On this Day 13th July 1910

Royal Navy Escapes Attack in Mount's Bay

On 23 July 1910 Claude Grahame-White made the first powered flight to take place in Cornwall. The flight lasted for three minutes and was made in a Farman biplane which took off from Poniou Farm, Long Rock.

Claude Grahame-White in 1910 (George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress, public domain via Wikipedia)So much for the bald facts, but what made Graham-White come all the way to Penzance to make this flight? It was by no means a whim or chance decision. Anchored in Mount's Bay that day were three fleets of the Royal Navy: the Home Fleet; the Atlantic Fleet; and the Mediterranean Fleet; over 200 warships intended to take part in a static review to celebrate the coronation of King George V. In the event a bad weather forecast led to the cancellation of the Mount's Bay review, the event was rescheduled for Torbay and Mount's Bay has never again been chosen as the venue for a static fleet review.

For Claude Grahame-White the great gathering of warships was an opportunity to do a bit of myth busting. It was his intention to bomb the ships in order to demonstrate that these supposedly impregnable vessels were in fact vulnerable to attack from the air. His bombs would be imitation so no damage would be done done but a valuable lesson might be learnt. But the same bad weather which led to the cancellation of the Mount's Bay review also led to the cancellation of Grahame-White's attempt to impress the Admirals – he was unable to take off.

Grahame-White lifting off from Poniou in his Farman III biplane on the evening of 23 July 1910.  This was the first powered flight to take place in Cornwall. (source: Aviation in Cornwall, Peter London, Air Britain Historians, 1997)Later, on the evening of 23 July, Grahame-White was able to get his biplane into the air and make a brief three minute circuit but his bombing mission was never to take place. Grahame-White went on acquire land in north west London which he promoted as London Aerodrome. He began building aeroplanes and his factory grew rapidly during WW1, fulfilling orders from the previously sceptical Admiralty.

This piece is largely based upon a talk by PLHG member George Care given to the Penzance Literary Festival in July 2018.

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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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