1937 - New aircraft, movie sets and the return of the RAF

With the installation of fuel and hangarage, Denham attracted more aircraft. One especially rare aircraft based at Denham was a Gordon SB.3 Dove, only three of which were ever built. The Dove was a single seat ultra-light aircraft designed by S C Buszard and built by Premier Aircraft Constructions Ltd at Maylands Aerodrome near Romford. Of the three built, the last, G-AEZB, was purchased by John Flower and registered at Denham on 26 June 1937. Sadly, the aircraft was damaged beyond repair in a landing mishap at Tilbury only two months later on 9 September when it turned over on landing, the pilot surviving the unfortunate accident.

John Flower's very rare Gordon SB.3 Dove was sadly damaged beyond repair after this accident landing at Tilbury in Essex.
John Flower's very rare Gordon SB.3 Dove was sadly damaged beyond repair after this accident landing at Tilbury in Essex.

More regular visitors from the Royal Air Force began to use Denham for practicing both navigation to and landing at different airfields. One of the first among these was Air Vice Marshal Ronald Graham, who, like Myles Bickerton, had also been a Cambridge medical student at the outbreak of the First World War, serving as a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service during the conflict. Again like Myles, he also served at Dover in 1916 then later at Dunkirk and St Pol, shooting down five German seaplanes on coastal patrols, eventually flying Sopwith Camels with 13 Squadron RNAS. He elected to stay in the RAF at the end of the war, and had risen to the rank of Air Commodore by 1937, serving as a Staff Officer at the Headquarters of Fighter Command at Bentley Priory. He flew into Denham using the de Havilland dH.82a Tiger Moths of 24 (Communications) Squadron based at Northolt on a number of occasions during the late 1930s, beginning in 1937.

Air Vice Marshal Ronald Graham, then an Air Commodore, was a regular visitor to Hawksridge in the late 1930's, using the de Havilland dH.82a Tiger Moths of 24 (Communications) Squadron as seen here
Air Vice Marshal Ronald Graham, then an Air Commodore, was a regular visitor to Hawksridge in the late 1930's, using the de Havilland dH.82a Tiger Moths of 24 (Communications) Squadron as seen here.

Other RAF units also began using the field, including a visit from two Hawker Audaxes and a Hector from 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron in July, visiting Denham as part of a cross country navigation exercise.

A Hawker Audax of 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron. Two of these aircraft landed at Denham in July.
A Hawker Audax of 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron. Two of these aircraft landed at Denham in July.

Along with the visiting Audaxes of 2 Squadron came one of their new Hawker Hectors, the Audax's replacement in RAF service. The Napier Dagger engine gives the aircraft a very different look.
Along with the visiting Audaxes of 2 Squadron came one of their new Hawker Hectors, the Audax's replacement in RAF service. The Napier Dagger engine gives the aircraft a very different look.

As well as the front line squadrons, many training units from all over England began to visit Denham. A number of dH.82a Tiger Moths were to be seen on the airfield. The instructors sometimes offered flights to Denham pilots to foster a spirit of co-operation between military and civilian aviators throughout the country. One such was Rolf Pasold, the co-founder of Pasolds Ltd.

The RAF pilot of a dH.82a Tiger Moth prepares to fly Mr Rolf Pasold as a guest.
The RAF pilot of dH.82a Tiger Moth K4264 and Mr Rolf Pasold prepare to fly back to Dunstable gliding club.

A regular visitor to Denham at this time was Frederick Charles Gordon-Lennox, the 9th Duke of Richmond, Gordon and Lennox. The Duke was a keen aviator and owned a number of aircraft, including G-AFPK, a Tipsy B, sometimes known as the Tipsy Trainer. Designed by Ernest Tips and built by Avions Fairey in Belgium, the two seat side by side touring and training aircraft was also built in the UK under licence by the Tipsy Light Aircraft Company at Hanworth. The UK built examples featured a number of modifications to improve the low speed handling of this otherwise delightful and popular aircraft, a number of which still fly today.

