Archive for July, 2016

Air Commodore Christopher Paul, of Old Alresford

The Obituary below was published in the Telegraph on 27 March 2003, after the passing of Air Commodore Paul, who lived in Old Alresford. I was privileged to meet him only once, when I delivered post around Old Alresford, and I showed him some of my old aviation photos. He was what you imagined a Spitfire pilot had to be: slight of build, long piano player type fingers, a delicate touch. At that time he was 92 years old. But the following account does not mention Spitfires – maybe I saw him in his Turbulent, touring Britain – I at that time was supplying various photos of interesting aircraft to Air Pictorial.

It showed me, at that time, that you never realise the history behind the people you see or meet or serve in the local shops, cafes, pubs or wine bars, and Air Cdr Paul certainly visited the Bodega Wine bar many times back in the 1980s. Think of that when greeting the next 90 year old contact you make!

Nick Denbow

 

The Telegraph said:

“Air Commodore Christopher Paul, who has died aged 95, was a wartime bomber pilot who became involved in promoting gliding and other aspects of the boom in private flying after the Second World War.

Paul was given his first operational command in 1940 with No 150 Squadron, which was re-equipping with Vickers Wellingtons following the costly losses of Fairey Battles in France.

After a frustrating period when navigational aids were insufficient to conduct satisfactory night-bomber operations, he was posted to “Bomber” Harris’s headquarters as a watch keeper. He then moved to Flying Training Command, converting trainers into makeshift bombers.

When Paul joined the directing staff of the Army Staff College at Camberley he was at first disconcerted to discover that his RAF students included some highly decorated officers who had seen far more action than he had; but he took the opportunity to milk them of their experience for his eventual return to operations.

In early 1944 he was posted to No 13 Operational Training Unit to learn to fly Mitchell light bombers, where he attracted the attention of Air Vice-Marshal Basil Embry, the holder of a DSO and three Bars, who was preparing the 2nd Tactical Air Force to support the forthcoming Normandy invasion.

On taking over No 98 Squadron at Dunsfold, Bedfordshire, Paul was delighted by the presence of so many Canadians. Their food parcels and camp fire parties were especially appreciated, though they had a disconcerting habit of shooting at empty beer cans for revolver practice during their late night revels. Nevertheless, he noted with pleasure that the nightingales of Dunsfold Woods seemed to be inspired in their singing by the hum of the squadron’s two-engine Mitchells.

When the invasion was launched, Paul was awarded a DFC for the way in which he led the squadron in day and night attacks on tactical targets. His citation stated: “He has at all times maintained a high standard of determination, keenness and accuracy and has developed a fine fighting team which strikes the enemy with great precision and concentration.”

Gerald John Christopher Paul was born on October 31 1907, and educated at Cheltenham and St John’s, Cambridge, where he learned to fly with the University Air Squadron.

He was commissioned in 1929 and joined No 13, an Army Co-operation Squadron, equipped with Armstrong Whitworth Atlas biplanes. The following year, when RAF pilots were serving in aircraft carriers, he joined No 446 Flight in Courageous. When the Navy recovered its air arm, Paul came ashore in 1938 to No 90 Squadron, flying two-engine Blenheim aircraft.

After the war, Paul became commanding officer of No 13 OTU at Middleton St George, Yorkshire. He was delighted to discover a neglected Tiger Moth on the station, after which he enjoyed flights before breakfast – until the morning he hit a low coaxial cable linking two masts and crashed. He reported that he was showing off and entirely to blame. Years afterwards, when he lost the sight in his left eye, doctors attributed it to the accident.

In late 1946 Paul joined the headquarters of the diminished remnants of 2nd Tactical Air Force at Bad Eilsen in Germany. The base’s previous Luftwaffe occupants had accumulated looted Cognac, Champagne and other wines, so Paul and his fellow officers charged themselves a token penny a tot.

Paul also took advantage of the splendid gliding facilities which had formed the basis of Luftwaffe training since the end of the First World War, and which had been developed to allow the Germans to circumvent the rearmament restrictions of the Versailles Treaty.

His next move was to the United States, where he served with the Joint Services Mission in Washington and at the USAF War College at Maxwell Field, Alabama.

