PRESTON & DISTRICT GLIDER CLUB, 1930 - 1938

This club also was formed in October 1930, with enough funds to immediately order a Dagnall RFD Dagling at 55, which was delivered in November 1930. They exhibited this glider in a Preston showroom for a week, and held a public meeting on 26 November.

At the weekend 29-30 November 1930 they took it to an inaugural gliding demonstration at Green Hill near Darwen, organised by the Accrington Club. The star visitor was a German instructor, Carl Magersuppe, employed by the Scarborough club, who brought their Kassel Hercules two-seater (christened "Scarboro"). The CFI of the Preston club was Len Falla who had 2,000 power hours. On the Saturday the wind blew strongly but from an unexpected direction, so they moved a mile across the moor to find a spot from which Magersuppe gave several soaring flights to passengers. Falla decided that the wind was too strong for his first tries in the Dagling. However on the Sunday the lighter wind allowed Falla to make several glides down the hill face, to gain A badge number 129, with a 35 second flight. 30 November 1930.

Preston Glider Club found a flying site at Beacon Fell, 8 miles north of Preston, where they could slide down various gentle slopes while giving basic solo training from catapult launches. Butler's Farm was their base to store the glider parts, while Mrs. Butler fed, warmed and dried them. Their watering hole was the Green Man at Inglewhite, which we still patronise in 1998. The farmhouse was knocked down in 1939, but the yard now forms the car park looking west from the upper slopes. The hill has since been forested, so it is not easy to imagine what it looked like.

Gliding first took place there on 6-7 December 1930, despite thick fog and heavy rain, when two flights were made. On 14 December seven members had three ground slides each in a gusty wind and hail storms. Thick fog on the 21st led to a discourse on Theory of Flight, but the 22nd was bright with a steady 5 knot wind, so they achieved their first full day of training glides down gentle slopes, 20 of them, pulling the glider back up by hand. Later they used a car with a drum bolted to one rear wheel as a retrieving winch for the glider.

They sent many reports to Club News in Sailplane & Glider, then issued weekly, so we learn that they flew in a strong wind on Easter Sunday 7 April 1931, when Len Falla was caught out and turned upside down coming to grief on the hill face, but unhurt. The glider had one wing badly damaged, but RFD had spare parts available so members trailed down to Guildford. On the way home the trailer hitch broke, and the precious cargo landed in a ditch, damaging a wing again, but they were able to repair this themselves.

Time was short because they had booked a major demonstration for 16-17 May. Lyons Tea were employing Werner Krause to tour the country in an advertising stunt, flying two gliders with LYONS TEA painted large on the fuselages. A Falke secondary glider (one hangs in Windermere Steamboat Museum), & a Westpreussen sailplane (Darmstadt 1, 16 metres without struts, GO 535 aerofoil, a real floater.) christened the Lyons Tea Cloud Yacht. Every weekend they were booked to visit a "hill soaring site" although some of these were unproved, they were very dependent on cooperative weather, the sites had to be near people, and with easy access. Do you sense trouble ?

Beacon Fell was thought of as a windy place, but on 16 May 1931 it was not. By 2.30 pm when the programme was to start a gentle breeze had sprung up from the south-west, 4 or 5 mph, but there were thousands of visitors to amuse, and a sponsor to satisfy, so the show had to go on. 7,000 was their estimate of attendance on the Sunday. The mind boggles, and wonders whether Mr.

Butler was amused. Most would have walked from Garstang or Longridge if not Preston. Sir James Openshaw made a speech of welcome, then Krause explained what soaring was like, and what he would attempt, before being catapulted off from the hill top. Go and have a look at this site, it is just one and a half miles west of Lower Cock Hill Farm, and imagine it before all the trees were planted.

 

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Would you take a catapult launch in an Olympia, even in a stiff breeze ? Can you decide where their probable launch and landing spots were? Krause actually soared the Westpreussen for 5 minutes and had just enough height to try for a landing back on top. Still turning he touched a wing tip which swung him round and the tail struck hard. Krause inspected the glider, and pronounced it whole, so he took a second launch. This time he soared for four minutes before coming back to land, but with disastrous results. The rear fuselage was broken off. Krause switched to the Falke, and made delayed descents to the fields below, while Falla did similar in the Dagling.

On the Sunday there was even less wind, but the Falke and Dagling made many gliding descents, joined by another primary from Accrington. Falla actually stretched one flight to one minute thirty five seconds, giving him the B badge (requiring one minute with S turns). But did this sell much Lyons Tea ?

Avro were able to repair the Westpreussen during the week, so Krause took it to Ilkley for his next booking the following weekend, at a site called Woofa Bank. He started to hill soar up to a comfortable height, but after a few minutes he fell into a spin and crashed. The glider was wrecked, but Krause waqsn't hurt. He was prepared to carry on, but was restained from flying again that day. The glider was rebuilt in 1934 but spun in again........ A new replica is being built, we must warn him ! Preston Glider Club travelled around to other clubs to take part in flying meetings. 27 - 28 June 1931 saw them at Bunster Hill, Ilam Hall, Dovedale, Derbyshire for a contest organised by the Nottingham Club. 8,000 cars arrived. Preston won four silver medals, and flew two A badges; A.W.Graham, F.Naylor, L.Edwards, L.Falla.

Two weeks later there was the Blackpool Air Pageant on the Wednesday (with Kronfeld, Krause and Mole) and a BGA Conference at Ilkley on the Saturday. They trailed the Dagling with them, to take part in flying on the Sunday at Malham, and they went again to join in the August holiday camp week. On 17 - 18 October they went up to Barrow, where the Furness club were holding a hill soaring contest on Ireleth, the west facing hill, using a site at Moorside, Askam. They didn't do much because the wind was north-east.

