Randolph Trafford - The Flying Years, by James Baxendale O.B.E.
1927 - 1943
Guest Contribution Introductory Note: Richard Randolph William Rawson Trafford was Lord of the Manor of a part of Ewyas Lacy by virtue of his ownership of the Michaelchurch Court Estate from 1910 until his death in 1943. His residence in Herefordshire was at Michaelchurch Court in the parish of Michaelchurch Escley, more details of which [and of the Trafford family history] are given elsewhere on the website. Between the World Wars Randolph Trafford became a well-known aviator, and his great-nephew, James Baxendale,OBE, has written an account of his life and times which is reproduced in full below with the author’s kind permission. The original article has been updated in 2012 to incorporate additional contemporary letters and other material that have lately come to light from the family archives.
Ewyas Lacy Study Group
A PIONEER OF AVIATION IN HEREFORDSHIRE AND GENEVA
THE FLYING YEARS 1927-43
Randolph , 1939
Once he flew for love and beauty
Then to fight all evil things
So that when he ’ s done his duty
He can smile and fold his wings[i]
Randolph in his Morane-Saulnier MS-137
What did you do in the 1920s and 30s if you were young, wealthy and adventurous? If you were Randolph Trafford, you bought a plane, built you own airfield and flew. A 100 years since his birth – and 80 years since he learnt to fly – it seems a good time to look back.
Randolph was born into a well-off Herefordshire family in March 1907. His father died in 1910 when he was three, and as the only son – ‘the Squire ’ – he knew that he stood to inherit the estate when he reached twenty-one. A large portrait of him, painted in France in 1911, shows a slightly precocious four year old child in a blue page boy suit.
by Charles Levy, 1911
It is clear that Randolph was bitten by the desire to fly at an early age. Following his father ’s death, in the sweltering summer of 1911, his mother took him and his elder sister, Margaret, to Trouville in France. There, aged four, he saw his first plane. Margaret, in her unpublished memoirs, recounts the event:
One day when we were on the beach, we saw an extraordinary sight – a Flying Machine (which we call an aeroplane today). It was one of the first and the pilot was obviously hoping to be able to fly to Le Havre – a distance across the sea of, possibly, twenty miles. He was one of the few and much talked about pilots of the time – a man called Vedrenne. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing and gaped at this amazing thing starting to go over the sea. It was still very near the beach when it crashed. The end of one wing was still sticking out of the sea and the people ’ s gasps of horror turned into cheers of delight when they saw the Pilot climb onto it. People rushed into the sea in their clothes and he was carried to the beach by several of the tallest men. On the beach everyone was crowding round him trying to touch just a bit of his coat. I joined the crowd and managed to do so!
It had made a great impression on little Randolph. From that time on he was determined he would be what was known as an ‘ airman ’ .[ii]
Jules Védrines, and his Morane-Borel, 1911
The pilot was Jules Védrines, the winner in May of that year of the Paris-Madrid Air Race. Védrines had only just returned from completing the Round Britain race earlier that month when he begun, on 13 August 1911, the first flight from Paris to Deauville, delivering parcels and newspapers. But on 16 August, flying from Paris, the engine of Védrines ’ Morane-Borel Monoplane suddenly cut out just as he was about to land at Trouville, leading to him crashing in the sea – the event witnessed by Randolph and recounted years seventy years later by his sister. [iii]
Védrines, in his own memoirs, described this defining event for Randolph as follows:
Just as I was to perform a beautiful loop before landing, my engine backfired a few times and suddenly stopped. … it was 12.30 and Trouville looked totally different to what it did at 6 o ’ clock in the morning. There was a mass of people and, arriving like a whirlwind in the middle of all this, I risked decapitating a dozen poor people …. So I had to take a decision in a tenth of a second and the result of this quick meditation was that I headed resolutely above the sea, having decided to drink a drop.
My plane was a better swimmer than I would have believed and I could hope that it would not become heavy immediately and could act as a refuge for me, until someone came to fetch me.
What bothered me the most, was to tell myself that, over there, on the beach, there was a flock of gentlemen and ladies who were in the middle of watching me drown. What must they be thinking of me?
Finally, at the very moment that my plane was about to leave me completely and disappear under the water, I was pulled from the unfortunate position I was in. … The little boat into which I had been put dropped me on the shore where several hundred people – to whom I have given a show worthy of Punch and Judy – were waiting for me.
When I wanted to walk, I noticed that in my fall, I had severely bruised my left arm and leg. I had to be supported in order to allow me to move forward.
My plane was equally fished out, but it was decided that it had suffered much more than I had in our common fall. [iv]
The thought of flying did not leave Randolph throughout his childhood. On his death, in 1943, his sister Margaret wrote a poem in memory:
We see you now, a bright-eyed gold-haired child,
Demanding paper ships – then aeroplanes,
We hear you say you ’ ll some day sail a ship
And fly above the clouds, above the rains.[v]
In addition to planes, Randolph was also keen on sailing. In 1938, he bought a yacht and set sail for the Mediterranean.
Randolph ’s mother, Bettina, married a second time in 1913, Alfred Octavius Capper, a well-known entertainer and thought-reader. This second marriage did not, however, lessen Randolph’s importance in his mother’s eyes, she clearly continuing to adore and spoil him in equal measure. A smartly printed programme for Randolph’s seventh birthday, on the eve of the Great War, describes magicians, piano recitals, sketches and recitations, no doubt inspired in large measure by his new step-father.
Programme for Randolph’s
Randolph , aged circa 12
2. Switzerland : the 1920s and learning to fly
Randolph’s step-father, Alfred, died suddenly in 1921 on his way back from a tour in France raising funds for the waifs and strays (while Randolph was at school at Harrow[vi] ). Alfred ’s death, wrote Margaret,
was a terrific shock for my mother and eventually [Randolph] persuaded her to come and live in Switzerland for a time. He had heard there was good flying training there and so at last he would be able to take up flying. [vii]
They moved to Switzerland in 1926. Randolph, aged just eighteen, was with his mother in Geneva and Italy from late December 1925-early March 1926 and again from the end of March to mid May (returning to England just after the General Strike had ended).[viii] In December 1926, Randolph, still a minor, purchased a plot of land at Bellevue on the shore of Lake Geneva for Swiss francs 62,760, and had a house built. [ix] The land was close to Geneva, just a couple of miles from the small Cointrin airport.
Chalet at Bellevue, 1927
Photographs in Randolph ’s photograph album for 1927, show not only his new aeroplane (his mother nearly always in the picture), but the recently built house, as well as a visit they made to the world-famous Vevey wine festival in August of that year. [x]
Morane-Saulnier MS-137 CH-184
Morane-Saulnier MS-137 at Cointrin Airport, 1927
In 1927, Randolph started to learn to fly. He bought or leased a Morane-Saulnier MS-137. The MS-137 registered on 24 June 1927, bore the registration number CH-184. [xi] First produced in 1927, the MS-137 was a trainer aircraft – a variation of the MS-138. It had a top speed of 87.5 mph or 140 km/h. [xii] Randolph had his coat of arms, ‘Now Thus ’, and initials, ‘R.R.W.R.T. ’ painted on the side.
The log book for the CH-184 shows in detail Randolph ’s training under his instructor, Marcel Weber. The initial flights, starting on 4 July, and lasting up to August 1928 – when he appeared to qualify as a pilot – were largely for durations of just 5 minutes.
In August 1928, Randolph put forward his name to become a member of the Aéro-club de Genève. In January 1929, Randolph ’s name appears for the first time on the annual list of qualified pilots in Switzerland. He held pilot licence number 72. [xiii]
Cointrin Airfield, the Aéro-club de Genève and Marcel Weber
Cointrin aerodrome, 1930
Cointrin airfield – now Geneva International Airport – was a small airfield at the time. In 1927, it had only one untarmaced runway, a house and a hangar. Just four private aeroplanes, including Randolph ’s, were based there in 1929. Marcel Weber, who had learnt how to fly during the First World War, was in charge. Weber had been responsible for Cointrin airfield since 1922 and, from March 1926, became a flying instructor. Randolph, therefore, would likely have been one of the first people Weber taught to fly, since, at the start of 1929, only two other civilian pilots were based at Geneva, Frédéric A Dufaux and Marcel Geneux-Fox, both taught by Weber.
Jean-Pierre Weber, Marcel ’s son, although a child at the time (he was five in 1927), remembers Randolph as a tall man, overt et sympathique . He used to go to Randolph ’s house in Bellevue with his parents and eat English delicacies, which were not found in Switzerland at the time. [xiv]
Marcel Weber may also have been influential in Randolph ’s subsequent purchase of a Gypsy Moth. Weber bought a Gypsy Moth for the Aéro-club de Genève in October 1928, a second in March 1929 and a third in December 1929. In 1934, Weber became the official agent for de Havilland in Switzerland.
Family visit 1928
In the early summer of 1928, Randolph ’s family came to stay at Bellevue: his mother, grandmother, sister (Margaret), brother-in-law, aunt and uncle. On the way out or back, they stopped off at Ypres to visit the World War One battlefields, and in northern France to visit the grave of Randolph ’s uncle, Dick Partridge, who had been killed in September 1918. Once in Switzerland, they toured around in Randolph ’s Rolls Royce Phantom I, visiting Glion, and of course flew in Randolph ’s plane. Margaret, in her memoirs, describes flying over the Alps thus (confusingly, recounting the episode as if it were Randolph talking):
My flying instructor would take them up daily in my little two seater plane – I refer to my sister and uncle, each one determined to go over higher mountains than the other. My sister won, going over the top of Mont Blanc the only time on their visit when the top was out of cloud. She said it was a wonderful sight to look down on it bathed in pink sunlight.[xv]
The flying instructor was no doubt Marcel Weber.
