About the Author


Aviation Memories

 

Peter Mason and his wife Valerie at the Shuttleworth Military Pageant in front of his favourite aeroplane - the Gloster Gladiator (2010)

Peter Mason and his wife Valerie at the Shuttleworth Military Pageant in front of his favourite aeroplane – the Gloster Gladiator (2010)

 

As a young child my passion was motor cars – Dinky toys to be precise – followed later by a passion for aircraft.

My earliest recollection of airborne types was the Graf Zeppelin. This happened one Saturday morning when visiting a friend in Leeds. Out of the clouds came this gigantic slow moving hulk with quiet engines and the pagoda slung underneath.

It was so low that it was possible to read ‘Graf Zeppelin’ on the nose and see the German swastika. It flew directly overhead but no sign of life aboard the gondola. It was a magnificent awe-inspiring sight which soon disappeared over the hangar. I was later told that the German personnel aboard were making a survey of the country for use later on.

Just pre-war I developed a strong affinity for aeroplanes and gliders and spent many hours building balsa wood models from Keil Kraft kits.

War was declared on 1st September 1939 and I well remember my Mother being very upset when it was announced by Neville Chamberlain that Britain was now at war with Germany.

I was fourteen years old at the time and started my working life with Blackburn Aircraft Limited at their works in Roundhay Road, Leeds. Being an aircraft company they were one of the first squadron of the Air Training Corps to be formed and I was very enthusiastic. Our headquarters was in a large house in a private road off Oakwood Lane in Leeds.

 

Zeppelin LZ127- During its operating life the airship made 590 flights, covering more than a million miles (courtesy Alexander Cohrs)

Zeppelin LZ127- During its operating life the airship made 590 flights, covering more than a million miles (courtesy Alexander Cohrs)

 

Mr Robert Blackburn, the Chairman of the company, was a great organiser and arranged for an outmoded Hawker Hart biplane trainer to be transferred from the R.A.F. to the large garden of Tudor House, our A.T.C. headquarters, for rigging practice. It was very popular with the cadets; especially those cadets who were later to join the R.A.F. as ground crew.

There was a good camaraderie in the squadron with a complement of teaching officers, many having served in the R.A.F. I well remember our drill sergeant, Warrant Officer Smith, ex. R.A.F., who maintained a strict but friendly eye on the cadets. His booming and experienced voice rallied the whole squadron and set a fine example. Zeppelin LZ127- During its operating life the airship made 590 flights, covering more than a million miles (courtesy Alexander Cohrs)

A variety of subjects were taught and set by the R.A.F. including mathematics, aircraft recognition, navigation, meteorology, theory of flight and square-bashing. These were good days despite the restrictions of wartime and many friends were made – especially for me, a special friend who lived nearby, Peter Wilson. He was particularly talented intellectually and physically and excelled at running.

 

Hawker Hart - the most widely used light bomber of its time and the design would prove to be a successful one with a number of derivatives

Hawker Hart – the most widely used light bomber of its time and the design would prove to be a successful one with a number of derivatives

 

He was a friend for life and only recently died unexpectedly. He joined the R.A.F. to train as a pilot in Canada but this was cut short when the war ended. I well remember one occasion when we were under canvas training at Church Fenton – we all went to a film show on the camp but halfway through the film there was an announcement and we were instructed to return to our tents as our bedding was floating away due to a heavy storm. Happy days!!

In 1945 the war finished but my interest in all things to do with aviation did not diminish. I continued my membership of the A.T.C. and attended many camps.

My father was also an enthusiastic aircraft follower and we travelled to all the local air shows on his motor cycle (fitted with a sidecar). Sometimes my mother accompanied us but she was not as keen. We travelled to R.A.F. Church Fenton and Sherburn airfields for the air shows where it was possible to have flights for a princely fee of £5, which was quite a price in those days. Displays were organised by the promoter, Alan Cobham, who was also the promoter of air-to-air refuelling.

We used to visit the Shuttleworth Collection Air Day every year, usually held in August, based in the village of Old Warden, Bedfordshire. These visits over the years have become an institution enjoyed by all the family – including the dogs! We have for some years now taken to staying overnight prior to the airshow – always enjoyable.

 

Newspaper Cuttings

Dad clipping

Dad clipping 1

 

 

Peter at work on his book in his lounge at Church Fenton village

Peter at work on his book in his lounge at Church Fenton village

 

Dad cutting 2

 

Dad cutting 3

 



 


 

 

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