It seems that these experiences made them dissatisfied with Beacon Fell, because after 6 December 1931 they didn't fly there any more. On 13 March 1932 they started to fly on Middleton Sands, Heysham using car towing on a six mile stretch of beach, and they erected an RE 7 hangar of 2520 sq.ft. (40x63 or 42x60 or 45x56). They had a second glider, a BAC 5 (parallel wings, twin wheels) bought by a member, plus a kit of parts to make up the longer span tapered wings used on the BAC 6 and the BAC 7 two-seater. Len Falla was moving towards dual training, but sadly they had a fatal accident with the BAC 5 on 15 May 1932. A.W.Graham was launched to about 150 feet, and flew straight for 100 - 150 yards, then went into a stall (perhaps intentionally, for Falla had demonstrated how to do this.) The glider then dived steeply into the sand.

Cooperation between clubs was in the air, and amalgamations. The Ilkley club visited Heysham on 24 April 1932, and arranged to do initial training with the Preston club, who were invited to use Malham as their soaring site. (Gordale Scar ? Very dubious !) Ilkley trained there until members tried to remove limestone boulders by dynamite, and the farmer withdrew his permission!!! Many clubs faded away, Bolton, Accrington, Rochdale, Kendal, Windermere, Pendle Forest (where ?), Cononley (a village near Skipton) as well as Blackpool. Falla became involved with the Association of Northern Gliding Clubs, and another Preston man also, R.F.L.Gosling later well known as an aeromodeller. Gosling chaired a meeting of ANGC at Lancaster on 10 December 1932, reported in S & G for 30 December.

Leeds joined with Bradford, Harrogate and Ilkley. Sheffield and Huddersfield joined Manchester/Royal Aeronautical Society, who's instructor was Basil Meads, who will turn up later, in 1950 and 1968, as BGA advisor to Jack Aked. Eventually two major clubs arose, Yorkshire at Sutton Bank, Derby & Lancs at Camphill. Preston and Furness were rather far away, and were left out.

 

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From 27 August to 4 September 1932 the Furness club ran an Open Contest for the BGA, at Askam, near Barrow. This time the west winds blew, and real hill soaring was achieved. Best height 1,700 feet. Durations up to 2 hours 38 minutes, and a cross-country of 13 miles hill soaring past Broughton and Torver to Coniston ( Buxton in the Slingsby Falcon version of the Falke ). Len Falla flew the Dagling, which was now fitted with a nacelle, for 37 minutes. A fortnight later he went back for another go, and stayed up for 55 minutes.

From then on the Preston Club stopped sending reports to Club News, and the next mention is of Falla flying a BAC 7 two-seater ("salad & cream") at Sutton Bank on 12 August 1934, the weekend following the site opening. He then flew it at their inaugural Open Contest the first week in September "recently completed, painted green & cream", presumably those tapered wings now assembled, plus a fuselage kit. Harold Holdsworth was Ground Engineer for the Yorkshire GC, and reports that he had already mended the wings after a crash while Preston GC members had repaired the fuselage. Holdsworth was taken up on the test flight, and was critical of Falla's control handling "Falla constantly fidgeted with the controls. They had no time to work one way before he moved the stick the other way." Michael Maufe rebuilt a BAC 7 at Ilkley, now for sale.......

Annual statistics for Preston GC at the end of 1934 are quoted at 20 members, two gliders, (Dagling & BAC 7), subs 3.15, flying fees 0.125 per day ! A barely viable situation, however they survived until 1936, when they tried to fit their gliders with engines, in league with the Lancaster & Morecambe Aero Club. Whether they achieved this is not certain but they went to court against their engine supplier, for delivering a faulty crankshaft, and got damages and costs.

How they ended is not known, if they survived until 1939 they certainly didn't resume in 1945.

 

SOURCES.

 

Sailplane & Glider magazines 1930 - 1936.

Vintage Glider Club News supplement, by Harold Holdsworth.

( Lyons Tea, Westpreussen, Preston BAC 7, Len Falla.)

Lyons Tea meeting souvenir Programme.

Martin Simons "Vintage Sailplanes" (Kookaburra 1986)

Robert Kronfeld "Gliding and Soaring" (Hamilton 1932)

( Westpreussen & Hercules gliders.)

 

Wartime Activities.

 

Military gliders were delivered to Warton in crates, Waco CG4 built in the USA, deck cargoes into Liverpool, by train to Lytham (Stanways), then by road. Wing span 84 feet (25m), fuselage length 48 feet. These were assembled out of doors, the runways usually were covered with aircraft, so the gliders went on the grass. When ready for delivery to operational units, the gliders were snatch-launched by C47 Dakotas. The glider towrope was arranged in a large loop, and propped up on poles. The aircraft flew across trailing a hook which caught the towrope, and then whoops! you're flying. One hopes that a production test flight had been done at the factory.....but one wonders.....

In 1985 a local enthusiast (Russell Brown) saw the remains of a Waco on a Warton hardstanding, just some steel tubes. BAe NW Heritage have a 1945 photo of a Waco being burnt, probably the same one. Two bungalows were said to have been built using the wood from Waco crates, these are opposite the Warton cinema and RC church in Warton, still visible in October 1997, one inhabited, one derelict. Three Waco crates, still containing nose fuselage and cabin, were bought by a Goosnargh farmer as hen huts; Tom Gornall remembers children playing in them.