WHAT DO YOU KNOW
One question posed in the “Heathrow-What do you know” section in March produced more answers than any previous question. It was the one about the small gentleman who did the commentaries at Heathrow in the 1950’s. The most comprehensive answer came from Mike Charlton, with this extract from the ATC news, itself quoting from Bernard Martin of Air Britain.
those that enjoyed the benefits of the Queen's Building and Roof Gardens, as
they then were, at London Airport in the 1950s and 1960s, the passing on 2
January 2000 of Stan Little will mean something. Little by name (his given name
was Robert Stanley Thompson and adopted the stage name Stan Little in 1925) and
in physical stature ,he was a one-time music hall comedian, and was part of a
double act 'Pell and Little' with Stanley Pell. The double act lasted for some
30 years before he left the variety stage in 1953.
Stan was a stalwart of the Commentary Box at Heathrow Airport. He understood aircraft and also the needs of enthusiasts. On particularly inclement days (seemingly a regular feature of the days when something of particular note was arriving) he would invite regular and genuine enthusiasts into the comfort of his domain. As well as having a good knowledge of aircraft, he was well briefed via miles of "ticker-tape" from the Tower as to what was arriving or departing and he provided a well-informed and sensible rundown on what was happening. Towards the end of his reign, he was happy to make available the tapes of the day in order that checklists could be sorted out for the Spotting journals of the time. When his health forced retirement, he returned to his 1910 birthplace of Newcastle, where he was to eventually pass on. For an 80 year old he had an amazingly active mind and was able to grasp new technology with the greatest of ease. He had his radios, computer, video camera etc. and he had an amazing collection of photos from his Heathrow days Although he was confined to his flat in Jesmond, Stan was happy because it commanded quite a view of both Newcastle approaches (weather depending)
Heathrow Queens Building. The 3 level Spectator terrace – home of Stan Little in the 1950’s. Like the sole remaining section in Terminal 2, its position over restaurant kitchens provided a unique blend of kerosene and chip-fat smells.
Two cards. Terraces from Terminal 2 on a Fry card and an aerial real photo view with SAS DC-6s favoured by more than one publisher. This one is Valentine L6228.
next item is a case of “never believe everything you read on postcards”. In
this case not an edited image or description bearing no connection with the
actual view, but the handwritten message on the back.
The card is one of the rare early Imperial Airways issues of their pilots
with a facsimile signature. You would have thought that these would have been
very popular and a lot would have survived, but maybe they were literally used
as “pin-ups” and subsequently did not survive fixing to walls and/or being
carried around as objects of admiration.
in question is of pilot Walter Rogers, posed by the wheel of, probably, a DH.34.
The back of the card , which is unmailed and undated, has handwriting as
follows “ Had a trip with Mr R. He was killed the week after I think at
Bristol” Now I have been unable to find
out the ultimate fate of Walter Rogers, but
this seems unlikely. An Imperial Airways
pilot was killed at Bristol, on June 27th 1927 but this was Capt
Franklyn Barnard, who was practising for the 1927 Kings Cup Air Race, which he
had won previously in both 1922 (the first Kings Cup) and 1925.
He was flying the Bristol Badminton racer which he had also flown in the
1927 race, when he forced landed in the Thames due to fuel
problems. Barnard was also the subject of an Imperial
card, as shown. (Black & White copy of a Sepia card)
came to Imperial via Instone Air Lines, while Rogers was from Handley Page.
Among the few other facts that have surfaced about him is that he
commemorated his work with Handley Page and their aircraft by naming his son,
Handley. The son went on to fly
Wellingtons in WW 2. Walter Rogers was
also known as “Cockney” Rogers, which suggests that his background may have
been more “other ranks” than was usual among RFC aircrew.
He is also reported to have thought
that O.P Jones, in
particular, was “toffee-nosed”.
if anyone can fill in the
gaps about the pre or post History of Walter Rogers let us have what you know
– perhaps there was a second Imperial pilot killed at Bristol but it seems
equivalent card of O.P Jones featured in a 1998 edition and a compressed version
of the 3 part article from that time is
The card below is from the series issued by Imperial Airways immediately after formation in 1924.
A close inspection of the DH.34 in the background shows that Instone titles have barely been overpainted. For a brief period , Imperial promoted their pilots as part of an image of security and reliability. For O.P Jones this was an image which he continued to promote throughout his career until retiring from BOAC as their senior captain in 1955. The chosen image was professional, fastidious and remote, almost a parody of the stereotype English officer and gentleman. He seems to have played this part to the utmost and probably revelled in the many anecdotes that this gave rise to. He appeared to wish to be held in awe, not only by colleagues but also by passengers – modelling his “act” on the ocean liner captains of the day. Among the components of this image were a goatee beard and always wearing gloves when flying.
He was born in 1898 at Beckenham , Kent, the only boy in a family of five. His first encounter with aviation was watching S F Cody at Shoreham in 1909.
He gave a false birth date to join the army in 1914 and served initially with the Royal Engineers, transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. He made his first flight, again at Shoreham, on his 19th birthday. To his regret he saw no active service. In the early 20’s he was engaged in barnstorming with Berkshire Aviation. Two cards below date from that time and show Jones and an Avro 504. Both carry handwritten dates of 19th December 1920. The Avro 504 is titled “Holmes and Jones”. Unlike the Imperial card, the signature is an ink original.
In 1921 at their main base of Porthcawl, South Wales, 10,000 passengers were carried in one season.
In 1922, feeling the need for greater security on marriage, to one of his passengers, he joined Instone Air Lines. With the formation of Imperial he became one of their high-profile pilots, including being the chosen pilot for early Royal flights. With Imperial he was most often on the London-Paris route in HP.42’s and remained so, apart from a brief time in West Africa with DH.86’s , until the formation of BOAC in 1940. At this time he became a pioneer of the BOAC transatlantic service with Liberators and inaugurated the first post war New York-London Constellation service. As senior captain of the Stratocruiser fleet he continued the Royal connection by operating the first Royal transatlantic flight with the then Princess Elizabeth in 1951.
Despite his later work on the Atlantic he always said that London-Paris was his favourite route, and, on this death in 1980 his instructions were that his ashes be scattered over the Channel on the Imperial line-of-route. Imperials successor British Airways provided a Cherokee from their Hamble training school and this was done on July 1st 1980.
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