Alan Cobham Flying Circus at Welwyn Garden City

National Aviation Day Display

By Robert Gill

Advert for the event
Welwyn Times
Airspeed AS.4 Ferry as flown in the Circus

On 26th April 1933, Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus came to Welwyn Garden City as part of a 300 town display circuit during 1933. The event was held at Tewinbury Farm.

As reported by the Welwyn Times, the programme of events watched by hundreds of people included an exhibition of smoke-trail and wireless-controlled aerobatics, wing-walking, a miniature Schneider Trophy race, speed and height-judging competitions and humorous and surprise items, including an exhibition of “aerial pig-sticking”.

Passenger flights were arranged in all the aircraft engaged in the display and two airliners flew long cruises over the surrounding district, giving residents an opportunity to view the Garden City from a novel angle.

Aircraft taking part included:

– Giant multi-engined airliners

– High powered fighting scouts specially fitted for inverted flying at more than 200mph

– The latest types of Autogyro

– “hush-hush” baby older-planes fitted with motor cycle engines

– Other modern and experimental types of aircraft

Sir Alan Cobham visited, piloting himself in a fast single seater machine.

This National Aviation Day Campaign which Sir Alan Cobham founded in 1932 in order to foster air-sense throughout the country, was aimed at assisting in many ways the development of those internal air-lines then being inaugurated in many parts of the country.

Free flights were awarded by the Welwyn Times and the Welwyn Theatre, the winning tickets being drawn on the Theatre stage by a ‘dainty little eight years old fairy in pink’

A comment in the Welwyn Times was that ‘the flying ground used was nearly a mile long and had for some time been surveyed for aviation when it was adjudged the finest potential flying ground in the South of England’. It is not clear where the actual ground was but it could have been the eventual site of Panshanger Aerodrome.


The Flying Circus Tour

The general programme at each of the 300 venues was:

  • FLYPAST – the loud-speaking equipment assisting by explaining the aircraft;
  • FORMATION FLIGHT led by the Airspeed “Ferry” with passengers on board;
  • AEROBATICS – a “Tiger Moth” being used for this purpose which has been fitted for inverted flying;
  • DANCING IN THE AIR – the pilot in this case will endeavour to fly in a “syncopated” fashion to music broadcast from the radio van, his Comper “Swift” being fitted with receiving apparatus;
  • An AIR RACE around pylons something on the lines of dirt-track racing;
  • INVERTED FLYING in the “Tiger Moth”;
  • CONTINUOUS ROLLING in the “Martlet”;
  • WIRELESS CONTROL – spectators will be invited to tell the pilot of the Comper “Swift,” by means of wireless, what manoeuvre they wish him to do;
  • And a race between the “Autogiro” and a dirt-track rider”

Aircraft taking part in the Flying Circus were:

– Lincock (in 1933)

– Fox Moth ‘that won the Kings Cup Race last year’ (ie G-ABUT)

– Tiger Moth – Gipsy Moth ‘that Mr JA Mollison used in his record-breaking Australia-England flight’ (ie VH-UFT)

– a ‘Klemm monoplane’ – Rhonbussard glider

– 1925 H.P. W.10 G-EBMM which crashed Aston Clinton Bucks Sep 1934;

– 1925 H.P. W.10 G-EBMR which was scrapped Sep 1934;

– 1929 D.H.61 Giant Moth G-AAEV ‘The Youth of Britain’

– 1931 Comper CLA.7 Swift G-ABPY;

– 1931 Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSI later sold to CWA Scotts Flying Display Ltd;

– 1931 Airspeed AS4 Ferry G-ABSJ;

– 1932 D.H. Tiger Moth G-ABUL;

– 1932 H.P. 33 Clive I G-ABYX ‘The Youth of Australia’ which was scrapped in 1933;

– 1932 Avro 621 Tutor G-ABZP;

– 1933 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACLU;

– 1933 Avro 504N G-ACLV;

– 1934 Avro 504N G-ACOD which was destroyed in collision with G-ADFZ over Blackpool in Sep 1935;

– 1934 Avro 504N G-ACOK which crashed Rhyll Aug 1938;

– 1934 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACOZ later sold to CWA Scotts Flying Display Ltd;

– 1934 Avro 640 Cadet G-ACPB later sold to CWA Scotts Flying Display Ltd;

– 1934 Avro 504N G-ACPV;

– 1934 Cierva C.30A G-ACYH;

– 1935 Avro 504N G-ADBD which crashed Southend Jul 1936.

This page was added on 19/01/2016.

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  • In the mid 1990’s my parents, then in their 80’s, were about to fly to the Isles of Scilly, my father laughed about never having flown before, my mother was very indignant. “Of course I’ve flown before, I flew with Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus back in the 30’s” Everyone present was astonished, she had never mentioned this before. She worked on the Welwyn Times and it seems several people declined a trip so she went up several times. Her name was Eva Crawley.

    By Fran Dennison (21/09/2019)