Claude Grahame-White

I've added another biography to the sidebar, that of devil-may-care flying fool Claude Grahame-White. He is probably most remembered today for his daring night flight in 1910 while attempting to win the Daily Mail London to Manchester prize. (His film career seems to have attracted somewhat less attention.) But for me Grahame-White's main significance is as an airpower propagandist and as one of the originators, along with his co-author Harry Harper, of the knock-out blow theory.1

Note the snub to British aeronautics: he was a member of the Aero Club of America in 1937, but not the Royal Aero Club!


  1. And for his involvement with the phantom airship scares: it has been suggested that he was responsible for the Sheerness incident, and he also searched for a phantom airship over London on the night of 5 September 1914. 

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5 thoughts on “Claude Grahame-White

  1. Erik Lund

    Uhm, whatsisname --that guy who did the 5 volume interwar aviation gossip column for Putnam-- Harry Penrose! Yeah, him. Didn't he say at one point that Grahame-White actually owned Hendon to start with? Or am I confusing him with another aviation pioneer/London rail suburb-turned aeronautical hub?
    Anyway, I'm smelling some interesting Edwardian conjunction between rail suburbs, real estate speculation and the rise of the "Air Age." Wouldn't it be interesting if there turned out to be continuities between London-boosting, urban rail-building, real-estate speculating, bicycle riding, newspaper interests (like that guy who backed David Lloyd George and let him live on his new golf course?) and aviation?

  2. Post author

    Haven't read Penrose, though calling it a gossip column makes me want to! Grahame-White bought the land at Hendon within about a month after getting his license (ie late Jan or early Feb 1910). Before then he doesn't seem to have been involved in real estate, though he had managed a 20,000 acre estate in Sussex for 3 years. Certainly Hendon's status as a rail suburb was one reason why he picked the location, and it paid off too. But I don't know enough about him to say if there was anything else going on ...

  3. Erik Lund

    Penrose was a Westland test pilot who later got involved in real estate. I don't see any author credits in _Flight_ Online, and certainly don't recall any when I reading it and _Aeroplane_ in hard copy. Now, both of the weeklies had anonymous gossip columns, but neither covered anything like the same scope that Penrose does in his memoirs. In his introduction, Penrose says that he draws mostly on his readings of the old weeklies, especially _Aeroplane._ It's what you can't find there, things like who flew where drunk, who hit his head and went insane, etc., that qualifies as "gossip."

  4. JDK

    The gentleman who was Westland's chief test pilot was Harald Penrose, and he was an aviation writer (later - post W.W.II) but not a 'gossip columnist' in any manner I can think of - maybe I'm missing something? Nor published by Flight or Puttnam, AFAIK.

    Obituary here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-harald-penrose-1362801.html

    From my own experience his recall of what happened when was not perfect (whose is?) but his dogmatism that he was right did confuse some history, such as I found in the case of the Westland Lysander's development when researching my book on the type.

    Grahame-White did, I understand start and develop the airfield at Hendon, I don't think there's any mystery to that. The newly moved building at the RAF Museum, housing the Great War Era aircraft is the Grahame-White Factory.

    The fact that he was shabbily treated by the state during their forced acquisition of Hendon and that he tried to blow the whistle on un-airworthy standard timber use and sub-standard aircraft construction demanded by the War Office in the Great War is less widely document, but I understand verifiable.

    Regards,

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