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Aviation At Taunton

Aviation At Taunton Taunton Somerset

This postcard was recently added to the collection. It is uncaptioned but produced by Taunton photographer Montague Cooper. It shows the French Aviator Salmet arriving at Taunton during The Daily Mail Air Race on 29th May 1912 in his Bleriot machine.

Mr Cooper was a very gifted photographer so I believe this to be a montage as in all probability the aeroplane was going too fast for such a clear image. Salmet landed near the Quaker burial ground at Halcon Corner en route from South Wales to Chard. Whilst here Salmet passed out signed postcards of himself sat in his machine.

The view looks across the railway line at Bathpool to the hill behind. Salmet’s landing at Taunton attracted a large crowd and he was greeted by the mayor Ald. W.F. Whittingham. Salmet delighted the crowd by taking off and landing again several times before his departure.

In 1914 Salmet was giving exhibition flights in a two seater at Minehead. Mr H. van Trump son of factory owner Henry van Trump was the passenger when the aeroplane crashed into the sea. Watchet lifeboat was quick on the scene and rescued both who were non swimmers. Bentfield Huck landed his Blackburn Mercury at Minehead in 1911.

Hucks was a gifted airman and the first English pilot to loop an aeroplane in 1913. Sadly he died in the Spanish ‘Flu epidemic in 1918 aged 35.

In 1911 James Beach was advertising his business at St James Street as ‘Beach’s Aeroplane Works’. What became of the business I do not know but the one image I have shows an aeroplane powered by a Gnome rotary engine. This engine introduced in 1908 revolutionized the development of powered flight overcoming the problem of the low power to high weight ration of early machines.

In the 1930’s Taunton and West Somerset Gliding Club had its airfield at Musgrove Field. Captain Lowe-Wylde gave flights to the public here in 1934. Actually the flat area between Galmington and Taunton, then undeveloped, was proposed as an airport for Taunton but happily that never came to be.

“The Jumbo Jet now landing at Musgrove Airport” would save driving up to Heathrow 
I suppose.

By Nick Chipchase

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