Lidsing - UK Airfield Guide

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A Guide to the history of British Flying Sites within the United Kingdom
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Lidsing


Note: This map only shows the position of Lidsing within the UK. If anybody can kindly offer advice regarding a more exact position, this will be most welcome.



LIDSING: Balloon factory and presumably a balloon flying site

Operated by:  Col. James L B Templer


Location: In near Lidsing which is N of the M.2 and S of Gillingham

Period of operation:  1886 to 1890    Moving to ALDERSHOT (HAMPSHIRE)


NOTES: In September 2017 I was reading British Aviation - The Pioneer Years by Harald Penrose published in 1967, which is highly recommended, and he has quite a story to tell. But first a bit of history concerning Col. Templer from Harald Penrose; ".. who in 1878 had started the first Regular Army Balloon School at Woolwich." This was later transferred to St. Mary's Barracks at CHATHAM.

"Luckily he was wealthy, and his keenness led him to spend a great deal of his own money developing army ballooning." Here once again, just as fifty years later with Lady Houston supporting the British Schneider Trophy entries in the 1930s, it was a wealthy 'benefactor' who spear-headed aviation development against the intransigence of the British Goverment, the 'establisnment' and the military top brass. And of course, in both these periods, Great Britain commanded the largest Empire the world has ever seen! 

"When in 1886 the original 'factory' outgrew the improvised , roofed-over ball-court at St. Mary's Barracks, Chatham, he bought at his own expense land near his house at Lidsing, five miles away, and erected a large shed for balloon construction. There were no official thanks, but the War Office upgraded him 'Instructor in Ballooning' next year, with rank of Major, and a salary of £600 a year," A pretty decent sum in those days.

"Under his care the art improved tremendously. A a result of the accuracy of balloon observations during the 1889 manoeuvres at Aldershot, Genereal Sir Evelyn Wood, V.C., recommended that the factory and school of the Balloon Establishment be removed to Aldershot for closer co-operation with the Army. The following year it was installed in a shed in Alison's Road in the South Camp of the Royal Engineer Lines, Aldershot."

To cut a long story short, still under the command of Major Templer, nearby Laffan's Plain and Long Valley were cleared of scrub and trees and pretty much what we now know as FARNBOROUGH was formed. It must be made clear that under Major Templer, ably assisted with John Edward Capper (rank at that time?), the transition from balloons to airships took place - the airship augmenting but not replacing the balloon.

Once again, to cut a long story short, Capper was also a very keen advocate of promoting fixed wing powered flight - and guess what - nobody in the 'halls of power' had the slightest interest. Nearly all regarding the concept as being 'barking mad' at best. One way or another the buccaneering American, Samuel F Cody was given permission to use a plot situated at the far end of Laffan's Plain to develop a powered aeroplane, the engine for which was 'borrowed' from the Balloon and Airship establshment.

Typically, in hypocritical British fashion, the first failed 'hop' by Cody, which he never claimed as being the 'First Powered Flight' in the UK, is now hailed as being just that!

For proof of the first powered flight in the UK, see BALDWYNS PARK.






 

 

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