In 1949 Paul returned to the Air Ministry for Intelligence duties which centred on countering the developing Soviet bomber force. He regarded tête à tête background briefings for Aneurin Bevan as light relief.

Paul was discussing the joys of gliding with RAF colleagues in a London cab when he hit on the idea of launching a gliding and soaring club in the Service. A year at the Imperial Defence College followed from 1953. Paul then went on to become commandant of the Central Flying School at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, and at the same time qualified as a Meteor jet pilot.

At the beginning of 1956 Paul arrived in Aden as Senior Air Staff Officer. A year later he returned to the Air Ministry for his final appointment as director of operational training. In October 1958 he took advantage of a “golden bowler” retirement, with the proceeds of which he paid off his children’s school fees and bought a small Druine Turbulent aeroplane.

Paul was appointed secretary general of the Air League of the British Empire, which required him to travel throughout Britain both by car and his own aircraft. He made a major contribution to the post-war increase in private flying, not least by converting an Air League journal into the aviation magazine Air Pictorial.

In time he was welcomed to the Royal Aero Club, the Gliding Association and the Tiger Club committees, becoming president in 1968 of the Popular Flying Association, which encouraged group ownership of private aircraft.

In the late 1960s Paul fell out with council members at the Air League, and was dismissed in 1971. He busied himself with village affairs at Old Alresford in Hampshire and with the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association, while writing for Air Pictorial, by this time an independent publication.

He also carried out extensive research on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, and produced a history of No 90 Squadron. In 1989 he became president of the Central Flying School Association.

Paul, who died on January 11, was appointed CB in 1956. He also held the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the Czech Military Cross, and was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

In 1937 he married Rosemary Lane, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. She died in 1975; he married, secondly, in 1985, Mollie Samuels, who survives him.”

 

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Naval telescopes linked to Alresford

Whatever you collect, it is always of particular interest to find an item that has a particular relationship with the village or area where you live. For me this was slightly more difficult than usual, I thought, as I collect terrestrial telescopes, ie the sort of hand-held telescopes that were used on ships. So living inland, in Alresford, there would be quite a limited number of naval telescopes linked to here.

My one real hope was Lord Rodney, George Brydges Rodney, who was brought up by his godfather, George Brydges of Avington Park. After winning some prize money at the battle of Finisterre in 1747, when in command of the 60 gun “Eagle”, Rodney purchased land near Alresford Church, and built Alresford House. His life is described in the 1991 Alresford Displayed story by John Adams, see www.alresford.org/displayed/displayed_17_01.php. Lord Rodney died in 1791, at Alresford House.

Admiral Lord Rodney

1744-beare-poss-capt-g-b-rodneyRegrettably Rodney was at sea only up to the 1780s, which is right at the start of the boom in telescope production, which started following the Dollond patent of 1760, a development that made them far more efficient. So any telescope he might have used would these days be very expensive, where they have survived, and they would probably out of my price range! Incidentally, none of the later portraits of Lord Rodney show him with a telescope, which is unusual, for paintings of Admirals in those days. But surprisingly, I’ve found a portrait of him as a young man, with a telescope that looks like a 1730/40 model – very expensive now!

However, I did find a bit of Lord Rodney’s past, on a visit to see my daughter in Cornwall. If you walk down the main streets of Helston, near Porthleven (the nearest decent harbour) you will find the The Rodney Inn, with apparently a picture of Lord Rodney hanging outside! The picture does look like the many portraits of him, painted in around 1791.

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The Rodney Inn sign, with a copy of a standard portrait of Lord Rodney, with seagull adornment. Below are some views of  the exterior of the pub.

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Hinton Ampner House

Mary Ricketts

Mary Ricketts

This week I visited the National Trust at Hinton Ampner, and read about the ghost stories that relate to the original house on that site. In 1765, Captain William Henry Ricketts and his wife Mary rented the original Tudor house on that site. Captain Ricketts had estates in Jamaica, and was presumably in the Navy: his time in the West Indies was coincident with that of Admiral Rodney, and his wife Mary was the sister of Admiral John Jervis, who was also in the Royal Navy, and active in the West Indies at that time. So presumably there were frequent visits between Hinton Ampner and Alresford House.

