THE FIRST BLACKPOOL & FYLDE GLIDING CLUB
This was proposed by William T. Aked in October 1930, and 80 people showed interest, but only 40 paid the first subscription of one guinea (£1.05). A primary glider (with an open framework fuselage) cost £55, either for a Dagnall Dagling or a Cloudcraft Dickson. They also needed a catapult rope at least, even if storage, trailing and flying could be donated, so funds were very tight.
In February 1931 Cloudcraft offered two of their Dickson gliders at only £35, fitted with "Avro wings" which can only have been panels from spare Avro 504K biplanes. A picture in Sailplane & Glider shows roundels on the wings ! B & F G C ordered one, which arrived in May 1931. Our photo shows it rigged in front of Aked's garage, now Woolworth's, St.Annes. The figures must be Jack and his father, in club uniform, dark raincoat and beret !
The evening paper told of their first flying on 9 & 10 May 1931, in a field lent by Mr. Robinson at Thornton Cleveleys. Jack Aked lived at "Ashdell", Victoria Road, Thornton le-Fylde, and would have been either 18 or 20 at the time (he gave his birth date as 7 November 1910 once, but 1912 elsewhere). In 1949 he wrote "I did not take a very active part myself owing to being a junior and somewhat involved in studies". An 18 or a 20 year old junior ? Jack took a Higher National Certificate in motor engineering, then joined his father to manage the garage.
On the Saturday there was hardly any wind, so the catapult ropes only slid them along the ground while they balanced on the ailerons. Their first flying was on the Sunday when "several members reached a height of about 15 feet". We don't know how they later got on, but surmise not very well, for on 24 June 1931 the paper reported a meeting of club members :
"Various items in connection with the clubs work were considered. The question of a demonstration ground and hangar was discussed and it is hoped that arrangements for these will be made. As soon as they are secured, members will meet weekly for instruction. The President (Mr. Aked, of St. Annes) has promised a trophy for competition, and it is hoped that the local club will prove that the Fylde coast is in the front rank of the sport of engineless flying".
We have a membership application form which defines gliding flight as losing height, while "soaring flight necessitates a different type of machine. The pilots object is to take advantage of ascending air currents caused mainly by the wind being obstructed by woods, hills and mountains and deflected upwards." Soaring records are quoted as 3,000 feet, 62 miles and 14 hours.
Jack Aked's membership card mentions the trophy, value 30 guineas, to be won by the first member to pilot a glider for two hours. A single outright win. Hill soaring to this standard was done at Barrow in 1932, but it is ironic that when Blackpool members first soared thermals at Samlesbury, durations were restricted to one hour solo and half an hour dual, in order to get through the list, and this exactly 30 years on. In 1998 we still do!
Sadly this turned out to be pie in the sky, for the last relic is a letter to members calling a crisis EGM for 4 April 1932. In October 1931 only 15 members had renewed their subs., and though "the liabilities have been reduced to only £22.75, one or two creditors are threatening legal action." We can only assume that the club was wound up. Even to sell the glider would not have been easy, for many clubs were struggling.
Many names were quoted :-
President William T. Aked , later Capt. C.C.Erskine Bolst, M.P.
Patron The Mayor of Blackpool , later Capt. Lord Stanley, M.P.
Vice-Presidents Coun. Masterson, H.Fletcher, R.L.Swale, D.Caine, C.Hilton, G.Ball, N.Burton
Club Captain C.B.Harris (Chief Flying Instructor)
Hon. Sec. W.T.Plant, later G.C.Handley, later J.W.Whittaker
Hon. Treas. R.I.Fowler, later R.D.Hughes. Hon. Solicitor B.Thurman
Committee Constable, Rider, Eccles.
Plus the one known mere member, Jack Aked.
The "Club Captain" (= C.F.I.) C.B.Harris was an RFC pilot with instructing experience at Walter Merriams Isle of Wight G.C., but whether in 1923 or 1930 is not known. During WW2 he rose to the rank of Lt.Col. in REME. When he died in 1953 Jack scattered his ashes from the air.
William Aked survived to act as guarantor to Jack when the T.21 was bought with a loan from the Kemsley Flying Trust in 1954.
A Dickson glider survived in Australia, and was restored to fly in 1991.
Parts of a Dickson from the Harrogate club are in the Nigel Ponsford collection at Breighton airfield, S. Yorks. This is thought to be only the fuselage frame. However there are at least two replicas of Avro 504, which were made for film purposes, and their wing panels would make up an authentic version of the B & F G C glider from 1931.
Club records : membership application form