Aviation Centenary Committee
Who are we ?
We are a sub-committee of Eastchurch Parish Council but are composed of members representing Eastchurch and Leysdown Parish Councils, Sheppey Heritage, Swale Borough Council, Big Fish Band, education, local historians, local aviators and residents.
Our Aims and Objectives
To celebrate the Centenary of flying in Great Britain with particular reference to the Isle of Sheppey’s involvement from early 1909 by:
- Showing the World the place in history, which the Isle of Sheppey has contributed to aviation; what was carried out and achieved here and elsewhere on the Island. E.g., The first aircraft factory, first flight by a British subject and issue of the 1st British Pilots Licence, Delta Wing aircraft and the first Ship launch of an aircraft.
- Raising awareness amongst Islanders and especially young people.
- Organising and conducting events to celebrate this history.
- Leaving some appropriate ‘landmark’ to record these events.
- Liasing with and complementing other Island based aviation proects.
- Raising funds as necessary to carry out the above functions.
With so many ‘firsts’ at different dates in 1909 the Aviation Centenary Committee chose the weekend of 25th & 26th. July 2009 to celebrate these events as
SKY SHEPPEY 2009.
These are ‘Not for Profit’ events being organised by Eastchurch Parish Council through their Aviation Centenary Committee to celebrate the Centenary of Aviation on the Isle of Sheppey.
Briefly: in February 1909, the first ‘flying ground’ in the United Kingdom was opened by The (Royal) Aero Club and Short Brothers Ltd at Shellbeach, Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey.At Shellbeach, J.T.C.Moore-Brabazon (later Lord Brabazon of Tara) became the first Englishman to fly in Britain. Messrs Short Brothers set up the first Aircraft Factory in Britain, where, after a visit by the Wright Brothers, they contracted to build Wright ‘Flyers’ under licence.
There too, the first circular mile flown by a British pilot in an All- British machine won the Daily Mail prize of £1000 in October 1909.
In November 1909 the Hon.C.S.Rolls (of Rolls Royce fame) was the first to land at Eastchurch where (Sir) Francis McClean had purchased a more suitable ‘airfield’. The (Royal) Aero Club hangers and the Shorts Aircraft Factory then moved here over the following months.
(Sir) Francis McClean later paid for the first four Royal Naval officers to learn to fly at his own expense. Thus was founded the Royal Naval Air Service (later part of the RFC then RAF). Eastchurch Aerodrome became home to the R.N.A.S. during WW1 and continued as an RAF Station through the inter war years and into WW2.
Although not designated a front line Aerodrome in WWII, Eastchurch became very crowded with numerous Polish and British Fighter Squadrons and Coastal Command aircraft based here, or in transit. Eastchurch Aerodrome was the first to be attacked on Eagle Day the 13th. August 1940. Five Blenheims were wrecked together with all 6 Spitfires of 266 Squadron. 12 personnel were killed and 26 badly wounded. These raids continued throughout August into early September. The airfield continued as a forward operating and training base until the end of the war and was relinquished to the Home Office in 1950 to become England’s first ‘Open’ prison.
It is with profound regret we record the death of
Capt. John Carter (25th December 1938 – 9th December 2008).
John, founding Chairman of the Eastchurch Aviation Centenary Committee, is sorely missed, his dedicated commitment to the aims of ‘Sky Sheppey’ laid the foundations of a new episode in the long history of our Parish.
Committee (from 19th December 2008)
Fiona Jackson. Secretary of Committee firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Stringer. Chairman. (Local Resident. Vintage Austin Register)
Cllr. Mike Brown. Vice-Chairman. (Eastchurch Parish Council & Sheppey Heritage Trust)
Cllr. Kathleen Carter (Eastchurch Parish Council)
Cllr. Bill Betts (Eastchurch Parish Council)
Cllr. Andy Booth (Eastchurch Parish Council & Swale Borough Council)
Paul Murray (Cheyne School)
David Hughes (Historian)
Chris Reed (Big Fish Band)
Cllr. Brenda Herdman (Leysdown Parish Council)
Lyn Newton (Regeneration Manager [Culture & Liveability] Swale B.C.)
Michael Loxton (Island Aviation)
Cllr. David Purssord (Leysdown Traders Association & Leysdown Parish Council)
Bill Croydon (Sheppey Heritage Trust)