Cobham’s Flying Circus

On 15 June 1933 Sir Alan Cobham brought his National Aviation Day Number 2 Tour Display to Maysland Farm near Great Easton.  Sir Alan was convinced that Britain needed to become more ‘aviation minded’ and his tours were designed to introduce the people of Britain to aircraft and aviation as well as offer short flights and display aerobatics.  Also to encourage the building of airfields and airports in cities and towns across the country.

Cobham was a famous aviator and test pilot.  Since 1929 he had been touring Great Britain with his National Aviation Day displays, more commonly known as “The Flying Circus”.

Aviation was still very new in the early 1930s.  Very few people had seen an aircraft let alone flown in one.

Performing aircraft arrived from Wisbech and left for the next display at Newport Pagnell.

This link takes you to the website from the Airfields of Great Britain Conservation Trust:

https://www.abct.org.uk/airfields/airfield-finder/great-dunmow-minor/

Note:  After speaking to local historian Alf Wright, and local resident Tom Cowell who remembers the day, we believe the ‘airfield’ was slightly to the north of Maysland Farm, on level ground by the footpath from Great Easton to Lindsell by ‘Kiffards’.

Here are current photos of the area (taken in April 2021)

I imagine that  the locals would have been thrilled at seeing the aircraft close up, and I wonder who went for a joyride for four shillings a time?

These videos show what happened at the circus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voaoP53AZAs

And there is a longer film here, from the East Anglian Film Archive, of a display at Brentwood, Essex in 1932:

http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/198

There is also a great deal of information on the following website:

https://doriccolumns.wordpress.com/ww2-1939-45/raf-dyce/flying-circus/

By 1935 the Flying Circus was wound up – after visiting a thousand towns and being seen by three million spectators.   Sir Alan said “We have done our job, the whole thing was started as a means of propaganda to popularise flying with the public and bring about the municipal aerodrome scheme.”

Does anyone have one of these famous Flying Circus badges in the link below?  Selling for about £75 each now!

https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/cobhams-flying-circus-lapel-badge-1533879428

 

Report by Darren Stone,  April 2021

Last updated:   4th May 2021