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Grahame-White Aviation Co Ltd

 

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Claude Grahame-White (1879 - 1959)
 
Grahame-White was born in Bursledon, Hampshire in England on 21 August 1879, and educated at Bedford Grammar School. He learned to drive in 1895, was apprenticed as an engineer and later started his own motor engineering company.
Grahame-White's interest in aviation was sparked by Louis Blériot's crossing of the English Channel in 1909. This prompted him to go to France, where he attended the Reims aviation meeting, at which he met Blériot and subsequently enrolled at his flying school.
 
Founded by Claude Grahame-White in 1909, the company began operations with flying school at Pau, France.
 
Grahame-White was one of the first people to qualify as pilot in England, becoming the holder of Royal Aero Club certificate No. 6, awarded in April 1910. He became a celebrity in England in April 1910 when he competed with the French pilot Louis Paulhan for the £10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail newspaper for the first flight between London and Manchester in under 24 hours. Although Paulhan won the prize, Grahame White's achievement was widely praised.
 
On 2 July 1910, Claude Grahame-White, in his Farman III biplane, won the £1,000 first prize for Aggregate Duration in Flight (1 hr 23 min 20 secs) at the Midlands Aviation Meeting at Wolverhampton. In the same year he won the Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup race in Belmont Park, Long Island, New York, for which he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club.
On 14 October 1910 while in Washington, D.C. Grahame-White flew his Farman biplane over the city and landed on West Executive Avenue near the White House. Rather than being arrested Grahame-White was applauded for the feat by the newspapers.
 
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Claude Grahame-White in 1910
 
He is known for activities related to the commercialisation of aviation, and he was also involved in promoting the military application of air power before the First World War with a campaign called "Wake Up Britain", also experimenting with fitting various weapons and bombs to aircraft. During the war itself he flew the first night patrol mission against an expected German raid on 5 September 1914.

 

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Moved to England, acquired Hendon Aerodrome in 1911 and built factory. One of the designers, John Dudley North, became Boulton & Paul's chief designer. In 1911 he established a flying school at Hendon Aerodrome. By now White had made a fortune and he invested it in 220 acres of pasture at Hendon, turning it into London's first aerodrome. For 3 years up to the outbreak of WW1 the weekend flying displays there were the greatest attraction in London and the aircraft he designed, which were Boxkite, formed the backbone of his Flying School. They were also used for the first demonstration of aerial bombing, straffing and pioneering night flying.
 
In 1912 Grahame-White gave H.G. Wells his first flight.
 
Acquired agency in 1913 for Morane-Saulnier monoplanes and built these for War Office. Also built own design pusher biplane in 1914, adopted by Admiralty as standard school machine. On the outbreak of WWI Grahame-White joined the Royal Naval Air Service and took part in attacks on German held ports before resigning to manage his business, whose staff had increased from 20 to 1000 due to war contracts. The Aerodrome was lent to the Admiralty (1916), and eventually taken over by the RAF in 1919.
 
Three-engine Ganymede bomber of 1918 had two tractor and one pusher propeller with twin fuselages.
 
Grahame-White was out of favour by the end of the war and was forced to go to France looking for contracts. Company stopped producing aircraft in 1919.
 
Grahame-White was a co-founder of Aerofilms Limited in 1919.
 
Eventually he became so disillusioned by Britain that he sold Hendon to the Air Ministry and immigrated to California where he was a realtor. In 1959 he died in Nice on his 80th birthday.
 
Grahame-White's aerodrome was purchased by the RAF in 1925, after a protracted legal struggle. After this he lost his interest in aviation, eventually moving to Nice in his old age, where he died on 19 August 1959 (aged 79) having made a fortune in property development in the UK and US.
 
White had been married twice, to Dorothy Caldwell Taylor (1912, dissolved 1916), and Ethel Levey (1916).
 

 

Publications
As well as his success in aviation, Claude Grahame-White was a published author whose works include:
The Story of the Aeroplane
The Aeroplane, Past, Present, and Future, 1911
The Aeroplane in War
Aviation, 1912
Learning to Fly, 1914
Aircraft in the Great War, 1915
Air Power, 1917
Our First Airways, their Organisation, Equipment, and Finance, 1918
Books for Boys
Heroes of the Air
With the Airmen
The Air King’s Treasure
The Invisible War-Plane
Heroes of the Flying Corps Flying, an Epitome and a Forecast, 1930
He also contributed to newspapers, reviews, and magazines, dealing with aeronautics in the military and commercial fields.

 

 Hendon Aerodrome later became RAF Hendon but after flying ceased there in the 1960s it was then largely redeveloped as a housing estate which was named Grahame Park in tribute to Grahame-White. An original World War I Grahame-White aircraft factory hangar was relocated a few years ago to the Royal Air Force Museum London, where it houses the museum's World War I collection and is named the Grahame White Factory.

 

 

 

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