responsibility and confidence. The latter was considered a questionable point and hence did not bring a rush of volunteers as passengers. But this resulted in more flights for those who were less sceptical and Kimber frequently occupied the cockpit for 2 successive passenger tests.
Group Captain Sidney Smith is reported as being always generous in his time to anyone who flew with him. Kimber made several flights and all included instruction in piloting.
Digby Oral Histories:
- A History
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