CH-184 flying over the Alps
Stanley Orton Bradshaw, 1928 [xvi]
Interestingly, they were also there when, in May 1928, Dieudonné Costes and Joseph Le Brix visited Geneva in their famous Bréguet XIX, Nungessser-Coli , on their celebratory tour of Europe. Costes and Le Brix had just flown round the world, including making the first crossing of the south Atlantic from Senegal in Africa to Brazil. Photographs taken by Margaret show the plane at Geneva with Uncle Windy (Corbett-Winder) in the foreground.
Costes and Le Brix at Geneva,
Uncle Windy in the foreground, May 1928
Meetings and flying across the Channel
Meeting at Planeyse (Neuchâtel, Swtizerland)
5-7 May 1928[xvii]
Randolph attended a number of meetings in the CH-184. [xviii] In 24-25 May 1928, he flew with Weber to a meeting in Lyon. On 12 July 1928, Randolph tried, with Weber, to fly to England. But mechanical failure forced the plane to land at Saint-Inglevert near Calais, after which the plane had to be completely overhauled by the manufacturers. Randolph tried again, this time successfully, the following year. Having flown to Lyon on 13 May 1929 with his mother (getting lost on the way and being forced to land in a field), he then took off two days later to cross the Channel on his own,[xix] arriving at Lympne airport on 17 May. It was clearly cold since, according to his diary, on landing he went to bed for the next three days with a cold and neuralgia.[xx] May, June and July were spent flying extensively around England, including taking members of his family for rides in his plane.[xxi] A family cine film exists from this time of the CH-184 taking off and landing.[xxii] Basing the plane out of Stag Lane airfield (near London) [xxiii] and Gloucester airport, he flew extensively to Michaelchurch and nearby Bacton as well as attending a flying meeting in Connington airfield, near Peterborough (on 9-10 June). He flew back over the Channel on 28 July, leaving the CH-184 at the Morane works in V ézily-Villacoublay near Versailles until 2 August.[xxiv] He spent the intervening few days relaxing in Paris and going to the Folies Bergère. He returned to Geneva on 4 August. Basle ’s photographic archives has an interesting photograph of Randolph next to his plane at Basle airport on his return trip from England.
Randolph at Basel, 2 August 1929 [xxv]
At the start of September 1929, Randolph again flew across the Channel to England, for eight days, accompanied by a friend, Gilliandro. He flew to Bacton (near Michaelchurch) and up to Bakewell in Derbyshire, for lunch with his sister at nearby Stoke Hall. On his return to Geneva, he was forced to land at Dijon due to an oil leak. The plane was subsequently taken by train from Dijon to Geneva. [xxvi]
Randolph was back in Geneva at the end of June 1930. On 14 July, he flew for a third time (solo) across the Channel. July and August were spent flying, principally around Herefordshire and Gloucester, although the log book records six days spent at Edenhall in Cumbria from 20-26 August. [xxvii] The last flight recorded in the log book was from Bacton to Gloucester airfield on 7 September 1930.
3. England : the 1930s
DH60G Gypsy Moth G-AADD
On 6 November 1928, Randolph registered a Gipsy Moth in his name as Topsy II . It was issued with a Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) on 21 December 1928. However, Randolph sold it less than 6 months later on 5 June 1929 to John R C Quilter of Stag Lane. His diary for 1929 makes no mention of the plane, and although Flight magazine mentions this plane as registered to Randolph,[xxviii] it does not appear that he flew it. The plane was exported the following year to Canada. It overturned in high winds in August 1937 on Blue Sea Lake and was wrecked.
DH60G Gypsy Moth G-ABAM
Randolph next to his Gypsy Moth
Gypsy Moth at Michaelchurch
In June 1930, Randolph bought a de Havilland Gypsy Moth (production number 1263), with the registration number G-ABAM. He called it Topsy III . It received its Certificate of Airworthiness on 19 June 1930 and was insured for £2,000. [xxix] The Gypsy Moth, first produced in 1925, was in many ways the classic biplane of the 1930s. It had a top speed of 102 mph or 164 km/h and a range of 320 miles or 515 km.
Gypsy Moth G-ABAM over Michaelchurch,
Stanley Orton Bradshaw, 1930
Return to Michaelchurch
Randolph with his rare birds, Michaelchurch Court, 1930s[xxx]
Gypsy Moth G-ABAM with Mrs Capper on ‘Peter’ at Ross Harriers hunt meeting, November 1930 [xxxi]
Perhaps the purchase of the Gypsy Moth provided some of the motivation to move back to England on a more full-time basis. 1928 was the year that Randolph came into his inheritance of £100,000 (equivalent to more than £4 million today). However, it was not until 1931 that Randolph actually moved back into Michaelchurch Court. Randolph undertook extensive alterations to the Court, [xxxii] knocking down walls to make bigger rooms, pulling down the old stables, building a swimming pool, and, most important of all, building himself an airfield in the fields behind the house. [xxxiii] Later in the 1930s, Randolph also leased a flat in a newly-built apartment block in London, at 55 Chesterfield House, Mayfair. [xxxiv]
Map of airfield at Michaelchurch [xxxv]
The 1930s were perhaps the golden years of Michaelchurch Court. His niece, Lindsey, although only a young child in the late 1930s, remembers her regular visits there as idyllic times. Certainly, there was a lot of entertainment done, as the visitors ’ book shows. Visitors came from all over: France, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, even Moldavia. Baron Robert and Baroness Diane Berckheim de Watteville from their beautiful château, Schoppenwihr, near Colmar in Alsace. [xxxvi] Baron R A and Baroness Frideswith de Lyndon from Holland. [xxxvii] Actors. And, of course, pilots. [xxxviii] Many of the visitors flew in an aeroplane for the first time: Baptême de l ’ air! ; First flight – longing for more . They left other notes too: The Garden of Eden ; Not wanting to leave at all ; From the way I have been treated, I might have been the Prince of Wales . Some of the visitors were likely Randolph ’s gay friends, since Randolph himself was homosexual, something his mother and sister much disapproved of. [xxxix]
In July-August 1936 Francis Biddle visited Michaelchurch with his wife, Katherine, and their son, Randolph. In early 1940, Francis Biddle was to become Solicitor General under President Franklin D Roosevelt and then, in 1941, Attorney General, in which position he served for the duration of the war. In 1945, he became the main US judge of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. Katherine Biddle was a minor American poet. It is not known why the Biddle ’s came to stay – possibly there was a connection with Katherine (as Randolph also wrote poetry) – but they clearly stayed in touch thereafter. On 30 March 1940, having seen a photograph of Francis Biddle in the 19 February edition of Life magazine, following his appointment as Solicitor General, Randolph sent a telegram to the Biddle ’s in Washington DC: Just seen excellent photo in Life. Many congratulations on appointment. All best wishes to you all. Ever yours Randolph Trafford . [xl]
Randolph clearly flew a lot during these years. The Hereford Times reported in its columns,
A Herefordshire Airman
In this issue we are able to give an aerial picture of the floods at Hereford - another example of the fact that the Hereford Times is always first with the news and the views.
Mr R.R.W.R Trafford of Michaelchurch Court, the first individual in Herefordshire to own and fly a machine - he now has a monoplane and a biplane - flew over Hereford on Thursday and was so struck by the scene from the air, with Hereford in flood, that he landed at the Racecourse and came to our office to tell us about it.
Would anyone care to go up to see? Certainly. In a few minutes Mr Trafford had his machine over the St Martin’s district, and the Hereford Times photographer was getting his picture.[xli]
But although flying was his main preoccupation during these years, it was not the only thing he got up to. In 1935, he acted in the West End production of Murder in Motle y at the Winter Garden Theatre in Drury Lane. [xlii] Randolph played the part of Dr Congrieve. The star of the play was Jack Melford, already well-known, who was to appear in over 80 films up until the 1960s. [xliii] Randolph of course invited many of the cast to stay at Michaelchurch.
Randolph liked cars. He owned a Rolls Royce (registration no VJ 989), an Amilcar (registration no YK 86) a Lagonda, a Sunbeam and an Essex Terraplane (and in Switzerland, a Citro ën ). [xliv] He was President of the Wye Valley Auto Club for a number of years, and hosted various competitions of the Club at Michaelchurch Court. According to Hedley Wilding (born 1917), the owner of the petrol station in Vowchurch, Herefordshire, the Auto Club used to hold time trials down the front and back drives of the Court. Somebody was directed to stand at the entrance to the Court to ensure that no cars were coming in the opposite direction when the cars sped out of the drive onto the road. [xlv] Randolph was also the inaugural member of the Hereford Gliding Club, which was formed in 1936 and President of the Escleyside Agricultural Society.
A newspaper article, which appears to be dated June 1932,[xlvi] reported:
On Sunday, at the Weir End, Ross-on-Wye, a motor rally was held under the auspices of the Western Centre of the Auto-Cycle Union. Over 100 motor-cycles and cars were present, whose drivers took part in the various sports and competitions such as chasing an aeroplane piloted by Mr RRWR Trafford, egg and spoon motor-cycle race, three-legged football match, and guessing competitions.
Mr Trafford also gave a demonstration to the gathering of how not to fly, an exhibition which provided plenty of thrills and excitement for the onlookers. …
And Randolph travelled. In 1931, he made a world trip, spending two weeks in Ceylon (including visiting his late father’s old tea estate at Poyston), followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan (whilst in Tokyo, he picked up some mandarin ducks for his ‘zoo’ at Michaelchurch), Vancouver, the Niagara Falls, New York and, finally, home on the Aquitania .
