Archive for the 'Tiger Moth' Category


The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Dudley Vernon Steynor

Service conducted by  The Revd Canon Cavell Cavell-Northam


Dudley was born on 16 October 1909 in Malvern where he grew up with his two brothers and sister in a large family home enjoying the freedom of the Malvern Hills.  Kite flying, model aeroplanes, motor cycles and motor cars were just some of the hobbies pursued by the family.

His interest in music developed at an early age as the family were very close to Vernon Warner the young protégé pianist.

Dudley was in one of the first intakes at Stowe school and a contemporary of David Niven, Sir Nicholas Winton and Geoffrey de Haviland .  In later years he bumped into David Niven at Heathrow Airport. David recognised him immediately, which says a great deal about the Steynor profile.

On leaving Stowe he studied the piano in London at the Academy of Music   living in Kew with his brother Martyn.  Together they joined the Hounslow Flying club and learned to fly.

Following his studies at the London Academy of Music he was advised to continue studying in Europe and chose Berlin where he studied at the Edwin Fischer School, only returning due to the imminent possibility of War.

His wish to assist the war effort as a pilot was initially thwarted by poor eyesight.  Having spent some months on the ground as a Link Trainer Instructor, and following a weekend party at the house of Jumbo Edwards his Commanding Officer and pre war Olympic Gold Medal Rower, a further medical in London was arranged. This medical was with the Chief Medical officer of the RAF.  He proceeded to test his eyesight by initially requesting him to read the chart with his good eye and then, without changing the chart and while looking the other way, asked him to read it again!  Dudley passed.

Some months later Dudley bumped into the Chief Medical Officer, thanked him, and asked if he realised that in fact his eyesight in one eye was really quite poor.  He replied that he knew people who could see perfectly and were quite lethal in the air and some people, like  Dudley, who might not have perfect eyesight but were  excellent pilots. As one who spent his time on the ground he would prefer people like Dudley above him!

The outcome of this was a posting to Booker Airfield as an Instructor in charge of B Flight where he spent the rest of the war. Here he met Ann who was assisting the war effort by helping with the tea wagon along with two of the sisters of King Zog of Albania who was living in exile at Parmoor here in Frieth.  Dudley and Ann were married in 1943.

On being de-mobbed Dudley decided that a career as a concert pianist was no longer an option and proceeded to devote his energies to designing and developing various ideas.  The first of these was the Verdik Petrol Economiser which made significant improvements to the petrol consumption of the cars of the day, and was widely acclaimed by the motoring press.

There followed  a humane rat trap which he designed at the request of his uncle in Birmingham who owned a hardware shop and it was the mesh of this trap that led to his next significant development.

A famous burns’ surgeon was staying with the Hon Mrs James in Lane End and on seeing one of the traps announced this was just the mesh needed to make guards to protect children from the horrendous burns suffered as a result of accidents with electric fires.  Dudley came up with a suitable design and as a result was kept busy for a few years supplying the electricity companies and then gas companies with guards to fit to all their various models. It was not long however before the manufacturers started incorporating guards at the manufacturing stage bringing this market to a close.   Guards for open fires were a further development and these carried on selling for a number of years.

Dudley and Ann started their married life at The Cottage, Lane End next to the old Chapel on Moor Common.  William was born here in 1948.

In 1951 they moved to Colliers Corner on the day of the birth of their daughter Linden who Dudley delivered in the absence of the midwife who had not yet arrived.  Dudley always said he was not phased by this as he had been in the Boy Scouts!!!

The family was completed by the arrival of James in 1956.

Although continuing throughout his working life with his inventions he decided that with a growing family to support he needed a more stable income. This led to his ownership of Goodchild’s Garage in Lane End and then a Daf Dealership.  Soon Dafs could be seen wherever you looked!

Among his many and varied interests steam always held a fascination. The purchase of an Avelling & Porter Steamroller gave the local community a much loved landmark as he kept it next to the road outside his house.

