In the very early years of flying, Winton had two
nearby airfields - one for a short period was actually known as
"Royal Flying Corps, Winton".
first aerodrome operated in the years 1915-1917 at Talbot Village,
on ground now occupied by Bournemouth University. It was run by
the Bournemouth Aviation Company and largely used to train pilots.
The son of a former Bournemouth mayor, Second Lieutenant
Edward Rebbek was killed there when his aircraft plunged into
Another biplane nearly crashed into the centre of
Bournemouth after taking off from the aerodrome and then suffering
engine failure as it looped over the Square.
Pilots continued to be trained there and it was
requisitioned by the Royal Flying Corps. When the Royal Air Force
was formed in 1918 the base became known as RAF Winton.
Pilots were not only trained in the emerging art
of aerial warfare. They were also told about the amazing new wireless
communication devices at a new RAF Wireless Telephony School on
dangerous nature of flying at the time was highlighted by a number
of "prangs". One highly decorated pilot took off and
circled low while waving to his girlfriend on the ground below.
His plane hit a tree and he was killed.
In 1919 the RAF moved out its wireless school and
the aerodrome became civilian. The inaugural peacetime flight
from the aerodrome was in May 1919 when an ex-RFC Handley Page
bomber arrived with a Lt.Col William Sholto-Douglas at the controls.
Freshly demobbed, the highly decorated pilot had
duelled with Goering over the battlefields of France but was now
a Handley Page test pilot.
A couple of years later Sholto-Douglas was to rejoin
the RAF and rise to head of Fighter Command shortly after the
Battle of Britain.
He went on to be knighted, promoted to Air Marshal,
and made Commander in Chief and Military Governor of the British
Occupation Zone in Germany.
Regular passenger services were established with
London, and there were a number of airshows that drew enormous
crowds with displays of aerobatics and cheap "joy rides".
Among the attractions was Alan Cobham's Flying Circus
But it was racing on the ground and in the air that
made the headlines during the 1920's.
1926 saw the first thrilling spectacle of air racing
in which aircraft tore at high speed along a course marked by
The meeting at Easter 1927 was the largest of its
kind ever to have been held in Britain. The sound of screaming
aircraft engines soon prompted protest.
An angry farmer was arrested and taken to court
after letting loose both barrels of his shotgun at a low flying
biplane. Examination revealed scores of pellet holes in the aircraft's
wing and the court heard that the plane had zoomed over at about
fifty feet above the farmhouse.
Celebrated artist Augustus John appeared in court
to support him. John was a personal friend and lived a few miles
away at Alderney Manor. His testimony obviously had some weight
- the farmer was found not guilty.
But maybe the noise of aircraft was one of the reasons
that a short time later John moved to a new home at Fordingbridge.
More peaceable, but no less outraged, the "Bournemouth
and District United Vigilance Council" staged protests against
flying on Sundays and other religious holidays such as Easter.
Not surprisingly, the air-races brought a string
of accidents. These culminated in the Whitsun weekend of June
1927 which saw the deaths of three pilots.
One aircraft crashed during take off. Two more crashed
in flames after colliding as they roared around a marker pylon.
All air-racing was stopped after that meeting.
company that owned the site went into liquidation and by 1932
the racecourse/aerodrome was being redeveloped for housing.
Today there is no trace of the spectacle and excitement
that gripped thousands in the roaring twenties.
Ironically the original airfield at Talbot Village
briefly got a new lease of life during the Second World War.
In May and June 1944 it was used as a base for the
small single-engined Piper Cubs of the US Army Liason unit. After
D-Day they left to provide reconnaissance and liaison support
for the Allied armies advancing into Europe.
* Pictures courtesy of Flight Collection and