Randolph appears to have been in New Zealand in April 1933.[xlvii] In 1934, he made another world trip, this time to Australia for the centenary celebrations of the State of Victoria, attended also by Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester. The Times noted in September 1934,
Mr Trafford has left Michaelchurch Court and is sailing today for Australia. No letters will be forwarded.[xlviii]
He stayed with Dr Leslie Utz and his wife Lorna in Sydney in October-December 1934.[xlix]
The Utz’s have prepared a lovely time for me; we have four days racing in Melbourne and then go to Sydney, we stay in Melbourne about a fortnight and the other days will be taken up with the Centenary Exhibition and celebrations, theatres, dances, etc.[l]
Despite all the excitement, he had not completely forgotten his flying:
I forgot to tell Cooper about turning over the propeller of the Moth. I only want him to open the doors of the hanger and turn over the prop about ten times slowly about once a fortnight. No need to pull the machine out. Also it wouldn’t hurt to jack up the wheels. Do not run the engine.[li]
Randolph ’s presence in Australia did not go unnoticed, the Australian Women’s Weekly commenting on the ‘English visitor’, Mr Randolph Trafford who, along with a couple of others, ‘all towered over their fellow men at this week’s functions .’[lii]
Filling up with petrol
Wilding remembers filling up Randolph ’s Gypsy Moth. He said that Randolph used to land his plane in a nearby field. We ’ d carry the fuel across – it took 28 gallons in all – but Mr Trafford insisted in tipping it in himself. He filtered it through two layers of gauze, but you can ’ t blame him for being careful. A blocked carburetor is no fun at 1,000ft. [lv] Mr Wilding kept a few hazy photographs of Randolph ’s plane being filled up.
Hedley Wilding, circa 1930 [lvi]
4. Air Rallies
‘German Aviators’ Interesting Visit to Michaelchurch Court’ , 1 July 1934 [lvii]
Mixing in these international circles, and with an airfield of his own – reputedly the first in Herefordshire – it was only natural that other pilots would come to visit in their planes. Visits took place each year from 1931-37.[lviii]
The Hereford Times reported that four ‘machines’ had arrived at Michaelchurch on 1 July 1934. They had been participating in the RAF Air Pageant at Hendon the previous day, as guests of Lord Jeffery Amherst (5th Earl Amherst) [lix] and Richard (Dick) L ’Estrange Malone of Heston.
Mr Trafford went into the air to welcome the first of the two visitors, who arrived in two planes, and shortly afterwards two more machines were sighted, and they quickly came to rest on the 20 acres landing-ground which Mr Trafford has had prepared for his own use. …
The German airmen all spoke in the highest terms of the wonderful display of flying they saw at Hendon, and expressed themselves as delighted with the Herefordshire countryside.[lx]
The visitors were:
Baron Alexander von Winterfeldt
Baron Alexander von Winterfeldt
Baron Alexander von Winterfeldt (born 11 December 1898, died 16 May 1942) was the son of a Prussian Major General. As a fighter pilot in 1918, he shot down four planes. During the Battle of Britain, he was a Group Commander of JG 52, the most successful Luftwaffe fighter wing of the war. He had a total of 13 victories and was awarded the Knight ’s Cross of the Iron Cross in July 1941. He was killed in a flying accident in May 1942.
Mrs Calthrop, Margaret Hunter, Mrs Capper and Capt Michael Hunter
Mrs Calthrop, Herr Schechner and Randolph
Photographs in the Hereford Times show Margaret and her husband, Captain Michael Hunter, a Conservative MP at the time, who was in favour or rearmament against a resurgent Germany, next to the tail of one of the planes, replete with Nazi swastika. [lxii]
Further visits by German aircraft followed, on 30 June 1935 and again in June 1936.[lxiii]
Three Counties Air Race, 18 September 1936
Randolph did not participate in the Three Counties Air Race, but his airfield at Michaelchurch was used as one of the two turning points for the race, when the race was shortened to avoid clashing with the London-Cardiff race (thus becoming simply the Hereford Air Race). The race was won by Mr R F Hall, in an Avro Cadet, with Mabel and Sheila Glass (the ‘Middlesex Flying Sisters ’) coming second, in a de Havilland Moth. The fastest time was put up by W Humble, the winner of the King ’s Cup, in a Miles Hawk Speed Six. He did the 90 miles at a speed reaching 190 mph. [lxiv] [lxv]
Rallye Aérien International des Grand Vins de Touraine, 24-25 July 1937
Photograph of Pierre Parâtre of Air
Touraine, given to Randolph, Tours 1937
‘ Got first prize at Tours Air Rallye last week. Forty entries ’ . [lxvi]
I n July 1937, Randolph participated in the international air rally of the Grand Vins de Touraine at Tours. The competition was a treasure hunt. Numbers were laid out in various vineyards in the Loire Valley. The competitors, who were given a list and the position of the vineyards, had to find the numbers and write them on a piece of paper. They then had to drop their answers at a particular spot at the airfield at Tours. The winner was the person with the correct answers and whose piece of paper landed closest to the spot marked at the airfield. Randolph won, out of 38 competitors. Dick Malone, it appears, was his co-pilot. He won une magnifique coupe en argent offerte par M Dreyfus, constructeur des parachutes Aviorex . [lxvii] The competitors spent the rest of the weekend visiting vineyards and attending various dinners.
The Michaelchurch Air Rally, 29-30 August 1937
Programme of Michaelchurch Air Rally, 1937 [lxviii]
In August 1937, Randolph held a small air rally of his own at Michaelchurch.
The French newspaper, Le Journal La Touraine Républicaine , described the event thus:
M. Trafford avait invité nos équipages lors de sa visite à Tours, pour notre Rallye Aérien International des Grands Vins de Touraine, dont il gagna la Coupe. Il reçut ses invités d’une façon charmante dans sa magnifique propriété et le lendemain nos équipages se rendirent à Hereford où ils étaient invités à déjeuner par Mme Louise Luard, lord maire de la Ville.[lxix]
Over a dozen aeroplanes participated in the Michaelchurch rally, coming from the UK, France, Switzerland and Germany. Participating were:
Marcel Devaud and Carlos
Aéro-club de Genève,
by Kelen and Derso, 1937
Pierre Parâtre, future President of the Club, with his wife, in a DH-85 Leopard Moth;
M Levy, with his wife, in a Caudron C-600 Aiglon (F-ANVM);
René Roncin, with Alfred Moreau and René Roncin ’s mother as passengers; [lxx]
M Chantreau, with his wife; [lxxi]
Aéro-club de Dieppe
Marcel Legendre, President of the Club, and his wife;
Aéro-club de Genève
Marcel Devaud, President of the Club, with Carlos Garcia-Palacios, [lxxii] from the Secretariat of the League of Nations, as his passenger;
Cardiff Aeroplane Club
Leslie Arnott, with either Dr Llewelyn or Dr Nicol as a passenger;
Redvers Smith, with Mrs R R Smith;
Capt Geoffrey Jones, with Mrs G Jones;
Flying Instructor Kemp, with either Dr Llewelyn or Dr Nicol as a passenger;
Mr Godfrey (flying solo)
Other British aeroplanes
Richard L ’Estrange Malone in a Short Scion;
Leslie Castlemaine, of General Aircraft Ltd, in a Monospar;
German Luftwaffe delegation
Herr Clausen, with Herr Mostler as a passenger, in a Klemm KL-35.
The rest of the German delegation included: [lxxiii]
Major Hans Seidemann (Group Leader in the 1st department of the Luftwaffe General Staff);
Hermann Brand (Frankfurt); [lxxiv]
Herr and Frau Otto Mendl (Vienna);
Many of the visitors had flown direct from the International Air Rally of the Cinque Ports Flying Club at Lympne, which had been held that weekend. Herr Clausen had won the Wakefield Cup at Lympne; Hans Seidemann came fourth.
Other guests included Lord Beauchamp and Lord Trevethin.[lxxv] The 7th Earl Beauchamp, previously Lord President of the Privy Council and later leader of the Liberal Party, he had gone into exile following his ‘outing ’ as a homosexual in 1931, but had presumably returned for the summer. He lived nearby in Madresfield Court, Worcestershire. [lxxvi]
The visitors attended a dinner at Michaelchurch Court and the following day they had lunch with the Mayor of Hereford, and a tour in private cars of the Wye Valley, stopping at the houses of various of Randolph ’s relatives in the area, including Mrs Guy Trafford at Hill Court, and the Corbett-Winder ’s at Handley Cross.
René Roncin ’s mother describes the rally as follows:
The following day, we were the guests of Mr Trafford at his private airfield at Michaelchurch. It was a typical calm English Sunday with French sun. The enchantment of the trip began. … Under the sign of the rose of York, we flew towards Wales, soon followed by M Legendre of Dieppe, M et Mme Deveau (sic) of Geneva and two German planes. Never had Michaelchurch seen such a flock of wings. To facilitate the landing, we were obliged to leave our Farman at Heston and to continue the flight in Mr Malone ’ s 5 seater twin engine Short.
Receptions, official and private dinners, teas, cocktails and more cocktails … how not to abandon oneself to this generous welcome, whose printed programme I have now under my eyes, with a view of Michaelchurch Court on the cover, next to the Trafford coat of arms, set in a theatrical decor. The most authentic and romantic setting you could imagine, with waist-coated servants, family portraits, tapestries, hunting trophies, rare birds and above all flowers in deep halls like those of churches, and in the gardens which prolong the ever green countryside, decorated with ruins, as in the paintings by Hubert Robert, and animated with cattle, as in Corot’ s paintings.
That ’ s how Michaelchurch appeared to us, and the following day, Goodrich Castle and Goodrich Court, owned by Mrs Moffat, and the wonderful house of Mr Corbett-Winder, a great hunter – all more or less related to Mr Trafford and his mother, Mrs Capper, who did the honours with infinite grace – in the vast undulating countryside, with Hereford as its capital.[lxxvii]
The German delegation
The German delegation were possibly invited by Dick Malone, a pilot and German speaker, who had also invited the German pilots to Michaelchurch in 1934 (and had welcomed the visitors from Air Touraine at Lympne). Malone, who translated Seidemann ’s speech at the dinner, was a regular visitor to Michaelchurch between 1935 and 1938.
