Royal Flying Corps – Aboukir

In an earlier post I made reference to my maternal grandfather, Fred, being amongst young men in their prime having the time of their lives, securely distant from the horror of the trenches.  Whilst there must be an element of truth in this, life at the Royal Flying Corps Training School at Aboukir, Egypt was always close to the edge.  On the ground or in the air, this picture taken by Fred soon after the incident, conveys the ever present dangers of life at No3 SoMA (School of Military Aviation).

Historic aviation writer David Bruce (http://www.cairdpublications.com) describes this incident as follows:  An aircraft (looks like a D.H.9) ends up nose deep in the roof of a hangar. This is unlikely to have been a crash from height – the aircraft is too intact for that. It is more likely that a trainee pilot made a heavy landing, and by a mixture of throttle mismanagement and a lack of control managed to bounce his way towards the hangar.

Fred survived the war but as we know, his brother William did not.  His local release form from Aboukir is dated 19th January 1919 with a destination of Railway Station nearest home: Andover.  The sea journey back home would take him to No.1 Dispersal Unit Fovant where he was finally authorised to travel to Andover on 18th February 1919.  Did he know that William was gone or did that tragic news await him as he stepped down from the railway carriage that bleak winter’s Tuesday.

Life goes on.  On 21st October 1921 he would marry the pretty Florence May who would eventually turn into ‘Mrs Kipper’, my fearsome grandmother.  It is disconcerting how people can change both physically and mentally as life grinds them down from day to day.

In his obituary the Andover Advertiser newspaper describes Fred as a skilled fitter who was keen on motor-cycle and motor trials and with Mr Macklin built a car which was used for racing.  I am inclined to think this happened between 1919 and that fateful day in 1921 as I am not convinced Florence May would have countenanced such magnificent activity by men in their machines.  Not for the first time, I could be wrong about Mrs Kipper.  The family story is that the car, a Lea-Francis bolted together from two crashed halves, was raced at Brooklands so now I am in touch with their archive to see if this can be confirmed.  I am longing for this to be true.

Fred – my maternal grandfather

In an earlier post (May 21st – tribute to my Mum) I mentioned my maternal grandfather, Fred, whose life read like a Michael Palin Ripping Yarn.

Fred acquired his first driving licence in 1906 later becoming a local bus driver.  A member of the ‘Terriers’ he went to Gallipoli in 1914 and then transferred to the Royal Flying Corps training school at Aboukir, Egypt, where he rose to the rank of Chief Mechanic.  A collection of photographs from the time show Fred with a variety of wrecked aircraft, taking part in local ‘Inter-Nation’ football matches and posing in front of the Sphinx whose inscrutable smile is much more in evidence than in the 21st Century.  There must have been hardship but the overwhelming impression is of young men in their prime having the time of their lives, securely distant from the horror of the trenches.

Fred stands proud and hatless in the centre with a folding roll film camera in his left hand, his pith helmet in his right and a centre parting kept in place with a touch of pomade.

Their guide takes centre stage whilst a white horse enters stage left and a caged chicken exits stage right.  In the wings a herd of camel riders is gathering by a distant pyramid whilst the airmen stand patiently posing in the dry desert heat.  The science fiction world obsesses about time travel but windows into earlier lives can be found in most attics, filed in boxes waiting for the light.  This and our sense of smell can resurrect people and places we thought had gone forever.  When I knew my grandfather he was a tapestry of reassuring odours, predominantly Brylcreem, Three Nuns tobacco and probably alcohol.

OMG Images

I am just finishing up on a website for OMG Images – the acronym long pre-dates the Internet slang, the ‘O’ standing for Oliver, not Oh.  This unfortunate coincidence is going to make Google searches for “OMG Images” a challenge.  Graham Oliver has been taking pictures ever since he was given a camera as a child.  Studying photography at Art College, he was influenced by photographers such as Horst, Weber and Parkinson.  With many years experience, Graham has built an enviable reputation for creativity and producing outstanding images; his ability to light a scene is second to none.

Donna, married to Graham, is a photographer as well and is a significant contributor to stock libraries.  Her unique eye and attention to detail, combined with boundless energy and enthusiasm benefits all her clients.

I have nothing but admiration for them both.  It is not just the quality of the photography but all of the organisation and hard work that goes into staging the shoots.  Getting all the props, wardrobes and access to locations right whilst working with models, some of them very young children, strikes me as darned hard work.  On top of that getting the right combination of weather and lighting to deliver the decisive moment seems nothing short of a miracle.

The brief was to keep it simple so as not to detract from the imagery; hopefully this has been achieved.  It is nearing completion – take a look at www.omg-images.co.uk (www.graham-oliver.co.uk and www.graham-oliver.com take you to the same site).  The Occupations, About us and The Blog links are currently not active.