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Rushden Echo & Argus 24.3.1935
Historic Flight

When Grahame-White Came Down at Roade

Rushden Association & Famous Air Race From London to Manchester

Claude cheers the winner
Claude Grahame-White, flying helmet in hand, leads cheering for the winner, Paulhan, who lifts his cap in acknowledgement.
TWENTY-FIVE years ago to-day Mr. Claude Grahame-White, the pioneer airman, who at one time lived at Rushden, started from Park Royal, London, to compete in Britain's first thrilling air race from London to Manchester.

But for bad luck he would have accomplished his aim and gained the prize of £10,000 offered to the first man to do the flight. The weather beat him, for after leaving London at 5.12 a.m. he was forced down near Lichfield.

The machine was brought back to London and three days later, at 6.30 at night, Mr. Grahame-White learned that M. Louis Paulhan had set out an hour before from Hendon.

Mr. Grahame-White promptly started in pursuit from Wormwood Scrubs, but was compelled by darkness to descend at Roade, near Northampton, at 7.55 p.m.

Roade Thrill

Restarting at 2.50 the next, morning, he made the first night flight, but was again forced down near Lichfield. Meanwhile M. Paulhan had been making fine progress and after spending the night, at Lichfield, flew on to reach New Burnsage, Manchester, at 5.30 a.m.

Several years afterwards Mr. Grahame-White disclosed an exciting incident during his second bid. His engine stopped over the railway station just after he left Roade in an effort to overtake the Frenchman. There appeared nothing between me and destruction, but in a flash I diagnosed the cause of the stoppage” he related. "My coat sleeve had caught the engine swich. Instantly I switched on again and managed to clear the station by inches."

Great Interest

The "Evening Telegraph'' and "Football Telegraph" gave full descriptions of the flight on Saturday, which was followed with enthusiasm by the whole of the country.

"Mr. Grahame-White's temporary camp at London was a centre of great interest to large crowds, who did not  mind the gusty April weather and its fierce rainstorms so long as they could stand and stare from behind barbed wires at, the graceful Farman aeroplane with, its shower-soaked planes dripping tears upon the heads of the mechanics working at it.

"There was only one way round to get this view, and that was over the flower beds of the hotel. These were railed off, and a temporary turnstile admitted the public at the charge of one shilling a head."

Mr. Grahame-White's first attempt began at 5.15 a.m., and he made his first stop at Rugby at 7.25 a.m. (average speed approximately 40 miles per hour).

He descended for a second time at Hademore, near Lichfield, at 9.30, owing to the high wind and the fact that the motor was not working as well as he could wish.

Machine Wrecked

His machine was wrecked during Sunday and it was left unstaked in an exposed position and was capsized by the wind.

He was able to make another attempt the following Wednesday (April 27th) and this time had a rival in M. Paulhan, the famous French aviator.

The planes started within an hour of each other, M. Paulhan alighting at Trent Valley Station, near Lichfield, while Mr. Grahame-White descended at Roade for the night.

"The little village was soon illuminated by the lights of dozens of motor cars, which arrived full of curious visitors, all anxious to see the wonderful aeroplane and its intrepid pilot," stated the "Evening Telegraph."

M. Paulhan won the prize by arriving at Manchester next day, but Mr. Grahame-White was again forced by weather conditions to abandon the flight, this time at Polesworth, near Tamworth.

Stay at Rushden

Mr. Grahame-White had associations with Rushden, the family residing there­about, two years before the flight, and occupying the house known as "The Laurels," on the Court Estate, Bedford-road.

Mr. Grahame-White was a well-known figure about Rushden, where he was conspicuous for the general carefulness of his dress and appearance.

Note: Mr Claude Grahame-White was born in 1879 and died in 1959. In 1909 he founded the first British Flying School in Paris. He was the first Englishman to be granted a Certificate of Proficiency in Aviation in 1910. In the same year he founded his own company to build aircraft.

To read about a local view of the race in 1910 click here

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