Farnborough Grammar School

Prospect Avenue, Farnborough, Hampshire

Telephone : Farnborough 539

The Farnborough Airshow, Hampshire

By Phil Fouracre : F.G.S. 1957-1965

In response to Paul’s uncertainty, my memory tells me that by the early sixties the Farnborough Airshow often, though not always, took place during the week that we went back to school. Hence much of the week’s flying display could only be glimpsed from behind school windows. I do vividly recall seeing the Fairy Rotodyne flying loudly and low over the school, towards Cody’s Tree (the pub at the top of Sand Hill). I suspect it was probably one of its last outings.

Like Paul, I usually watched the display from the back of the airfield at Ively Gate. Today the view is shielded by developments at the commercial airport, but then you could get a fair, if distant sighting of activities. As a result, today’s non-paying punters take their deckchairs and picnics to the car parks at Queensmead and the opened-up areas around where the main RAE buildings are/were. (And as an aside, it’s quite incredible how you can now walk around many of the buildings and roads that once comprised the main RAE complex. Theoretically you can drive from the traffic signals on the Farnborough Rd at the Tech College to Ively Gate along a new road serving a massive new business estate – but the road is blocked at present, presumably to stop rat-run traffic). In later youth, I (or more likely my Mum?) actually paid to go inside the Show; the great game was collecting as many handouts as possible, and trading information with other groups of boys as to which ‘stands’ were most productive in this respect.

I did not witness the DH110 crash, but do recall Frank Hazell rounding up a few of the local gang to go in his car to the back of the airfield to see the aftermath; I remember this so well, because there wasn’t room for me! And I also clearly remember at least one sonic bang; it came ‘out of the blue’ one sunny morning, and all the house windows rattled. Most likely a Supermarine Swift? I believe the stunt was banned shortly afterwards, due to local complaints.

Does anyone recall going to an RAE open day, probably mid-50s? It was my first and only visit inside the hallowed premises, apart, of course from the Christmas parties in the Assembly Hall (occasions that still resonate happily in my memory!) Oh, and the School Speech Days in the same Assembly Hall.

Bill Harvey (Malcolm’s Dad) took us to see the Comet testing tank on the far side of the airfield; I have a vague feeling that we climbed up to the top of the tank, and gazed down on the flooded airliner – but is this fantasy? There seemed to be no-one on hand to supervise our activities; can you imagine the Health and Safety issues that would attend such an event today. My brother and I had our sandwiches in the ‘prop shop’ were my Dad worked. He and his colleagues were responsible for the continual growling noise that often emanated from the RAE – testing props on an elevated platform. John Clare tells me that his father, who had worked with Frank Whittle, demonstrated a jet engine (possibly this was at the SBAC show), within close range of the viewing public, another heart-stopping moment for modern H&S practice.

It was at this Open Day that I saw the Flying Bedstead, and again I recall that it was demonstrated within very close proximity to a crowd of adoring admirers. I understand that it really was a forerunner to the Harrier, but I think you would have been hard pressed to predict this development from such a test rig, unless you were in the know.


Phil Fouracre, F.G.S. 1957-1965 : March 2011

My memory says that SBAC shows were moved from holiday time to term time in the late 1950s, perhaps school holidays were shortened. So nobody's completely wrong.

Malcolm Knight, F.G.S. 1954-1961

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