In 1964 he was tempted back to flying when William started gliding at Booker, now Wycombe Air Park. Dudley was soon recognised as an excellent pilot and instructor and he continued enjoying his gliding in retirement up to the age of 84.

In early 1981 disaster struck. There were extensive power cuts across the area as a result of a heavy snow fall. Dudley had taken Ann out to get a hot meal when the power was restored. The resultant surge caused a fire in Colliers Corner and they returned to find five fire crews doing their best to get it under control. They had lost nearly everything they owned.

Undaunted, a mobile home was bought and placed at the bottom of the garden for them to live in. The initial clearing of the site was carried out by two young men who were keen to earn some money between their training sessions at Marlow Rowing Club. A number of local tradesmen were engaged to rebuild the house and by the spring of 1982 they were able to return. As a thank you for all the hard work Dudley took the two rowers gliding. In the years that followed he watched with great interest the developing career of one of those rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Following the death of his wife Ann in 1996 he returned to his music and at the grand age of 87 produced two CDs of his favourite piano pieces.

Latterly he kept himself fit by doing at least 10 minutes a day on his exercise bike and completing fiendish Soduko puzzles until only a few months before his death.

His 100th birthday was a milestone he wanted to achieve. He thoroughly enjoyed his day which many here I am sure will remember as it brought Lane End to a standstill!

Booker Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)

I enjoyed my years at Booker Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) for three reasons – I loved flying – I loved teaching and I loved my home comforts. All three came together when I married Ann in 1943.

Booker airfield was all grass in those days, and we took off and landed into wind. We commenced flying at 8.00am and flew until 12.30 or 1.00, had some lunch in the mess and returned to our flying at about 2.00pm. At 6.00pm we left the flying to the night boys. Those of us who were flying that night would finish day flying a bit early or might go straight on to night flying and have the following morning off. A busy life but I loved it. There were plenty of challenges to be mastered for we flew in all weathers compatible with the aircraft we flew, Tiger Moths and Magisters. I think most of us became extremely good pilots – as Cecil (Sagittarius Rising) Lewis wrote in his book “All my Yesterdays” ‘There is nothing like instructing for improving one’s flying’.

I had many good pupils and rarely failed to get them up to solo flying. I remember one interesting case of a pupil I had to fail on account of his night flying. The glide indicator at the beginning of the approach used three lights – green, amber or red. If you were too high you saw Amber, if you were too low you saw Red and Green was the correct one. The Amber meant closing the throttle to lose some height. The Red meant open the throttle further until you could see Green. This pupil consistently closed the throttle when the red light appeared and I am pretty sure he had no suicide tendencies. He passed all tests for colour blindness. Once when we were three miles away over the valley above Wycombe and the red light showed I had time to ask him ‘What colour do you see?’ He answered ‘Red’. ‘And what does that mean?’ ‘We are too low’ and he opened the throttle a little which I immediately increase to full throttle and hoped I was not too late!

Later in the war I remember I was with my pupil over Maidenhead when I noticed the sky in the West almost completely blacked out by aircraft. They were on their way to Arnhem. They were also towing gliders and approaching at 140 mph or so in a line so long that I knew they would reach me in a few moments. More worrying was that they seemed to cover the air from almost ground level up to 2000ft. I was at 1000ft and knew I couldn’t fly round this armada or out-climb it. There was only one way left – get down to tree height as quick as you can. It was a frightening few moments as I aimed the Tiger Moth at the ground in a vertical dive and levelled off brushing tree tops at 100 feet or so, as the masses of tugs and gliders, some of them flown by pilots I may have personally trained, swept by. The lowest of them was only some 200 ft above the ground and they kept on coming for the next ten minutes while I crept back to Booker! Obviously we couldn’t be warned to expect this attack on the bridge at Arnhem.