Major Hans Seidemann, the head of the German delegation, had spent much of 1937 participating in air rallies in Europe. By this time, he was already an experienced pilot, having come joint 7th in the 1932 Challenge [lxxviii] staged in Berlin, flying a Henkel He 64b, [lxxix] and 3rd in the 1934 Challenge, staged in Warsaw, flying a Fieseler Fi 97. [lxxx] On 16 May 1937, he won the Air Race Challenge Cup in the London to Isle of Man race, flying a Messerschmitt Bf 108 (on winning the race, he said it was ‘better to race in peace than in war ’). The following day, he then came second in the Manx Air Derby. [lxxxi]
On 25 July (while Randolph was winning the Air Rally at Tours), Seidemann won the more prestigious Circuit of the Alps Race in Zurich – a 230 mile race round Alpine peaks - flying a Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter at 240.9 mph. [lxxxii]
And then on 28 August, Seidemann was back in England for the International Air Rally at Lympne. He did less well here, flying an Me-108, reaching the final of the Wakefield Cup, but only coming fourth. [lxxxiii] He must have been slightly disappointed, therefore, when he arrived at Michaelchurch later that day (mitigated only by Herr Clausen ’s win for Germany).
But, if Major Seidemann had had a successful 1937 racing aeroplanes, it was his subsequent career that marked him out for fame. In December 1938, he went to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War in support of General Franco. He was Chief of Staff of the Condor Legion, a group of ‘volunteers ’ from the Luftwaffe who served under the command of the Spanish Falange. Shortly after the Second World War broke out, in December 1939, he was made Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe ’s Fliegerkorps VIII. As soon as the Battle of Britain began, in August 1940, he was transferred to the staff of Luftflotte 2, with its headquarters at Brussels, being promoted to Chief of the General Staff of Luftflotte 2 in October 1940 under Field Marshall Albert Kesselring. Luftflotte 2 was responsible for the bombing of south-east England and the London area during the Battle of Britain.
In June 1941, Luftflotte 2, with Seidemann still as its Chief of Staff, took part in Operation Barbarossa and the invasion of the Soviet Union. The following year, in August 1942, Seidemann, promoted to Major General, transferred to Fliegerkorps Afrika, to support General Erwin Rommel in the Desert War. For a short time in 1943, he was Commanding General of Fliegerkorps Tunis, before they were forced to surrender in Tunis in May 1943. From May 1943, until the end of the war, Seidemann, promoted to Lieutenant General and finally to General der Flieger, was Commanding General of Fliegerkorps VIII. For his efforts, he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knights ’ Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest award of the Nazi regime. [lxxxiv] Seidemann surrendered on 8 May 1945, but was not prosecuted at Nuremberg. He died on 27 December 1967.
Herr Clausen and Count Speck-von-Sternberg
Herr Clausen receiving the Wakefield Cup
Herr Clausen was described as ‘an experienced race pilot ’ when he won the Wakefield Cup at Lympne in 1937. The Folkestone Herald has a photograph of him holding the cup. [lxxxv] Clausen is likely Erwin Clausen, one of the ‘aces ’ of the Luftwaffe, who is credited with having shot down 132 planes during the Second World War, before he himself was killed on 4 October 1943 in aerial combat over the North Sea. Like Seidemann, he was awarded the Knight ’s Cross with Oak Leaves.
Herr Clausen, at Lympne caused
an amusing incident when Mr Noel Coward presented the prizes. Herr Clausen, called upon to receive the Wakefield Cup and the £50 that goes with it, raised his right hand in the Nazi salute. Mr Noel Coward, nonplussed for the moment, smiled and hesitantly followed suit. The distinguished guests on the stand and the hundreds of onlookers were delighted. [lxxxvi]
Noel Coward was of course a homosexual and appeared in the Nazi ’s Black Book. Had they succeeded in invading Britain, he would have been arrested and liquidated. [lxxxvii]
Count Speck-von-Sternberg is likely Oberleunant Johannes Speck von Sternberg. He had a less glorious career than either Seidemann or Clausen, but was known to have flown in the Battle of Britain. He was eventually killed on the night of 10-11 May 1941, when his plane crashed south of Birmingham.
Did Randolph realize that these Germans, who he invited so cheerfully to dinner at his house, would two years later be attacking – and come close to defeating – Britain? One wonders what his earlier guest, Francis Biddle, would have thought, later the American judge at Nuremberg, or Geoffrey Lawrence – the younger brother of Lord Trevethin, who sat down to dinner that day at Michaelchurch Court with the German delegation – and who was the main British judge at Nuremberg?
5. Randolph ’ s Yacht, Viva
T owards the end of 1937, Randolph appears to have transferred his passion for flying to sailing. [lxxxviii] In August 1937, he wrote to his sister:
I am in the throws of buying a boat in which I propose to sail the seven seas for several years but mostly the Pacific. Mummy says she will come too so I shall be very happy.
I hate this awful climate have got away from the dreadful winters as often as I could, but the so-called summers seem to be as bad.[lxxxix]
However, it was not until December 1938 that he finally bought the 70ft Steel Auxiliary Schooner, Viva , designed by Linton Hope, from the 8th Baron Howard de Walden, for £3,000. [xc] Once fitted out, he set sail on 17 December from Hythe, seen off by his mother, without waiting for the Lloyd ’s Register of Shipping survey. [xci] In the end, he did not sail to the Pacific, but headed for the Mediterranean. He took with him for crew a local man from near Michaelchurch, Trevor Price. [xcii] Randolph headed first for Gibraltar, with a letter of introduction to the George Townshend, 7th Marquess Townshend and ADC to the Governor of Gibraltar, asking him to ‘give them a party ’. [xciii] He left Gibraltar on 18 March, heading for Sicily, where his cousin, Ivor Manley, owned a hotel. [xciv]
Randolph was in Cannes with friends between May and August 1939. Letters to his mother sent during this period show a hedonistic time, seemingly oblivious to the impending war. From St Jean-Cap Ferrat, he wrote:
Time loses its meaning here. I should have returned to Cannes today, but now I am staying till tomorrow. Bobby gave the crew a marvelous lunch yesterday, the steward told me this morning that they had eaten nothing since. I have never stayed anywhere where I have been able to feel so at home, and I can always pop back on the boat when I want to. We usually bathe from the yacht each morning and evening. … I just cannot be bothered to write to anyone but you; life is too lovely and languid. …[xcv]
Although Randolph’s letters make no mention of the impending war, there is a clue that he realized things might not last forever. On 14 June, despite only having bought the boat a few months earlier, he wrote to his mother:
The owner of the ‘Marie Galante’ … has been to see Viva and there is a possibility of him making a good offer for her.
If he did do so, I should feel I must sell. I have grown to love Viva and it would be a great wrench, especially as I run her myself but I fear the pocket will not meet the expense of keeping her on.[xcvi]
He appears to have been on his yacht when the war broke out. [xcvii] He left the yacht at Sete in the hands of Mr T A Lilly [xcviii] and then with Jean Mestres, to whom he agreed to pay Frs 1,000 per month, and returned immediately to England.
Curiously, Randolph returned to France in 1940. On 30 March, the Naval Attach é at the British Embassy in Paris, gave Randolph permission to travel to Sete on unofficial leave.[xcix] Germany invaded France just six weeks later on 10 May 1940.
In July 1940, a few weeks after P étai n’s Vichy government signed an armistice with Germany,[c] Randolph wrote to his mother:
… I have never heard what has happened re the ‘Viva’ did the Frenchman take over?. And where is Jerry? …[ci]
In October 1940, Mestres sent Randolph a letter from Vichy France assuring him that the yacht was in good condition and that he was continuing to maintain it. However, on 6 February 1942, the yacht was requisitioned by the French authorities. [cii]
6. Second World War
Randolph , c 1939
Randolph c 1940
What I had once done for pure joy could, at last, be done for duty . [ciii]
On 2 October 1939, Randolph enrolled as a temporary Sub Lieutenant (A) in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and was posted to the Fleet Air Arm ’s Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Eastleigh (HMS Raven), near Southampton. [civ] The Fleet Air Arm, part of the Royal Navy, likely appealed to him more because of his combined love of flying and sailing.
Randolph during the Second World War
He wrote to his mother from Eastleigh on 13 November,
This course will take about four weeks and then I shall probably be posted somewhere else.
A few days later he wrote,
I am having a series of lectures on Naval Order and Discipline (including Ranks and punishments etc), Aircraft navigation at sea, prohibited areas now in force in England, instruction in morse and signaling. All this with flying instruction of a special kind, so you see my time is quite full although quite a lot of it is kindergarten stough (sic) to me. … We also have an MP and several people who have given up jobs worth a thousand a year and over and are now living on little more than their pay. (The MP is still getting his £600). [cv]
But despite the war, old habits died hard:
… I went to bed at 8.30 last night and ordered some oysters to be cooked in the D[evonshire] cream and some roast chicken and a bottle of bubby. …[cvi]
In December 1939, Randolph was flying, taking navigation exams and learning to shoot.[cvii] In what appears to be handwritten lecture notes amongst Randolph’s possessions, the first few weeks of training are described as,
Generally being shaken out of civilian easy going habits, and smartened up to be snappy, quick off the mark, and in right frame of mind for instantaneous willing obedience to all orders.[cviii]
On 12 December, he wrote to his mother from the Polygon Hotel in Southampton:
This morning some of us went over the Imperial Airways flying boats they are Enormous (sic), we went over to Hythe in a launch from the Quay you saw me off from in the yacht.
We had to rush back to Estleigh (sic) in time for the fifth sea Lord who flew down and spoke to us at 11.30.
This afternoon I flew with myself for a bit in a Vega Gull, this at least was warm.[cix]
A week later he wrote that he was flying a Hart. [cx] And then on 20 December,
I am rather pleased with myself because I am first of this course to go solo, so I have got on I feel.[cxi]
A report by his superiors of 4 January 1940 appears to justify Randolph ’s optimism:
This officer has considerable private means and has had no previous service experience. He has the responsibility of his age and has shown himself very anxious to accustom himself rapidly to service procedure. He is recommended for early promotion as soon as he has gained a little more service experience.
