ELHAS News - October 2018

Meeting Report October 2018

For our October meeting, we were delighted to welcome Mr Michael Turner who gave us an illustrated talk entitled "World War One Pilots and Bramham Moor Airfield". This was a very appropriate talk as the nation is commemorating the end of World War One next month.

Michael, from Tadcaster, is a former Civil Engineer who has been retired for four years. A chance remark by a member of the Tadcaster Historical Society about the only remaining hanger from the former Bramham Moor Airfield set him on the road to researching his Granddad's story who was a pilot there during World War One.

Michael began his talk by describing the hanger, a grade two listed building, which can clearly be seen from the A64 York Road. He explained the Bramham Airfield had been built in order to protect Leeds and Sheffield from Zeppelin raids. Showing a map of the area he told us that the airfield consisted of between nine and twelve hangers, although not necessarily all at the same time, and some of them could have been canvas structures not permanent like the remaining one. The construction of this hanger is mainly concrete reinforced with wire and glass, and Michael showed in detail how strong and substantial the building was.

After speaking about the hanger he moved on to the squadrons which were based at the airfield, showing us beautiful illustrations of all the aircraft which flew from there. He explained that in the beginning, the main duty of the Royal Flying Corps, forerunner of the Royal Air Force, was observation, and the planes were sent out to identify where the enemy cavalry were stationed. He amused us by telling us that the German Cavalry was renowned for highly polished horse brasses, which made them easy to spot from the air. We also found amusing the fact that on spotting the cavalry the pilots would place a message in a bottle and drop it to the ground to explain their whereabouts.

But the highlight of the evening was to hear the story of Reginald (Rex) Turner, Michael's Granddad. Rex was born in Aberford on the 9th November 1896. In August 1915 he became apprenticed to a grocer, but joined the army the following year and took part in the battle of the Somme. He was seriously wounded in the chest on the 23rd July. Two weeks before his brother had been killed. Remarkably his wound was less serious than it might have been, because the bullet was deflected by a cigarette case and bible in his uniform pocket. Michael showed us a photograph of the cigarette case which was substantially damaged.

Following his release from hospital Rex volunteered to join the Royal Flying Corps thinking it might be a safer option than returning to the trenches. However, of the 30,000 men who enlisted with the RFC and trained to be pilots, 14,000 were killed, many in training, so his decision proved to be not so good after all.

The Royal Air Force came into being on 1St April 1918 and Rex was the 72nd person to join. Sadly, Rex's plane was shot down on the 16th July 1918 and he was once again seriously injured. In fact a bullet was lodged at the bottom of his spine which was never removed for fear of paralysing him. He returned to flying in December of 1918 but May 1919 saw him being discharged from the RAF and joining the ranks of the unemployed. He never flew again.

We felt very privileged to hear the story of this brave young man, and appreciated Michael's pride in his achievements.

As an exciting footnote Michael advised us that he and his brother David had been filmed by the Antiques Road Show telling Rex's story and the programme will be broadcast on Sunday 4th November.

The next meeting on Monday 26th November 2018 will be an illustrated talk by John Pease entitled "The Story of Thomas Green & Son, Makers of Lawn Mowers and Steam Rollers"