A magnificent man in his flying machine – what do you know?

Here’s a great one from reader Peter Gibbs who’s making a rather wonderful enquiry relating to an incident in Chasetown/Burntwood in 1917 which seems to have been the talk of the area!

I’ll let Peter explain. This is, genuinely wonderful and I’ve not seen anything like this before. Peter raises some great questions aside from the final showstopper, so any help at all would be welcome.

A SPAD S.XIII – probably the type of biplane Frederick Gibbs piloted, if not certainly a close relative of it. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Peter wrote:

Hello Brownhills Bob

Chris Graddon suggested you might be able to help.

I have recently become a member of the Burntwood Family History Group (BFHG) in order to trace the history of my father’s family who came from a line of Walsall and Chasetown miners. After his father, Albert John (Jack) Gibbs 1865-1940, had three sons and two daughters however, all three boys became headmasters. I have been interested to learn how, at a time when boys of twelve went routinely into the mines, my grandparents were willing and able to support the boys through their education.

The first of Jack’s sons, my Uncle Fred (b.1894), became a WW1 ‘flying ace’ and was awarded the Military Cross as noted in a Wikipedia page for FJ Gibbs. A story handed down in the family told of the time Fred landed his plane in a field, possibly the ‘Rec’, in Burntwood. A crowd quickly gathered to see the new flying contraption at close quarters. The story has it that Fred picked up my Grandmother and took her for a ‘spin’ over Chasetown.

Lichfield Mercury. Friday 14th September 1917. Remarkable stuff!

Chris found a short report in the Lichfield Mercury of Friday 14th September 1917 describing a plane landing in Burntwood but no name, no picture. He wondered if you might have any ideas? If so I’d be grateful for any help – or for any other scraps of info on the Gibbs family.

Best wishes
Peter Gibbs

Thanks to Peter for a fascinating enquiry: If you have anything to add, please do – either comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tug my coat on social media.

How fantastic is this?

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3 Responses to A magnificent man in his flying machine – what do you know?

  1. Richard Pursehouse says:

    There is also a similar story of a larger aeroplane (Handley Page) doing something similar up the top of Pye Green Road in Cannock. It was a large bomber on a night training exercise, out of an aerodrome near Coventry, ironically doing a night flight to learn how to navigate at night – and got lost! The report was published after the end of WW1 (whatever the WW1 equivalent of “Careless Talk Costs Lives”). The plane landed safely, almost out of fuel and the (American?) crew (as many as 11 crew?) were all safe. As best as I recall it was very close to where the Post Office Tower is today

  2. David Smith says:

    Not WW1 but my father told me a damaged German fighter landed at Holland Park during early WW2 and was put into the fire station before being ‘taken away’ – any truth to that? Can’t ask for more info as father passed away.

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