Social Visit by Air

By kind permission of John King, Author

Activities at Grove Park’s aerodrome continued, and one Sunday in August four or five Camel aircraft flew in from Sutton’s Farm. One of the Camels, which were vicious to control but good for stunting, was painted a brilliant red. The pilot was Armstrong, a celebrated stunter. Another pilot to land at the ELG was Captain Bell in a Bristol Fighter. His mistake was to land with the wind behind instead of against; realising his error he tried to take off again but his wheels caught the gate which led into the adjoining nursery. The aircraft somersaulted, shooting out an unsecured ‘passenger’ who sustained minor injuries which the pilot was able to attend to after releasing himself. The damage to the machine was considerable and a repair party eventually arrived from the RAF Stores Depot at Kidbrooke to dismantle it for removal by road. The repair men included several ‘Yanks’ with large bush hats.

Another and frequent visitor in his Camel was Clapham, also a great stunter. One of the reasons for his visits was to see his girlfriend in Lake Avenue in the adjoining parish of St Andrew’s near Sundridge Park. Sometimes he could be heard shouting from his aircraft as it took off, ~Goodbye Vera’. Also for domestic reasons were the occasional visits of Lieut Wilfred Ellercamp whose father, a Clerk in the India Office, had been a Churchwarden at St Augustine’s for nearly a quarter of a century. Another occasional visitor was Brian Allen of Lee in an SE5. Other aircraft would land after losing their way. The RAF men in the sheds would redirect them. Later in the year was the Vickers Vimy which was still undergoing trials. One of the prototypes stayed at Grove Park for several days due to engine trouble until it was able to fly back to Joyce Green. No mention was made of the E LG in the church magazines and it was not until October that mention was even made of the Gun Station when Luffman, writing for the November issue, appealed for the loan of a harmonium for the men there. “The nature of the work makes it necessary for the men to be always on the spot”.

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