On 24 January 1940, Randolph was transferred to 755 Squadron at RNAS Worthy Down (HMS Kestrel), near Winchester and promoted to temporary Lieutenant (A).[cxii]
Unfortunately, on 26 January, a couple of days after arriving at Worthy Down, he suffered an engine failure flying a Blackburn Shark (a trainer). He was obliged to make a forced landing at Hucclecote in Gloucestershire. But neither he, nor his passenger, Naval Airman J T Beach, were hurt. [cxiii]
Oddly, whilst he was at Worthy Down, he went house-hunting, viewing a house on the Hamble that he thought he would like to buy. His search continued into late 1941 and May 1942[cxiv]
Further courses continued. Randolph attended the TSR [cxv] course at RAF Abbotsinch, near Glasgow, in June-August, learning to fly the Swordfish and the Shark, and where he was assessed as a torpedo pilot:
Very keen officer who should do well in the service. Good personality. Four dummies and three runners were dropped during course.
This was quickly followed by the DLT (Deck Landing) course at Arbroath with 767 Squadron:
Passed 78% Swordfish and Albacore. A very keen and adept officer and a good pilot. Should do well.
At Arbroath, he wrote to his mother:
Two young fellows who crashed here last Friday were buried today. As Richard would have said the Pilot was too young and venturesome. In other words, he was inexperienced and trying to be clever. It is a warning to others. It is easy to get killed nowadays without doing it unnecessarily. …[cxvi]
The initial training over, Randolph was posted to his first operational squadron, 828 Squadron, which was formed on 16 September 1940. 828 Squadron would prepare themselves for operational deployment abroad and, whilst in training, operate under RAF Coastal Command. Initially based at RNAS Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus) and then RNAS St Merryn (HMS Vulture) in Cornwall, 828 Squadron moved to RNAS Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland in mid November 1940.
It was at this time – October 1940 – that Randolph’s mother moved out of Michaelchurch Court to another building on the estate, The Cottage. The Court was let to the Canadian Air Force.
Randolph ’s love for flying did not abate. Whilst at RNAS Campbeltown, he wrote,
If it were not for my great love of flying I would be fed up. But I adore the flying passionately.[cxvii]
828 Squadron ’s diary for the period September 1940 – June 1941 [cxviii] provides a detailed account of the squadron ’s training. Initially equipped with just two Albacores (just one of which was usable), they were eventually allotted a full complement of ten planes. The other nine pilots in the squadron at the time were:
- Lt Cdr L A Cubitt (Commanding Officer)
- Lt R Ross-Taylor
- Lt Eric Arthur Greenwood
- Lt Williamson
- Lt (A) L E R Bellairs
- S/Lt Howard
- S/Lt Head
- S/Lt Brigden
- S/Lt (A) Donald Richard Mckay
The training involved deck landing, dive bombing, wreck bombing, glide bombing, dawn and dusk attacks, night flying and, of course, lectures. Not everything went smoothly. One plane was written off in a crash on 4 December. Another crashed on landing on 8 January 1941.
Throughout all this, Randolph appeared to thrive. His report from 828 Squadron for 1940 noted that he was an above average steady pilot with much experience of civil flying .
But Randolph ’s operational flying days were to be limited. On 3 February 1941, he went to RNAS Prestwick (HMS Gannet) with Bellairs and Bridgen for ‘compass swinging ’. The flying training and administration offices and Watch Office caught fire and were completely gutted. [cxix] Seven people died in the fire which was believed to have been started in a waste paper bin. [cxx] Randolph, who was in the building at the time, was forced to jump from a third floor window. [cxxi] He suffered a fractured heel, burns to his face and hands, and laceration of the face. The squadron diary recorded it simply: No swinging done due to fire. CO to Prestwick to investigate . By the end of the month, Randolph had already been replaced by Lt (A) Edward Eryl Hughes-Williams. [cxxii]
Randolph was in and out of hospital until July. A medical opinion dated 8 April 1941 by a Dr Robert Stirling of Edinburgh described his injury thus:
I would say that the fracture you have had of the heel bone is of a very severe nature; the bone was not only shortened and driven up but was also split so that the joint below the ankle joint, has been broken into in several places. …[cxxiii]
On 6 July, he wrote to his mother from R N Hospital, Barrow Gurney, near Bristol:
… I am now able to walk with only one stick but only a short distance and I get rather tired, but I am alright again as soon as I sit down.[cxxiv]
When he was finally discharged, he went to stay for a few days with his sister at Gissing Hall in Norfolk. His mother came too. A united family. A happy stay. Perhaps I can come again – one day. [cxxv] On 8 August, the medical board noted: Shore ground duties only . [cxxvi] His flying allowance was also discontinued.[cxxvii] Randolph was deployed to 781 Squadron, where he sat on the selection boards in Oxford under Admiral Arthur Bedford. Finally, on 6 February 1942, the medical board instructed that Randolph should be permitted non-operational flying only .
Randolph ’s report for the period 30 August 1941 – 12 April 1942 noted:
This officer is a very capable and reliable pilot and has shown much commonsense and good judgement in connection with communications and ferry trips carried out by him whilst in this squadron. He is a most superior and pleasant personality and is well above average in intelligence. He is, however, apt to fraternize somewhat freely with junior officers, thus reducing to some extent his powers of leadership … By virtue of his charm of manner he is an excellent officer for interviewing Y scheme candidates.
Sadly for Randolph, his injuries meant that the medical board would never allow him to fly operationally again. Randolph must have been disheartened. Whilst he was confined to England, 828 Squadron embarked in July 1941 on HMS Victorious for the ill-fated attack on Kirkenes, Finland, and then in September 1941 on HMS Ark Royal to Malta, where they operated from Hal Far against enemy shipping to Libya. [cxxviii]
In a sense, perhaps, Randolph was lucky – though he is unlikely to have seen it that way – since 828 Squadron were hard hid. Of his nine colleagues, Cubitt was injured on 1 April 1941, when his plane crashed in Sutherland during an anti-submarine search. [cxxix] McKay was killed in the disastrous Kirkenes strike on 31 July 1941, when the Luftwaffe shot down 15 British aircraft; Bellairs, Ross-Taylor and Howard were taken prisoners of war. [cxxx] And finally, Greenwood, together with the new CO of 828 Squadron, Lt Cdr Langmore, were lost on 18 December 1941, when their Albacore crashed into the sea.
In August 1942, Randolph was finally released from selection boards in Oxford, and released to start training cadets, initially flying round the various areodromes giving lectures to University Air Squadrons and ATC units. By September, however, he was back to flying:
… Flying on the Beam requires a high degree of concentration and after an hour or two my shirt would be absolutely soaking. But it is an excellent thing and eliminates one of the greatest dangers of flying in all weathers – fog. It is also very fascinating. After a week’s course my report says that I am a good safe and Beam approved Pilot and my instrument flying is good and safe. So I am pleased and personally I feel that it has been excellent for me both from the flying point of view and meeting new people. …[cxxxi]
In October 1942, Randolph narrowly avoided an accident:
… I had a rather interesting experience yesterday. I had flown four Cadets and was about to land the fifth when one of my wheels failed to come down so I flew about for half an hour more trying to get the wheel down with all the special emergency devices but it refused to move so it became apparent that I would have to land on one wheel. I flew low phoned the control tower and indicated the spot where I intended to land. All eyes were looking up and an extra fire engine was brought out. Then I made the final approach and was fortunate enough to bring off a really perfect emergency landing only doing the absolute minimum of damage to one wing. The Group Captain who was on the control tower was charming. And I was told this morning that an involuntary round of applause went up from those watching on the control tower. Everyone congratulated me and I feel quite the little hero. I believe the Group Captain has written a nice letter about it to the Commodore at Lee. [cxxxii]
It was in October 1942 that Randolph applied for permission for occasional leave in 1943 to take up the post of High Sheriff of Herefordshire. His record notes:
Not likely to be required for Service abroad during 1943 and that thus could normally be no objection to his being granted unpaid leave during the period he could be required for Sheriff duties.
Randolph ’s final report for the period 1 August – 21 December 1942 notes:
This officer was first employed in 781 Squadron, but is now engaged in lecturing on the FAA to University Air Squadrons and ATC units. In 781 Squadron he was a very adequate and safe pilot. Very cautious in everything he does and never takes risks. Reports indicate that he is being highly successful in his present employment and that his lectures are very much appreciated. Possesses a very charming personality and whilst not overly energetic can be relied upon to carry any work through to its conclusion.
Randolph killed in an air crash
Painting of Fairey Fulmar II serial number X8812 6F [cxxxiii]
Randolph spent his last Boxing Day with his mother at Michaelchurch. [cxxxiv] On 30 December, he wrote to his mother from the Royal Naval Barracks in Lee-on-Solent:
... I go to RAF Station Zoyland today it is in Somerset and then to RAF Exeter on the 4th January for about three days. After that I do not know exactly where but it will be somewhere in Cornwall. I am back here on the 17th or 18th . ...[cxxxv]
On 18 January 1943, Randolph was returning from RNAS St Merryn (HMS Vulture), near Padstow in Cornwall to RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron) – the Naval Air Fighter School in Somerset. He was flying a Fairey Fulmar II, serial number X8812 (coded 6F from its time on board HMS Victorious). [cxxxvi] In the plane with him was Air Artificer John Tyrrell. [cxxxvii] In low visibility, the plane crashed into high ground on Dartmoor and burnt out a quarter of a mile west of Okehampton at Yelland Farm, Tanner Hill, Holsworthy Road. [cxxxviii] Both Randolph and Tyrrell were killed. [cxxxix]
The Hereford Times recorded Randolph ’s funeral:
In the burial ground of the little church of Michaelchurch Escley, in view of his home, Michaelchurch Court, nestling in the foothills of the Black Mountains, the remains of the late Mr R.R.W.R. Trafford were laid to rest on Saturday afternoon. Mr Trafford, a lieutenant in the R.N.V.R., serving in the Fleet Air Arm, was killed while flying the previous Monday. He was … a pioneer of aviation in Herefordshire, and was to have been High Sheriff of Herefordshire this year.…
The coffin, which recorded that Mr Trafford was killed on war service, bore the family crest, and was draped with the Union Jack. Brought to Hereford by train, it was accompanied to Michaelchurch Escley by Mrs Capper (Mr Trafford ’ s mother), and Mrs M J Hunter (sister).[cxl]
Randolph ’ s memorial,
St Michael ’ s Church,
Following the Second World War, and Randolph ’s death, everything that was associated with the Flying Years disappeared relatively quickly. [cxli] The airfield at Michaelchurch was dismantled and returned to agricultural use. In March 1947, Randolph ’s mother received compensation (£4,563.15.5) for Randolph ’s yacht, Viva , which had been requisitioned by the French during World War Two, and its appears renamed Cassiopee . [cxlii] Randolph ’s chalet in Bellevue was sold in May 1948, when circumstances made it easier to travel again, [cxliii] and the gardener ’s cottage in September 1959.[cxliv] [cxlv] Eventually, in 1974, Michaelchurch Court itself was sold.
