GRAHAME-WHITE, Claude, aviator and aeronautical engineer; 2nd s. and y. of family of three; b. 21 Aug. 1879; m. 1st, 1912, Dorothy, o. d. of Bertrand Le Roy Taylor, New York; 2nd, 1916, Ethel (Grace) Levey. Educ.: Crondall House Coll.; Bedford Grammar School. Owned one of the first petrol-driven cars in England; toured South Africa; established motor engineering business in Albemarle Street; became interested in aeronautics 1909, the first Englishman granted a certificate of proficiency as an aviator; started a school of aviation at Pau -- the first British flying school; contested for the London-Manchester £10,000 prize with Paulhan in April 1910; in the same year won many flying prizes in this country; also toured America and won Gordon Bennett trophy; on returning, formed the Grahame-White Aviation Company, which became proprietors of the London Aerodrome, Hendon, and is now known as the Grahame-White Company; Flight Commander, 1914; resigned to superintend the carrying out of Government contracts for building aeroplanes; the London Aerodrome, Hendon, and the whole of the companies' factories and assets were acquired by H.M.'s Government Dec. 1925; owner of S.Y. Ethleen, 485 tons, M.Y. Mairi, T.S.M.Y. Rio Verde, and several fast racing motor boats. Publications: The Story of the Aeroplane; The Aeroplane, Past, Present, and Future, 1911; The Aeroplane in War; Aviation, 1912; Learning to Fly, 1914; Aircraft in the Great War, 1915; Air Power, 1917; Our First Airways, their Organisation, Equipment, and Finance, 1918; Books for Boys; Heroes of the Air; With the Airmen; The Air King's Treasure; The Invisible War-Plane; Heroes of the Flying Corps; Flying, an Epitome and a Forecast, 1930, many contributions to the daily papers, reviews, and monthly magazines dealing with the subject of aeronautics in its military and commercial aspects. Recreations: shooting, yachting, motoring, cricket, and flying, principally attention to his business. Address: Balfour Cottage, Balfour Place, W.1. T.: Mayfair 2379; Quayside, Cowes, I.O.W.T: Cowes 277; Miraflores, Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.A; Belair, Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A. Clubs: Royal Automobile, Royal Motor Yacht, Authors', Overseas; Royal Mersey Yacht; Aero of America.
Who’s Who 1938. London: A & C Black, 1938.
Claude Grahame-White (1879-1959) was an aviation pioneer and the most famous aviator in Britain before the First World War. Among his many achievements: the first Briton to hold a pilot's license (albeit a French one, not British); the first night flight (during his failed attempt to win the London-Manchester prize); the founding of Hendon aerodrome; and the first official airmail delivery (London to Windsor). Hendon was extremely popular with the public as the site of flying displays, and was also where Grahame-White set up his own aircraft design and manufacturing company.
Grahame-White was also a propagandist. He was always looking for ways to highlight Britain's vulnerability from the air. From 1911 he gave demonstrations to the Parliamentary Aerial Defence Committee, dropping flour bombs on the painted outline of a battleship, for example. In the summer of 1912 he flew around the country in his 'Wake up England!' campaign. He also wrote widely on the subject, including The Aeroplane in War (1912), with the Daily Mail's air correspondent Harry Harper.
When war came, Grahame-White was briefly in RNAS service: on 5 September 1914, he patrolled over London looking for a reported (but non-existent) Zeppelin: supposedly the first air patrol in defence of a city. He took part in the Cuxhaven raid but had to ditch in the ocean before reaching the target. After resigning his commission, he turned his energies to aircraft production with some success. He continued to write with Harper. Their most notable publications were 'Two years of aerial war' (Fortnightly Review, August 1916) and Air Power: Naval, Military, Commercial (1917), which were the first to outline the theory of the knock-out blow, which predicted that the next war would be won through the bombing of cities.
After the war, protacted post-war legal wrangles with the government over monies owed him for aircraft production and for Hendon (compulsorily acquired) soured him on the aviation industry, from which he largely withdrew. Instead he took up real estate, and made a fortune in Britain and America.
Few of Grahame-White's writings appear to be online. An exception is Learning to Fly (with Harry Harper, 1914).
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Terms and conditions beyond the scope of this license may be available at airminded.org.