The Duke of Richmond was a regular visitor to Denham in his Tipsy Trainer amongst other aircraft.
The Duke of Richmond was a regular visitor to Denham in his Tipsy Trainer amongst other aircraft.

Interestingly, the Duke of Richmond also founded his own aircraft company, Hordern-Richmond Aircraft Ltd, on 29 April 1937, along with aircraft designer Edmund Hordern. They designed the Autoplane, a two seat twin engine aircraft powered by a pair of 40hp Continental four cylinder piston engines, which had some unusual features. The aircraft was intended to be flown with only one hand, the control column featuring a wheel on the top that controlled the rudder rather than conventional rudder pedals. The wooden aircraft also had folding wings and was built by the Heston Aircraft Company, initially being based at Goodwood, the home of the Duke of Richmond, before it was moved to Denham in early 1938. Registered G-AEOG, it was to be the only Autoplane built as events in Europe overtook its development. Hordern-Richmond Aircraft was to merge with Lang Propellers of Weybridge and develop wood laminates for aircraft propellers and structures, opening a new factory at Haddenham near Thame, de Havilland acquiring an interest in 1940. Highly successful as propeller manufacturers, the laminate processes they developed led the field for many years, the company still existing today as part of the Permali Group.

The sole example of the Hordern-Richmond Autoplane was built at Heston then based at Goodwood, before being moved to Denham in 1938.
The sole example of the Hordern-Richmond Autoplane was built at Heston then based at Goodwood, before being moved to Denham in 1938.

Denham Aerodrome also became a film set during this period. The Denham Film Studios, founded by Alexander Korda in 1935, began using the aerodrome as a set for aviation scenes, most notably for the 1937 drama “Moonlight Sonata”. This starred Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the former Polish Prime Minister and world famous composer and pianist. In one scene, a de Havilland dH.84 Dragon carrying the musician and two other passengers is forced to land with engine trouble. This was shot entirely at the aerodrome, and required a large amount of equipment and crew as can be seen in the images below.

The north west corner of the aerodrome was taken over to become a film set for 1937's 'Moonlight Sonata'.
The north west corner of the aerodrome was taken over to become a film set for 1937's 'Moonlight Sonata'.

The scene included a dramatic forced landing by dH.84 Dragon G-ACGG.
The scene included a dramatic forced landing by dH.84 Dragon G-ACGG.

Members of the cast with the aircraft, Paderewski in the centre wearing the white hat. The gentleman to his left is giving a timely impression of the new chancellor of Germany.
Members of the cast with the aircraft, Paderewski in the centre wearing the white hat. The gentleman to the left is giving a timely impression of the new chancellor of Germany.

With the obvious deterioration in the political situation across Europe, in 1937 Myles Bickerton joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a Medical Officer. Two years later, with the start of the Second World War, this would make him one of a very small number of people to have been on active service in all three British Armed Forces. Initially a Flight Lieutenant, the award of his wings in 1938 came with a promotion to Squadron Leader, becoming a Wing Commander during the war.

Myles Bickerton photographed during the Second World War when a Wing Commander. The lambs are from the flock of Jacob's Spanish Sheep that he had purchased as lawn mowers for the airfield in 1934, the shepherd rounding them up each morning before flying began.
Myles Bickerton photographed during the Second World War when a Wing Commander. The lambs are from the flock of Jacob's Spanish Sheep that he had purchased as lawn mowers for the airfield in 1934, the shepherd rounding them up each morning before flying began.

One more facility was built on the aerodrome during 1937. A swimming and diving pool was constructed on the western corner of the field, proving popular with residents and visitors alike in the summer months.

The swimming and diving pool in the western corner of the airfield was built in 1937.
The swimming and diving pool in the western corner of the airfield was built in 1937.

The military visitors to Denham were to increase in both frequency and number during the next two years as the RAF re-equipped and expanded rapidly in response to the deteriorating political situation in Europe. The aerodrome was to be developed further however, as will be described in the next section.

 

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