Life was sometimes frustrating. Trying to instruct on a very busy circuit with a pupil almost ready for solo encourages us to fly to one of the nearby fields we used for forced-landing practice. Such a field was within the river bend above Henley. This field had been a mushroom farm and I remember the times we instructors would go there, park our Tiger Moths around the edge and instructors and their pupils would be seen picking mushrooms and packing them into the Tigers’ lockers. We would get going early and our CO. O’Donnell soon found that his practice of standing on tarmac with his stopwatch at 8.0’clock to check any late starters was no longer necessary. Unfortunately the seeds of doubt started hatching – Why? He asked our CFI Jackie Hicks to get airborne early to discover what we were ‘up to’ – in this case ‘down to’ is more appropriate for he discovered all his instructors on their hands and knees at this field picking the best of the mushrooms, and rather than joining us he decide to put a stop to the practice we had enjoyed.

Some of us did not have to fly beyond Booker to increase our wartime rations. I landed on and killed a hare. I did not know I had done so but another instructor had seen it and added that as he was eating in the mess he had no use for it. Ann turned it into a superb ‘jugged hare’ which we much enjoyed – likewise a partridge which my flight commander Davies had killed but forgot to take with him when he went on leave.

For solo cross-country training we used Fairoaks, Sywell and Cambridge aerodromes and it was on one of these exercises we came into contact with the cable of a drifting barrage balloons which I have already mentioned.

One of these cross-country exercises my pupil consistently got lost and I wanted to see what he would do. He said he would land at the first airfield he saw and ask them where he was. I told him to go ahead as I wasn’t sure myself. By a few gentle suggestions I was able to get him to go towards Booker as I told him that most airfields were built to the same pattern. We finally arrived at Booker and I told him to go to the control tower to find out where we were while I remained in the cockpit. He returned with a broad smile on his face!

This reminds me of Finlay who was an American who joined us before the Americans entered the war. He was solo in America but had considerable difficulty in flying a Tiger Moth. His solo flying had been on tricycle-equipped aircraft. We were all very fond of Finlay and our Flight commander at that time was S/Ldr Davey who, like Cecil Lewis had been a pilot in the 14/18 war. He decided to take on Finlay but could make very little progress with him and handed him over to me. After a week I manager to get him solo and I remember Davey’s words as with remarkable hindsight he said “Oh dear. I feel our troubles have just started.” And indeed they had! Although Finlay now flew the Moth well he would lose his way as soon as he strayed any distance beyond the circuits at Booker and we were often picking him up from airfields miles away. I well remember his last flight when we received a phone call from Pershore Airfield, near Worcester. “We have just sent off one of your pilots – a fellow called Finlay – we refuelled him and pointed him towards Booker.” So in about an hour he should have arrived. But it was three hours later that he turned up – as we were just about to stop flying for the day. Davey told me to march him into the Flight hut first thing the next morning. I did so and witnessed the following interview – Davey: “Finlay can you tell me why you took off on your own when you know you are not allowed to do so?”

Finlay “Well sir I had caused so much trouble in the past that I felt one more would make no difference.”

Davey “ Can you tell me why you took so long to get to Booker?”

Finlay “ I had to stop to refuel at Eastleigh” (An airfield on the South coast)

At this point I noticed Davey suddenly drop his head onto the desk and indicated with both arms that he wanted me to march Finlay out of the Flight hut. I returned to find Davey literally weeping with laughter. The next few days saw the Americans enter the war and Flinlay left us to join them.

S/Ldr Davey often took us up above the clouds where he demonstrated leading several aircraft with his hand signals as they did in the last war. He once told us to follow him to Booker as a a formation and make a formation landing. “ I shall be in trouble for this” he said after we landed because we were not allowed to practise formation flying. And indeed he was posted to other duties soon afterwards. The CO and the CFI thought he was getting too old and should be given a less demanding job. Davey turned up once at Booker flying a Tiger Moth from the front seat! He told us he was mapping out many airfields with the idea of possible extensions. As for his front-seat flying he said “It’s warmer and I can smoke my pipe!”

