Air men of The Times

I've just had a go at working out who held the influential position of aeronautical correspondent (or air correspondent, in later years) for The Times for its first third of a century or so. No names were used in the articles themselves, so the easiest way to find them seems to be through the obituary columns of The Times. Here's what I've managed to come up with, along with their years of service and the date of their obituary:

  • Harry Delacombe, 1907-1910. Obituary: 21 January 1959.
  • Hubert Walter, at least 1915-1916, perhaps 1914-1917. Obituary: 22 December 1933.
  • Colin Cooper, 1919? Obituary: 30 March 1938.
  • Ronald Carton, c.1919-1923. Obituary: 11 July 1960.
  • C.G. Colebrook, 1923-1930. Obituary: 30 August 1930.
  • E. Colston Shepherd, 1929-1939. Obituary: 2 August 1976.
  • [Edit: Oliver Stewart, 1939-1940. Obituary: 23 December 1976. See below.]
  • Arthur Narracott, 1940-1967. Obituary: 17 May 1967.

There are some gaps and contradictions here. There could be a gap between Shepherd and Narracott of a year or two, enough for somebody else to do the job. Colebrook was air correspondent until 1930, but Shepherd started in 1929. That may be because Colebrook was ill towards the end and died in harness, so perhaps Shepherd started to take over some of the workload before then. Cooper seems to have been air correspondent for only a short time, as he resigned from the RAF in 1919, when Northcliffe gave him the job, but Ronald Carton (better known as the crossword compiler!) did the job for four years from 1919 (he covered Alcock and Brown). The job was said to be vacant when Colebrook started, so there may be another short gap there. All I know of Walter (a scion of the family which founded The Times) is that he was there in 1915-6. He was in Berlin until (perhaps) 1914 and went overseas again in 1917, so presumably those years represent the endpoints of his occupancy. And I don't know who held the job in the crucial years between 1910 and 1914. Oddly, according to their obituaries, three men had the honour of being the first aeronautical correspondent of The Times: Walter, Cooper and Carton. Which is odd, since Delacombe predated all of them!

My main reason for doing this to work out whether P. R. C. Groves was ever The Times's aeronautical correspondent, as both Barry Powers and Uri Bialer have written (without giving any more information). As far as I can tell, he was not. There's no mention of this in his personal archive or publications, and as the above shows, no gap for him to fit into. He didn't retire from the RAF until 1922, and there was no vacancy until 1923. Groves did write some articles for The Times in 1922 and 1923, but they appeared under his own name - except for one article early in 1922, which used a phrase which was highly characteristic of Groves and appeared only days before the first of his official articles. But it wasn't bylined 'Our aeronautical correspondent' as would be usual, but 'An aeronautical correspondent'. It was an anonymous, freelance contribution, not from somebody on staff. So I can't see how Groves could have been the aeronautical correspondent for The Times.

Edit: thanks to Rose Wild of the Times Archive Blog, who picked up my post on Twitter, I can now fill in one of the gaps: Oliver Stewart, previously a long-serving air correspondent for the Morning Post, helped out at The Times in 1939-1940.

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2 thoughts on “Air men of The Times

  1. Erik Lund

    Just found this post via Google while tracking Narracott down, Brett.

    Seriously? The Times paid Oliver Stewart? Was that in money or gin?

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