ON THE BEACH
OLD & NEW BEACH AIRLINE OPERATIONS IN THE UK
by Doug Bastin
Air operations from beaches in the UK date back to pioneer days, with beaches also being a favourite site for pleasure flying operations in the 1930’s, some continuing to the 1950’s. A fairly common “flight certificate” card from such operations showed a Fox Moth of Southport based Giro Aviation. In two cases however beach operations extended to scheduled services and both gave rise to a number of postcards which provide an interesting variation on the theme of the seaside postcard.
The British Channel Island of Jersey was a natural target for an air service from the mainland. All services were initially by flying boats of successively British Marine Air Navigation, Imperial Airways and various Channel Islands operators. Indecision about approval and funding (the Channel Islands after all are part of the UK) for an airfield on the island meant that none was available or in prospect when Jersey Airways was founded in 1933. Permission was somehow obtained to use St Aubins Bay at St Helier as a landing ground and the first DH Dragon proving flight was made in December 1933 with service commencing 3 days later. The logic was, if the beach service proved popular, the case for an airport was made, if not, then the expense would be spared.
Services always had to fit in with the tides which could show a rise of 12 metres on a spring tide. Services therefore tended to operate in waves – to avoid the waves. A number of flights would land and then depart in the period of low tides. Although other airfields of the 1930s had provision for flying boat operations, e.g New York La Guardia and Singapore-Kallang, St Aubins Bay is almost certainly the only one which licensed the same physical space for both land and flying boat operations. From the postcard point of view the bunching of flights provided the interesting sight of a long line of Dragons – and later DH.86s lined up on the beach, so that in terms of aircraft visible, Jersey would also rank with Croydon or le Bourget. Beach operations continued until March 1937 when the new and current Jersey Airport opened – which itself would become probably the most “postcarded” UK airport outside London.
The cards shown are Ten Dragons on Valentine G2109 including one on take off from a still wet beach. This is titled Jersey Airways (22) – so are there another 21 to be found.
Anonymous real photo cards with Five Dragons – title “Jersey Airways Planes at Westpark, Jersey”
Four DH86s – another anonymous card – again titled “ Jersey Airways”
3 DH86 plus the buses used to provide “terminal” facilities – another card titled “Jersey Airways”. Could these anonymous “Jersey Airways” cards be “airline issue – perhaps sold from these buses ?
subject to tides” stil appear in the timetables of British Airways in respect
of operations in the Scottish
islands by Loganair. Indeed Loganair now
offer a special round trip fare to
experience the beach landing at Barra in the Outer Hebrides. This service has seen operations in BEA days with DH Herons and briefly,
Short Skyvans. The Skyvan development the Short SD360 was a noted failure on
this route, possibly to do with salt effects on its retractable undercarriage,
and forced Loganair to re-introduce the Twin Otter which now continues the service from Glasgow. Loganair
had previously used both the Islander and Trislander, these being the
only other non-deHavilland types to feature on either of these beach airfields.
had been surveyed for services by various companies but the first to operate was
Northern and Scottish Airways with an “on demand” service from 1936 with
Rapides and Spartan Cruisers.
was absorbed successively by Scottish Airways and BEA.
cards below show the Skyvan operation after take-over by British Airways. This
card was issued by Scottish Highland Hotels. The other shows a Loganair/British
Airways Twin Otter – this example is the one taken on specifically for this
service after withdrawal of the SD360. The card is anonymous but the photo is
credited to Maggie MacNeil.
Sources : Sea Eagle to Flamingo , Neville Doyle 1991: Airways Magazine Sep 2002
THE PIONEER PAGE
MARIE MARVINGT 1875-1963
This card was listed in an Internet Auction with the following description :-
“This is a vintage 1910 postcard of the celebrated French pioneer aviatrix Marie Marvingt in her Antoinette monoplane, and it was actually signed & warmly inscribed by the lady herself! The text reads: "As a souvenir of yesterday and today. M. Marvingt, The world's oldest woman serving aviation, and mother of the wings that save. 23/7/58.". That last phrase was in reference to: "her lifelong involvement in the area of airplane ambulances, which she recommended the French government adopt as early as 1910"
A bit more research came up with the following about this early aviatrix but there seems to be a lot more to tell of the specifically aviation achievements of the woman called “the most incredible woman since Joan of Arc” and “the greatest sportswoman of the century”.
She held pilots licences for aeroplanes, balloons, seaplanes and, later, helicopters and was known to have piloted airships as well. Her licence (brevet) was number 281, being the third issued to a woman. (Who was the first ?) At various times, she held 17 world records, probably not all in aviation although they did include a balloon distance record. She held 34 French and overseas decorations including the Croix de Guerre from 1918.
Her occupations included nursing, including surgical theatre work, and journalism, especially aviation and sports related. She was a noted horsewoman and hunter and her other sports included boxing, judo, karate, tennis, golf, fencing, football and both mounted and water polo.
She spoke 5 languages including Esperanto and also received awards for culinary skills as well as being an accomplished musician on the cornet.
So if anyone can fill in more on the aviation achievements this apparently remarkable “Jill of All Trades, Mistress of Many” beyond the above, largely gathered and interpreted from a French language (but Australian university based) Website, the same Website has other postcard illustrations which could be downloaded to illustrate.
PHOTOGRAPHIC – 1950s
A number of factors have set off some 50s military nostalgia – the fact that Farnborough in July not only seems “wrong” but hardly has any UK build aircraft of any kind on display, the 50th anniversary of the Vulcan, which made its memorable appearances in red-white-blue formation with Avro 707 test small deltas, and the sight of a Sea Vixen back in the air on the air show circuit.
second wave of UK military designs to replace the initial Meteors and Venoms
were starting to appear, the V bombers,
various supersonic-in-dive fighters like the Hunter, Swift and
DH110 and a variety of Naval and Experimental types. The general public
could also still be raised to enthusiasm by matters aeronautical such as the
speed record attempts by the Swift and Hunter. In
this climate, the old established publisher, Valentine, produced a series of
real Photo postcards, which were probably among its last real photo
productions, although a civil series, numbered RP4xx seems to be later,
including such as Trident.
military series has back text specifically stating
“Real Photo Military Aircraft Series” and the two cards shown are
numbers RP40 and 41.
Vulcan card, although titled Avro Vulcan B Mk.1 is probably the white painted
Avro 698 prototype and has the original straight leading edge wing.
same time military (and civil) photographic
series were also produced in the Netherlands, by
publishers including Emdeeha (=MDH)
and WSB. These usually have no front text, but back text in Dutch usually
includes technical details. This card of
the prototype Bristol 171 Sycamore helicopter is curious in that what is clearly
a real photograph is titled, in English
“Artists Impression of a Bristol Type 171 Helicopter”.
this was so on an earlier printing and missed when the picture was upgraded by
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