After the war Ann and I took Davey to lunch in London and I feel I might include on of his experiences when surveying airfields after he left booker. It has nothing to do with me but is typical of an older man who possessed great skill in map reading and mathematics and who would often put himself on the night-flying stint if the weather was specially bad and he noticed a junior instructor there. He told us “I decided to visit an airfield on the Welsh border. When I was approaching the Welsh mountains the cloud level began to drop. I was gaining height at the same time, I was following a valley and soon realised it was too narrow to turn in so press and with my map and my watch I calculated the moment when I had to make a turn to the right. The right wing-tip brushed the top of the trees – I had been a bit early in my turn – but I was now clear and only had to climb on full throttle to get clear of the surrounding peaks. When I knew I had enough height I flew West until I was clear of the coast. I then descended to sea level, found where I was and then found the airfield and landed. The place was empty and in the watch tower they asked me ‘where have you come from?’ I said I have just landed here. ‘What do you mean? We have been shut all day.’ It took them a while to accept the situation.”

Tiger Moth solo

One should never fly a Tiger Moth solo from the front seat. I have only once seen this done and that was when my flight commander Davey flew in to see us after he was consigned to another job. He was also smoking his pipe! “It is so much less draughty in the front seat” was his explanation. While he was with us at B flight he never shirked any of the routing jobs; taking night-flying in the foulest weather and often taking the place of any new instructor who he considered should be broken in gently. He delighted in meeting half-a-dozen of us above cloud and re-enacting formation flying as they did it in the last war with hand signals. We were not allowed to practise formation flying and I well remember the day when he got us to do a formation landing. “I shall be on the mat for this” he said. But I think it was his age and the fact that he often wheezed that made our CFI Hicks post him to a less demanding job. His new posting was surveying airfields all over the country for possible enlargements. Ann and I made contact with him after the war and we often met. He was wonderful company and some of the trips he did on his surveying business were hair-raising.

On one of these trips Davey was told to survey an airfield on the coast of Wales near Snowden. He started off with his carefully studied map of the area and his stop watch. As the ground rose as he neared the mountains he decided to follow a valley which did not place too much strain on the climbing ability of the Moth. But mist and clouds were descending and forcing him lower and lower until he was flying at treetop height. The valley at this point was too narrow to permit a turn and retreat. This left the option of climbing through the clouds. He knew exactly where he was and he also saw that in another mile he would have to make a 900 turn to avoid rising ground that was well above the Moth’s climbing ability. Out came his stopwatch and mental calculations told him when to turn. He was only a few seconds out and his right wingtip missed the ground by inches. But he was now free to climb until he was higher than any peak ahead. He then headed West until he was clear of land before descending to sea level. He then returned to the coast, located his position, found the airfield and landed there. He found no-one about and those in the control tower told him “We have been closed all day so you can’t have flown in”. “Well, I just have” Davey replied and had to show them his Moth before they would be satisfied!

Tiger Moths

The Tiger Moth Story has given me great pleasure and I now wonder if I am the only person left who has done repeated slow rolls in a standard (unmodified) Tiger Moth without losing any height.

I learnt this in 1940 when under training at Cambridge airfield from which I emerged as a full qualified EFTS instructor. As far as I can remember I could generally manage three rolls before ‘losing it’. My instructor was W/C Peter May who was the CFI at that time. He demonstrated six of these rolls and once, when I was acting as his safety pilot, he did six under the hood. When I managed three I was flying solo. I remember Peter May’s words as we started the inverted part of the roll: “Just keep enough back pressure on the stick to keep the petrol flowing”, beautifully demonstrated by several gentle and very slight back movements which conveyed exactly what was required. I managed one of these rolls with Peter May and when we landed he said “Now, boy, go and practise”!

A short time after this Peter May was shot down in an Albermarle when towing a glider during the Sicily landings. Flying the Albermarle was an achievement in itself. It was built using no aluminium and was so heavy that pilots reckoned it was useless. I believe about 60 of these 2-engined bombers were built.

World War II

Start of World War II

My two years in Berlin convinced me that Germany was preparing for war. I was billeted with a pleasant family who were very pro-Hitler and I saw a lot of the man at rallies. The general attitude was summed up for me by the words of a Pub owner I met “We would like, with England, to rule the World.” There was a certainly no animosity towards the English, but the feeling of “we are the master race” prevailed everywhere. I tried to convey this to my parents in letters, but to no avail.