Chalet at Bellevue, June 2007
What happened to the aeroplanes? The Morane-Saulnier MS-137 CH-184 ended its days in the UK. Although it appears in the Aéro-Revue Suisse as registered in Switzerland up until January 1934, [cxlvi] the log book records that its last flight was to Gloucester on 7 September 1930 – shortly after Randolph had bought his Gypsy Moth. A photograph, inscribed 17 September 1930, exists of an Air Union pilot, René Charpentier, in front of the CH-184, although it is likely that the photograph itself was taken in May 1929 [cxlvii]
René Charpentier, in front of
the CH-184, dedicated to Roger
Maury, [cxlviii] 17 September 1930
Bill Boddy (known as ‘W.B.’), the editor of Motor Sport , recounted the CH-184’s end in the April 1975 edition of the magazine:[cxlix]
When it was pensioned off, the Mourane-Saulnier was brought from Gloucester, probably from the aerodrome that is now Staverton, on a lorry, with the wing removed, to be stored in a shed at the mansion. The wing was taken, probably on a horse-drawn cart, to another shed some distance away. It was not until 1959, they say, that Trafford’s grandmother,[cl] requiring the space, had the ancient aeroplane removed by scrap dealers. The wooden propeller is all that remains, although when it was scrapped the machine was complete, except perhaps for the sparking plugs. That propeller has metal strips on the leading edges, surely not bullet-deflectors of a machine used in the 1914/18 war?
The propeller for many years used to stand against the wall of the porch to the Victorian wing in Michaelchurch Court. It bears the numbers ‘32627 ’ and ‘1155 ’. [cli]
The fate of the DH60G Gypsy Moth G-ABAM is clearer. Randolph sold it in August 1938 to Malling Aviation Ltd. [clii] The following year, on 18 August 1939, a couple of weeks prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the Gypsy Moth crashed at Borough Green, and seems to have been written off.[cliii]
I would like to thank the following, who gave generously of their time in helping me write this article:
Jean-Claude Cailliez, Pionnair-GE, Geneva, for the information on Randolph ’s time in Geneva and his Morane-Saulnier MS-137. He has since published an article on Randolph on his www.pionnair-ge.com website;
Didier Lecoq, Air Touraine, France, for information on the 1937 rally at Tours and for putting me onto the trail of the 1937 Michaelchurch rally. He has since published an article on the 1937 Michaelchurch Air Rally on his www.aeroplanedetouraine.fr website;
Jean-Pierre Weber, for his recollections of Randolph and his father;
Hedley Wilding, for his recollection of Randolph ’s planes and cars;
Andrew Pentland, for information on Randolph ’s Gypsy Moth;
Andy Hunter, for the Stanley Orton Bradshaw watercolours and the Hedley Wilding photographs;
Guy Sheppard, for Randolph’s letters and book of visitors to Michaelchurch airfield;
Michael Sheppard, for the portrait of Randolph;
Marianne Percival of Hereford Library, for searching out the Hereford Times and Hereford Bulletin articles;
Janice Williams of Maidstone Library, for locating the articles on the International Air Rally at Lympne;
Sheila Gaunt of Folkestone Library, also for locating articles on the International Air Rally at Lympne;
Tom Barclay, Library Services, South Ayrshire Council, for information on the fire at Prestwick;
Louise Bloomfield of Lloyds Register, for the information on Randolph ’s yacht;
Nicholas Scheetz of Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA, for the telegram from Randolph to the Biddles;
Gordon Smith of Naval-History.Net, for providing the information on Randolph ’s passenger when he crashed; and
Don Kindell, naval researcher, Ohio, USA, for the information on Randolph ’s plane crash.
[i] From final poem written by Randolph on his last leave, Christmas 1942.
[ii] Margaret Hunter, Unpublished memoirs (1982).
[iii] Camille Allaz, The History of Air Cargo and Airmail from the 18th Century ( 2004), p 24. Védrines was one of the pioneers of early aviation.. Born on 21 December 1881, he died on 21 April 1919, when his plane crashed. It is interesting to note that Randolph ’ s first plane, a Mourane-Saulnier MS-137, was a successor to the Mourane-Borel, which Randolph had seen in 1911, aged four.
[iv] Jules Védrines, La Vie d’un Aviateur (2002), pp 462-465. Translated from the French.
[v] From Randolph – A Memory , by Margaret Hunter, January 1943.
[vi] Randolph was educated at Stone House, Broadstairs, Kent, from Michaelmas 1916 to Lent 1919 (during the war, Stone House moved to Hothfield Place in Ashford). He failed to get into Eton, despite gong to St Cyprian’s, a crammer school in Eastbourne, instead going to Harrow (Bradby’s house). His headmaster at Stone House, Mr Churchill, wrote in July 1918, “He is an extraordinary nice boy and there is nothing but praise to be said of him. Over his work I am worried, and if he really is to leave so extraordinarily young he will have to do an enormous amount of out-of-school work in order to prove successful in his Eton Exams”. In July 1919, the headmaster at St Cyprian’s also wrote, “if Eton falls through, he will benefit very much in every way by spending a year at St Cyprian’s”. Randolph clearly did not thrive academically at Harrow. In Midsummer 1922, he was noted as having come 23rd out of 25 people in his Fourth Form class. In an undated letter to his mother from Harrow, he wrote, “I have been feeling so homesick”. He may have left Harrow shortly afterwards. In September 1922, he went to stay with a friend of the family, Baron Robert de Watteville at the Chateau de Schoppenwihr in Alsace, in order to improve his French. Whilst there he visited some of the First World War battlefields. (School reports and letters in the possession of Guy Sheppard).
[vii] Margaret Hunter, Unpublished memoirs (1982).
[viii] Randolph ’s 1926 diary, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[ix] 340 route de Lausanne, 1293 Bellevue. Deed of purchase, 2 December 1926. The house is on the borders of the communes of Genthod and Bellevue. Whilst it is technically in the commune of Genthod, it is always referred to as being in Bellevue, including its address and in bills of the period. In July 1933, Randolph bought a second plot of land with a small house on the corner of route de Collex and chemin de la Cressonnière, in Genthod (now 2 chemin de la Cressonnière, 1294 Genthod), for the gardener and his wife, M and Mme Alfred Lavanchy, for Swiss Francs 15,000.
[x] The wine festival at Vevey is only held four times a century.
[xi] The plane was registered in the name of ‘ Topsy Club ’ . Whilst a search of the Annuaire Genevois and company records in Geneva for the period reveal that no company of this name was ever registered, nine other planes, which have no connection with Randolph, appear also to have been registered in the name of Topsy Club. According to Jean-Claude Cailliez, Topsy Club was likely the company used by Marcel Weber to import planes for himself, the Aéro-club de Genève, and – for tax reasons – his clients who were not resident in Switzerland. It is, however, clear from the plane ’ s log that between 1927-30, the plane was only used by Randolph. Randolph calls the plane Topsy in the 29 July entry of his 1929 diary (‘I left Topsy at Morane works’ ). Randolph’s second plane, the Gipsy Moth G-AADD, was registered as Topsy II . G-ABAM, Randolph’s third plane, G-ABAM, was called Topsy III (label accompanying a picture of the Gipsy Moth in Randolph’s handwriting).
[xiii] Aéro-Revue Suisse , January 1929, p 18.
[xiv] Interview with Jean-Pierre Weber, 23 July 2007.
[xv] Margaret Hunter, Unpublished memoirs (1982).
[xvi] Stanley Orton Bradshaw was a well-known painter of aeroplanes. In 1930, he painted a number of pictures of the Duchess of Bedford ’ s ( ‘ The Flying Duchess ’ ) Gypsy Moth, which are on display at Woburn Abbey.
[xvii] Club Neuchâtelois d'Aviation, 1927-1977 , p.34
[xviii] Weber also used the CH-184 to attend the Concours Suchard in Lausanne on 5-6 May 1928.
[xix] He followed another plane, called Goliath , which a few days later made a forced landing and burnt out, although no one was hurt. Randolph’s 1929 diary, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[xx] Randolph ’s 1929 diary.
[xxi] On 25 June 1929, he took his sister, Margaret Hunter, and Uncle Ivor, up in the air.
[xxii] The Hunter family film of the CH-184, in the possession of the Baxendale family, was likely taken during Michael and Margaret Hunter’s stay at Michaelchurch between 20 June-2 July. Randolph also flew up to the Hunter’s family home, Stoke Hall, in Derbyshire, on 11 September.
[xxiii] Where he may have met Amy Johnson, who was learning to fly there, with the London Flying Club. She gained her pilot ’ s ‘ A ’ licence at Stag Lane Airfield on 6 July 1929.
[xxiv] Randolph ’s 1929 diary.
[xxv] Basel State Archives, http://query.staatsarchiv.bs.ch/query/detail.aspx?ID=81658.
