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Visit by Famous Aviator

Local Historian and Author Mike Wilson

For a small town like Bridlington, the visit of such a famous person as Sir Alan J. Cobham, KBE, AFC, was quite an occasion back in 1931.

On Tuesday, 5th May, that year, Sir Alan landed at Grindale, to the north of the town, where he was met by the Mayor, Alderman H. Harker, and a group of local councillors.

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The mayoral party greet Sir Alan Cobham after he had landed at Grindale in 1931.

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Sir Alan Cobham with the Mayor and the welcoming party outside Bridlington Spa Royal Hall.

Sir Alan had previously visited the town and had delighted many people, including about one hundred school children, with flights over the town and the bay.
The Mayor had driven out to Grindale to meet Sir Alan and later entertained him to luncheon in the town. Sir Alan and the Mayor then went on a tour of the district, so Sir Alan could advise on the most suitable sites for the establishment of an aerodrome.
It was thought that this facility was becoming as rapidly necessary as a bus station.
It was reported that Sir Alan said the town had many suitable sites.
"Bridlington should not be left behind in this matter," he said, and suggested Bridlington seek a government grant for the provision of aerodromes in an effort to encourage civil aviation.
Following his visit, Sir Alan wrote to the Mayor and suggested that the Council visit the sites he had suggested as suitable for an airport.
His letter concluded: "I am of the opinion that if speedy action is taken in this connection, there is no reason why you should not have a temporary landing ground, capable of receiving aircraft, before this season is finished."
Three years earlier, Sir Alan flew low over the town in a huge seaplane on his way to Newcastle. He came from the direction of Hull and passed at great speed over the harbour and bay. Many people saw the seaplane pass. Sir Alan had been invited to lunch but there was insufficient time for him to meet the Council on that occasion.
In 1929 Sir Alan flew his ten-seater de Havilland 61 Giant Moth airliner Youth of Britain into Grindale. The aircraft, registration number G-AAEV, powered by a 500hp Armstrong Siddeley geared Jaguar engine, was making a tour of Great Britain taking children and others for their first flight over where they lived.

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Alan Cobham's "Youth of Britain," which visited Bridlington in 1929.

The tour completed over 100,000 miles and around 10,000 children had flights.
Sir Alan Cobham was world famous for his exploits in early aviation. In 1922 he had flown from London to Belgrade in a day and the following year had been awarded the Britannia Trophy when he flew to Australia and back. For this endeavour he was knighted. He was a pioneer of mid-air refuelling and wrote many books on aviation.

Sir Alan was born on 6th May 1894, and served with the RFC in World War One. He was the first Englishman to fly across the Channel and became famous as a pioneer of long distance aviation. After the war he became a test pilot for the de Havilland aircraft company, and was the first pilot for the newly formed de Havilland Aeroplane Hire Service. In 1921 he made a 5000 mile air tour of Europe, visiting 17 cities in three weeks. In 1924 he flew a Short Singapore flying boat around the continent of Africa landing only in British territory. In August 1926, he flew from England to Australia where 60,000 people swarmed across the grassy fields of Essendon Airport, Melbourne, when he landed his DH.50 float plane. He was knighted the same year. His later exploits included organising flying displays in 1932 and 1935. He became managing director of Flight Refuelling Ltd. He was also the author of several books. He died on 21st October 1973.