When I finally came back home, the first thing I did was to learn to fly. My brother, Martyn who was just over a year younger than me, had already started to learn and was already flying solo. I learnt rapidly and at no stage had any problems. My years playing with model aircraft were paying off and I soloed after some five hours dual on a Gipsy Moth. Flying, for me, held fewer problems that playing the piano! Martyn and I joined the Civil Air Guard and obtained our flying at two and sixpence an hour. We flew from Hanworth aerodrome until we had to move due to so many complaints of the noise. We then moved to a small field with a shed in it called Gatwick and we were about to be kicked out of this one when Hitler solved the problem by declaring war (actually we did the declaring).

During these three years before war I earned a bit by teaching music, and I especially remember three young girls I taught at a house in Regents Park owned by an Admiral Blake. The girls were about 8/10 years old and one of them used to enjoy her music lessons from the top of the upright piano onto which she would crawl. These girls would now be around 80 and may well be alive. There was a lot of road works going on outside and I was told that Mrs Simpson lived in one of the nearby flats and they were installing a private telephone line to Buckingham Palace. So you see I was starting to move into the highest circles. Many of Vernon Warner’s pupils were from titled families and as fast as he was cutting down his teaching I was, as fast, gaining pupils, finally becoming music teacher at Stocks in his place – but that was after the war.

In 1939 both Martyn and I joined the RAFVR and because we had both soloed we were made Sergeants at once but told we were not yet needed in view of our age. When we were finally called up we were posted to Cardington to learn all about discipline, saluting, marching, fire-arms drill and how to write a report of any unusual activity. “Sir, I have the honour to report etc etc.” Little did I expect that, but for fate stepping in I might had had to write “Sir, I have the honour to report I have shot the Adjutant”. This was during the next stage in our RAF life. We had moved on to Cambridge were we were trained as Link Trainer (visual) Instructors (they still only wanted younger pilots) and we were operating from the engineering Labs (opposite Leys School) There were five entrances to these Labs and as we had to provide our own guard we were given an extra Corporal and an army rifle with two rounds of ammunition. We were obviously not going to get much sleep as the Germans were dropping spies all over East Anglia. As the Senior chap in charge I decided to do something about this. So I ransacked the Labs and came up with five trip switches operated by a length of black cotton across each entrance and connected to one of those panels with coloured lights and a buzzer. We could now snooze in peace. As I am a hopeless shot and my brother a good one. I arranged for him to have the gun and I would have the powerful torch with I would point at the intruders and shout “Halt or I fire”. My brother, now with the loaded gun to fire at the intruders feet at my command, and shoot to kill with the second shot should they fail to halt. We got the call at 3.30am and all went as arranged until I have the order to fire as the four or so men continued to advance. Then came my brother’s anguished cry “The bloody gun’s jammed”. This was not uncommon. I had kept my torch on the approaching men until they arrived at the guardroom door to reveal our adjutant in a state of semi-intoxication. He was out on an inspection of all the guard posts. He was not amused and our rifle and rounds were immediately called in and we never got replacements.