[xxvi] Randolph likely stayed on with his mother in Switzerland for a short while. Receipts dated October 1929 show that central heating was installed in the chalet in Bellevue in time for winter.
[xxvii] Possibly staying with the Musgrave family. Eden Hall Mansion was demolished in 1934.
[xxviii] Flight magazine, 27 December 1928, p 1090.
[xxix] Insurance certificate, dated 25 June 1930, with British Aviation Insurance Group.
[xxx] Possibly the mandarin ducks that he picked up whilst in Japan in 1931.
[xxxi] The Hereford Times , 15 November 1930 reported that ‘a feature [of the opening meet] at present somewhat unusual was the attendance of a subscriber who came by aeroplane. He was Mr Raymond (sic) Trafford, of Michaelchurch, and he flew from home, bringing along with him his mother, Mrs Capper.’
[xxxii] An accounts book exists of the purchases Randolph made at auction during this period for the Court.
[xxxiii] There is an undated application by Randolph for a licence for a civil aerodrome at Michaelchurch Escley.
[xxxiv] Prior to that, in October 1936, Randolph was living at Elms Mews, Lancaster Gate, London.
[xxxv] From Philip Hughes, Wings Over the Wye (1984), p 83.
[xxxvi] Sadly, the château was destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War, but the gardens have been restored.
[xxxvii] Although he was probably living in London at the time at 37 Pont Street, SW1 (source : Anna Melissa Graves papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Pennsylvania, USA).
[xxxviii] To some, he even lent his plane. See letter dated 17 November 1932, from a friend at RAF, Hendon. I was very sorry to miss you yesterday when I returned your little appareil safe and sound … I enclose a list of flying time which reveals queer “goings on”.
[xxxix] There is an amusing bet from 1935, written in the form of a legal agreement, whereby Major B G Nixon of the Barn Cottage, Ross-on-Wye agreed to pay Randolph £5 per annum for so long as Randolph remained unmarried. If Randolph married, he would pay Major Nixon £100.
[xl] Katherine Biddle papers, Georgetown University, Washington DC. The photograph shows Francis Biddle walking past a painting of himself on his way to work.
[xli] Hereford Times , undated article.
[xlii] Murder in Motley by Fenn Sherie and Ingram D ’ Abbes was not to become a classic of English theatre. It was revived by The Western Players in Swindon in 1953, but thereafter appears to have died a death.
[xliii] Including Dr Who , Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars .
[xliv] According to Mr Wilding, Randolph ’ s Lagonda was built circa 1931-32. The front wings moved with the wheels (Interview with Hedley Wilding, 16 August 2007). Information also from Motor Sport , April 1975, p 362.
[xlv] Interview with Hedley Wilding, 16 August 2007.
[xlvi] In the possession of Guy Trafford.
[xlvii] www.ancestry.co.uk .
[xlviii] Court Circular page, The Times , 21 September 1934.
[xlix] Letters of his stay in the possession of Guy Sheppard. The Utz’ had stayed at Michaelchurch the previous year.
[l] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 22 October 1934, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[li] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 22 October 1934.
[lii] Australian Women’s Weekly, 1 December 1934, p 29.
[liii] A letter dated 10 December 1935, sent from Randolph to his mother, from New York is in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[liv] www.ancestry.co.uk .
[lv] The Daily Telegraph , 27 December 2003. Wilding later corrected the story to say that Randolph filtered the petrol using chamois leather, not gauze. Randolph also insisted on using Shell petrol. In the 1920s, the Wildings had imported Russian petrol. (Interview with Hedley Wilding, 16 August 2007).
[lvi] The photographs ( ‘ refuelling Randolph ’ s Gipsy Moth at Turnastone about 1930 ’ ) have been identified as follows :Left hand photograph : Randolph (pouring in petrol) ; Arthur Wood (Whiteside, at the side), Hedley Wilding (back to the camera). Right hand photograph : Randolph (sitting on the engine) ; Hedley Wilding (passing up petrol cans) ; Raymond Wilding (carrying cans)
[lvii] Hereford Times , 1 July 1934.
[lviii] According to Randolph’s visitors book which he kept for aircraft visiting Michaelchurch (now in the possession of Guy Sheppard).
[lix] In 1946, Lord Amherst became manager of British European Airways, which later merged to form British Airways.
[lx] Apart from von Winterfeldt, it is not possible firmly to identify any of the Germans. Klein may have been identical with Alfons Klein, who was credited with 39 ‘ kills ’ and was also awarded the Knight ’ s Cross of the Iron Cross in April 1945.
[lxi] According to Randolph’s visitors book (see above), they flew in the following planes:
- Klemm L32 D-2587: Baron A Von Winterfeldt and Herr Zölner
- Heinkel Kadett D-EXUV: Herr Schechner and Mrs Calthrop
- Avro 656 G-ABRK : Lord Amherst and Herr Klein
- Avro Cadet G-ACJX : Richard L E Malone and Walter Schumacher
[lxii] Captain Hunter was narrowly to lose his parliamentary seat in 1935 to the Labour candidate by a couple of hundred votes.
[lxiii] According to Randolph’s visitors book (see above), the visitors were:
30 June 1935:
- Focke Wulf D-EKDA : Kurt Tank (Bremen) and Kirus Gunge(?)
- Focke Wulf D-EVOH : Hans Schubert (Bremen) and Biglieter R Blaser
- Klemm 32A D-EBEF : Fus Beinam(?) (Hanover) and Wolfgang Kahuk
- Avro Cadet G-ACZA : R L E Malone and Dr A W Brange
28 June 1936:
- Focke Wulf D-EVOH : Hans Schubert and Andreas von Faehlmanm
- Focke Wulf « Hieglitz » D-EKRO : Kurt Tank and Gottfold Hurtfius(?)
- Tiger Moth OE-DAX : Mus Nikrienb(?) (Vienna) and Julius V…(?)
- Avro Cadet G-ACXJ : R L E Malone and Mark Watson
A Hans Schubert was noted as having 8 kills during his time in the Luftwaffe in World War Two.
[lxiv] Hereford Bulletin , 26 September 1936, p 5.
[lxv] According to Randolph’s visitors book, the following aircraft landed as Michaelchurch airfield:
- Miles Hawk G-ADDK : Kenneth Davis and C H Keen
- Puss Moth G-ABPB : R Lindsay Keale, H L Pewtress and Daphne M Pewtress
- D H Moth G-AAAS : R L E Malone
- Miles Hawk G-ACYO : S C Richards and Myles Bickerton (‘started 21st , finished 12th’ )
[lxvi] Letter from Randolph to his sister, Margaret, 6 August 1937.
[lxvii] La Dépêche , 25 July 1934.
[lxviii] The drawing was by David Ffolkes (born 12 October 1912, Worcestershire) who was staying at Michaelchurch Court between 25 July – 31 August 1936, along with Francis Biddle and others. Ffolkes went to the US as a set designer before World War II. During the war, he was a prisoner in a Japanese prison camp in Burma. He returned to the US after the war, where he became a well-known costume and set designer, including for such films as You Only Live Twice (1967).
[lxix] Journal La Touraine Républicaine , 4 September 1934.
[lxx] Roncin, Moreau and Mme Roncin flew from Tours to Lympne in a Farman 402 ‘ Ville de Tours ’ (F-AMYZ). But they were obliged to leave their plane at Heston, and fly to Michaelchurch in Malone ’ s Short (which had five seats), due to the smallness of the airfield at Michaelchurch.
[lxxi] Possibly Victor Chantreau, who was the first President of Air Touraine. M and Mme Chantreau must have arrived by car, since neither of the articles in the Journal La Touraine Républicaine or la revue Air Touraine mention them and speak of only three planes.
[lxxii] Carlos Garica Palacios (1896-1968) had an interesting life. He did the Tour du Monde several times, and in 1936 was the first American to cross the Sahara in a car. A fighter pilot in both the First and Second World Wars, he was also friends with Antoine de Saint Exupery (author of The Little Prince ), with whom he crossed many remote mountains in South America. In his old age, he became close friends with the actor, Marlon Brando (Cuaderno de Difusion Historica, Serie Historia de Bulnes , no 1 (July 2005), pp 13-14).
[lxxiii] Mme Roncin ’ s article in la revue Air Touraine mentions two German planes arriving at Michaelchurch. It is likely that Hans Seidemann was flying the second plane, since he had competed in the Air Rally at Lympne earlier that day. Presumably, the rest arrived by car.
[lxxiv] Hermann Brand presented the Hermann Brand Prize – an aeroplane stop watch – at Lympne to the first full flying member of the Cinque Ports Flying Club to finish in the final of the Wakefield Cup. The winner was Mr A.J.S. Morris (Folkestone Herald , 4 September 1937).
[lxxv] Baron Charles Trevethin lived also nearby in Monmouthsire. Lord Trevethin ’ s father had been the Lord Chief Justice of England and his younger brother, Geoffrey Lawrence, Lord Oaksey, later served as the main British judge at Nuremberg.
[lxxvi] A possible reason for his being invited – in addition to the fact that he lived locally – was because he was the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The International Air Rally at Lympne had of course been hosted by the Cinque Ports Flying Club. Lord Beauchamp is generally supposed to have been the model for Lord Marchmain in Evelyn Waugh ’ s Brideshead Revisited .
[lxxvii] La revue Air Touraine , November 1937, translated from the French.
[lxxviii] Challenge Internationale de Tourisme .
[lxxix] Registration number D-2260.
[lxxx] Registration number D-IPUS. Marian Kryzan, Miedzynarodowe turnieje lotnicze 1929-1934 (1988, Warsaw), quoted in Wikipedia.
[lxxxi] Gordon N Kniverton, Manx Aviation in War and Peace (1986).
[lxxxii] Don Berliner, A Concise History of Air Racing in www.airrace.com.
[lxxxiii] Kent Messenger , 4 September 1937 ; Folkestone Express , 4 September 1937.