Indeed in 1770, John Jervis came to stay at the house in Hinton Ampner, with a friend, Captain Luttrell, when Captain Ricketts was away in Jamaica. The two of them tried to keep guard over the house one night, to find an explanation for the ghostly noises and appearances that were regularly disturbing the household. Unable to explain the happenings, and thoroughly frightened, John Jervis advised his sister to move out.

The John Jervis Tucker telescope

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The link to a telescope results, although it does turn out to be tenuous: a year or so ago I acquired a telescope signed Captain J. Jervis Tucker, believing it to be linked to Admiral Jervis (later known as Earl St Vincent, and commanding officer in charge of one Commander Nelson at the battle of Cape St Vincent: Nelson was as a result of this battle appointed an Admiral). But for John Jervis to be the rank of Captain, the telescope would be dated around 1760, and this telescope was younger than that, it looked early 1800s.

Admiral Jervis had a personal secretary (or ADC, or Batman, or whatever a PA is known as) called Benjamin Tucker, who went on to be Second Secretary to the Admiralty. He christened his son, born 1802, John Jervis Tucker: JJT joined the Navy in 1815, and became Captain of HMS Royal William in 1838: and that is about the right date for this telescope, which is unique in that it is over 4 feet long!

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So John Jervis Tucker probably never brought this telescope to Hinton Ampner, nor Alresford. Never mind, the search goes on!

See more information about the Captain J Jervis Tucker telescope on http://tinyurl.com/JJTucker, which is one of the stories on the website http://www.telescopecollector.co.uk.

Late news of Lord Rodney!

DSCN3884DSCN3888The Alresford Museum has recently acquired a moulded bust (in profile) of Lord Rodney, made out of wax or something similar, and protected by a deep gold-plated frame. Apparently such things were fashionable in those days. This bust is pictured here: it is quite small, the glass window is maybe 6″x5″. In my view it shows Rodney much younger than 90, maybe more like 60, so it might date from the 1760s. This is unlikely to be put on external display by the Museum, it does not like too much heat, even from artificial lights!

And another thing

An aviation correspondent of mine has e-mailed to say that there is another pub, this time called the Admiral Rodney, not far from him, near Martley, in Worcestershire. Probably you could not get that much further from the sea, anywhere!

Other Lord Rodney pubs!

There are several!

  • The Admiral Rodney, 592 Loxley Road, Loxley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S6 6RU; The Admiral Rodney was built during the 1950’s, next to the site of another pub called The Rodney, which was demolished at the time. The pub is named after an old local hero, George Brydges Rodney who as an admiral defeated a Spanish fleet in 1780 and a French fleet at the Battle of the Saints in 1782.
  • Admiral Rodney Hotel, Eatery & Coffee House – Horncastle, LN9 5DX 01507 523131.
  • Admiral Rodney, Wollaton Road, Wollaton, Nottingham, NG82AF: Historically, Admiral Rodney was one of Nelson’s right hand men and a good friend of the owners of Wollaton Hall which is just down the road. Hence the naval name so far from the sea! Inside is open plan with stone floors, wood panelling and a really nice fireplace which is lit during the winter. This genuine pub has avoided loud music, sports and the like, opting to encourage a relaxed, comfortable environment where visitors can enjoy a quality drink or have a tasty meal with friends. We have Cask Marque status which means this is ‘the’ place to come for that choice real ale. The clientele are a good mix of ages with students, professionals and retired people all coming here. Why not see for yourself what a great place this is.
  • The Admiral Rodney Hotel, King Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0EH
  • The Admiral Rodney, Main Street, Calverton, Notts NG14 6FB:  The Inn dates back to the mid 1700’s and is an unmodernised country pub. Named after Admiral Rodney who harvested local oak from this area for his ships and who was subsequently honoured by a pillar which was built on the adjacent hill. Indeed the pub is used as a base for walkers exploring this area to see the pillar and the Breidden Hills.
  • Admiral Rodney, Criggion, Shrewsbury, Wales: The Inn dates back to the mid 1700’s and is an unmodernised country pub. Named after Admiral Rodney who harvested local oak from this area for his ships and who was subsequently honoured by a pillar which was built on the adjacent hill. Indeed the pub is used as a base for walkers exploring this area to see the pillar and the breidden hills.
  • Ye Old Admiral Rodney, New Road, Prestbury, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 4HP.