I applied again to become a pilot, but was turned down on the eyesight test (I have always had a weak left eye) so accepted a posting to the Oxford University Air Squadron as a visual Link Instructor. Our CO was WCdr Edwards, a difficult man to get to know but kind to me when I contracted double-pneumonia. He took me back to his own house during my recovery and later on asked me to fly him in his own Avian to Swindon where he had an appointment. On landing back at Abingdon he asked me “Why aren’t you flying?” I told him about my eyesight problem and he said “leave it to me”. I then received a summons to appear at the Radcliffe hospital for a medical. For the usual eye test I read the smallest line easily with my good eye and the doctor then turned his back walked away saying “now with the other eye”. So I read it again with my good eye. “Good, that’s all right” was his verdict and I passed. A few days later I received a posting to Cambridge for a flying course. I passed this easily and was recommended for an Instructors’ Course – also held at Cambridge Aerodrome. Here I met the best pilot I have ever flown with – Peter May the aerodrome’s CO. He could do with a Tiger Moth what was considered to be impossible – continuous rolls without losing height and dual too. He showed me the trick and after I’d managed two of them successfully he said “Now go and practise it”. Remember the Tiger Moth has no inverted fuel system so the petrol must be kept flowing when you are upside down. A barrel roll is useless because a lot of height is lost on each revolution. After considerable practice I once managed three rolls solo – never one dual! But I loved aerobatics! My next posting was to Booker as a fully qualified flying instructor and there I met my wife and life changed. I remembered JF’s words on leaving Stowe “The best years of your life are always ahead”. Here my brother Martyn and I had temporally lost track of each other because he decided to take up the option, which we had both been offered, of leaving the Air Force and he was now with the Air Transport Auxiliary and was soon to be flying Spitfires, Mosquitos and may other from factory to squadrons. He was based at White Waltham, so we met frequently. I had been recommended for a commission while I was at Cambridge which I managed to avoid because this would have meant another medical exam. I would have failed this on eyesight and probably taken off flying – a thought I could not bare. Better to get a good many hours in as an instructor plus a good report at the end of them before venturing down this hazardous lane again. And so it was after a thousand hours of successful instructing I was again recommended for a Commission. But there was a difference. My CO W/Cdr George O’Donnell insisted in over-riding my objection. So I faced another medical – and, of course – I failed it. This apparently worried everyone and I was sent to a guru in the Eyesight world – a W/Cdr Livingsone, one of Morefields top surgeons. He looked at my eyes and said “you have always had this poor eye and have adapted completely to it you can see perfectly well – I pass you!.” Back to Booker now with a new uniform and a weight off my shoulders. The rest of the war was mainly uneventful. On Sept 26 1942 I struck a drifting balloon cable a little north of Aylesbury. I was on a cross-country exercise in a Magister N3971 with a pupil Corporal Gladman. A fairly exciting few minutes followed. The cable cut into the left wing close to the fuselage. The balloon was not visible being in cloud 500 feet above us. It soon appeared behind us and quite close. The cable was streaming forwards over the wing a few inches from me. Presently it reversed and started moving backwards and finally ran out and we were free. From start to finish we had lost 1500 ft in height and were now at 1000 ft above ground. I climbed up to cloud base and tested the flaps which are invisible from the cockpit and all seemed well. I told Gladman to take over and complete the exercise – we were on the way to Sywell. “Please Sir, do you think we could go back to Booker – I want to go to the lavatory” was his answer. I agreed and told him to work out the reciprocal and go ahead. A few moments later “Sir it is nothing to do with the accident”. A good fellow!”

Later on we lost the Lane End Telephone exchange to a V1 flying bomb and I remember the night my wife and I were in bed and we heard the familiar pop-pop-pop of an approaching V1. The pops became fewer and then ceased followed by the swish of air as the wretched thing passed directly over our house. And then merciful silence! It had not exploded and was later recovered.

World War II

An interesting story here.

Here is the comment to the story:
Dear Douglas Smithson ,
I have been reading your most interesting and well writen articals, which as a glider pilot I am well able to understand. I think you could well write a book with all those experiences and get it published.
When you trained at Booker, do you recall an RAFVR instructor by the name of Dudley Steynor there?
After the war he became a part time gliding instructor with Booker Gliding Club, where he taught me to fly, and only finished doing this at the age of 84, in 1994, which must be something of a record. He only finished doing this then, because he felt unable to conform to newly introduced instructional methods. Namely,a change from holding off the the stall with rudder which he had always taught and most effective too, I might add.
He was awarded the AFC in 1944,and the BGA Diploma in1988.
He is also an accomplished pianist ,and studied under Vernon Warner,possibly the finest Chopin player of the day.
He has given me a CD of his favourite pieces produced by Aerosonic Ltd in 1997, with thanks to Ablex Audio Vidio Ltd Telford.
Kind Regards,
Dennis Barnes.

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