[lxxxiv] Broadly equivalent to the Victoria Cross.
[lxxxv] Folkestone Herald , 4 September 1937.
[lxxxvi] Kent Messenger , 4 September 1937.
[lxxxvii] On learning of the existence of the Black Book, the novelist, Rebecca West, is said to have sent a telegram to Noel Coward saying, My dear - the people we should have been seen dead with .
[lxxxviii] Randolph was a member of the Royal Aero Club until 6 September 1938 (holding Air Touring Card no 687), but there is no evidence that he renewed his membership for 1939.
[lxxxix] Letter from Randolph to his sister, Margaret, 6 August 1937.
[xc] Sadly, no photograph of the yacht could be found. The yacht was sold through The Solent Yacht Agency. Originally called the Mollihawk III , it was built in 1911. A similar 70 ft Schooner, the Mollihawk , also designed by Linton Hope, but built in 1903, survives in Antigua, owned by Nicholson Yachts Worldwide. The Howard de Walden family are one of the major landowners in London, with 92 acres of real estate in Marylebone, including much of Harley Street. Lord Howard de Walden ’ s house at the time was Seaford House in Belgravia Square, now leased by the Defence College. Lord Howard de Walden owned a number of racing yachts. For price of purchase of the yacht, see letter from Anthony Duke (family lawyer) to Mrs Capper, 19 February 1960.
[xci] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 12 December 1939. Correspondence from Lloyd ’ s Register of Shipping to their agent in Gibraltar, 16 March 1939. The absence of the necessary screwshaft survey led to considerable subsequent correspondence from Lloyd ’ s Register.
[xcii] Interview with Hedley Wilding, 16 August 2007.
[xciii] Letter dated 27 January 1939. The letter noted that Randolph would be picking up his mother at Gibraltar.
[xciv] At Taormina. The cable from the agent in Gibraltar said ‘ Viva sailed eighteenth voyage unstated ’ . But Mr Barrenger, the family lawyer, knew that he would be calling in at Sicily.
[xcv] Undated letter in possession of Guy Shepperd.
[xcvi] Letter in possession of Guy Sheppard.
[xcvii] Statement of account dated 22 August 1939 from T Coppin & Son, Cannes. There is also a letter from W B L Steinthal, sent from the City of London, dated 22 November 1939, enclosing some photos (not found) on board the Viva off Cannes in August 1939.
[xcviii] Mr Lily sent Randolph a letter on the condition of the yacht on 28 April 1940, enclosing at the same time a list of the alcohol on board (2 cases of gin and 13 bottles, 2 cases of rum and 10 bottles, 29 bottles of whisky, 9 sloe gin, 2 champagne ’ ).
[xcix] Naval Attach é’s letter dated 30 March 1940 and French visa issued in London on 26 March 1940 in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[c] 22 June 1940.
[ci] Randolph ’s letter to his mother, 22 July 1940, in the possession of Guy Sheppard. The Frenchman is a reference to Marechal P étai n. Jerry was the nickname for Germans during World War Two. The letter was obviously written during a time of censorship, when commenting on politics was forbidden.
[cii] Telegram to Randolph from Jean Mestres, 6 February 1942. The French Riviera was part of Vichy France in June 1940. In 1942, it was occupied by the Italians and the Germans and, following the Italian surrender in 1943, by the Germans, until they were expelled by Allied Forces in August 1944.
[ciii] Margaret Hunter, Unpublished memoirs (1982).
[civ] Royal Navy ’ s records of Randolph Trafford.
[cv] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 16 November 1939, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cvi] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 20 November 1939, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cvii] Randolph ’s exercise book and examination papers from this period is in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cviii] In the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cix] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 12 December 1939. The Vega Gull was a military trainer, manufactured by Percival Aircraft Ltd.
[cx] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 18 December 1939. The Hart was a Hawker Hart trainer, manufactured by Hawker Aircraft Ltd.
[cxi] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 20 December 1939.
[cxii] His letter of appointment is in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxiii] E-mail from Catherine Rounsfell, Curatorial Administrator, Fleet Air Arm Museum, 10 August 2007. The Blackburn Shark had serial number K8501.
[cxiv] Letters from Randolph to his mother, 22 April 1940 and 14 May 1942, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxv] Tactical Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
[cxvi] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 22 August 1940, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxvii] Letter from Randolph to his mother, undated, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxviii] Preserved in the National Archives.
[cxix] Peter Berry, Prestwick Airport and Scottish Aviation (2005), p 36.
[cxx] Dougal McIntyre, Prestwick ’ s Pioneer : A Portrait of David F McIntyre (2004), p 95.
[cxxi] Hereford Times , 23 January 1943.
[cxxii] Hughes-Williams was killed in the Kirkenes strike on 31 July 1941.
[cxxiii] Letter from Dr Robert Sitrling, 19 Cluny Drive , Edinburgh, to Randolph, 8 April 1941 (in the possession of Guy Sheppard).
[cxxiv] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 6 July 1941, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxxv] Visitors ’ book, Gissing Hall, 24-27 July 1941.
[cxxvi] According to his niece, Randolph was told that he would never walk again, but was determined to do so.
[cxxvii] Note from the Director of Navy Accounts, dated 30 September 1941, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxxviii] 828 squadron played an active role in the siege of Malta and performed nightly bombing attacks against Sicily and southern Italy, and anti-shipping strikes against Axis convoys throughout the central Mediterranean.
[cxxix] His position as Commanding Officer was taken by Lt Cdr D E Langmore.
[cxxx] Fleet Air Arm Archive, Raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo .
[cxxxi] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 13 September 1942, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxxxii] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 20 October 1942, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxxxiv] Randolph ’ s niece, Lindsey, had last seen him at her sister, Betty ’ s, 21st birthday party in London in December 1942. Randolph would have spent Boxing Day at his mother ’ s house, The Cottage, since Michaelchurch Court had been taken over by the Canadian Air Force.
[cxxxv] Letter from Randolph to his mother, 30 December 1942, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxxxvi] The same Fairey Fulmar II X8812 (6F) had first been flown on 10 November 1941. It was delivered to 809 Squadron at RNAS Crail (HMS Jackdaw) on 18 November 1941. On the night of 11/12 August 1942, Sub/Lt (A) Hugh Morrison, RNZNVR, flew the X8812 (6F) from the aircraft carrier, HMS Victorious, shooting down a Me-109, south of Sardinia, and damaging a second plane.
[cxxxvii] Air Artificer 4th Class, John William Tyrrell (service number FX 77457). From Fareham, he was aged 20 when he died.
[cxxxviii] Located on Ordnance Survey map (OSGB36) : SX 5490 9427. According to what the family was told, locals saw the plane circling several times, apparently looking for a place to land. The Fire Brigade had already been alerted and was on hand when the plane crashed.
[cxxxix] Fleet Air Arm Death Ledgers (message from RNAS Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus) 1800/18/1/43) and repeated in Ray Sturtivant and Mick Burrow, Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945 (1995).
[cxl] Hereford Times , 30 January 1934.
[cxli] In his will, dated 11 September 1940, Randolph left everything to his mother, except for £3,000 which he left to his friend, Peter Warrington Hallett. The estate was valued at £97,000.
[cxlii] Correspondence between W.G. Barrenger (family lawyer) and Mrs Capper, 1946-47. The boat does not appear in Lloyds Register of Yachts after 1939. It is possible that something happened to the yacht in October 1943 – shortly after the Italians surrendered (in September 1943) and the Germans occupied the French Riviera – since the compensation claim included payment for hire of the yacht at 11% per annum from 6 February 1942 to 5 October 1943.
[cxliii] It was sold to Madame Jenny Louisa de la Geneste, née Boillat, for Swiss francs 260,000 (the equivalent of £15,000) – Deed of sale, 29 May 1948. There may have been some link here too. Jenny was married to Joseph Charles de la Geneste, who appears also to have gained his pilot ’ s licence under the instruction of Marcel Weber in 1932.
[cxliv] Randolph had tried to sell the chalet in July 1941 for £8,000 (without cottage or furniture), but the sale clearly fell through. Randolph’s letter to his mother, 13 July 1941, in the possession of Guy Sheppard.
[cxlv] The chalet was sold for Swiss Francs 57,000. Mrs Capper, Randolph ’ s mother, had allowed the gardener and his wife, M and Mme Lavanchy, to remain in the cottage, rent free, for the duration of M Lavanchy ’ s life.
[cxlvi] Aéro-Revue Suisse , no 2, February 1934, p 44. It does not appear in the 1 January 1935 list (Aéro-Revue Suisse no 2, February 1935).
[cxlvii] The log book for the CH-184 notes that Charpentier made a short flight in the plane in Lyon on 13 May 1929.[cxlvii] Located by Jean-Claude Cailliez in the French periodical, Icare , no 104 (1983).
[cxlviii] Maury was also an Air Union pilot.
[cxlix] Motor Sport , April 1975, p 362. It is almost certain that the story was recounted to him by Randolph’s nephew, Michael Hunter.
[cl] The author means Randolph’s mother.
[cli] According to Bob Gardner of Aeroclocks , 32627 is probably the maker ’ s serial number and 1155 the drawing number (serio numero ). There are two letters before each number, but they are illegible. The length of the propeller is 2415 mm, the external diameter of the hub 195 mm, and the internal diameter 70 mm. The propeller has 8 bolt holes. Mr Gardner was able to confirm that the propeller is of late 1920s design.
[clii] Malling Aviation Ltd was linked to West Malling airfield near Maidstone in Kent, later RAF West Malling.
[cliii] Randolph did also buy a Puss Moth (G-AAXR) on 13 January 1938 from his friend J C Hancock, who had flown the same plane to Michaelchurch in both May and June 1933. But Randolph sold it again on 14 April 1939, a few months after he had sailed to the south of France on Viva . The plane appears to have finished its life with Marlborough College’s Air Cadets’ 525 ATC Squadron.