A tale of two hulls
In November 2022 Mr Peter Miller, who has been kindly contributing photographs to this 'Guide', mentioned that as a lad in the 1950s he had seen two flying boat hulls moored on the Basingstoke canal, near Ash Vale station, which is roughly east of Farnborough and Aldershot town centres. This seemed so unlikely that surely there had to be a story behind their appearance here.
So, enlisting the help of Peter himself, my two good friends Graham Frost and Mike Holder, both stalwart supporters of this 'Guide', plus some delving around myself, I now think I have at least most of the story cobbled together. And, what an unlikely story it is too!
But I had an obvious problem. Where could I place it? This 'Guide' is mainly devoted to UK flying sites, but I do like to broaden the subject out - hence an article devoted to gate guardians, museums and memorials. But, this story didn't fit either of those categories. The answer soon became obvious - create a new article.
WHAT WERE THEY?
It took a bit of searching around at first, but now, (without much if any doubt?), they were both flying boats built by the English Electric Company at Lytham in Lancashire in the 1920s. The first being the English Electric M.3 Ayr, N148, the second being the English Electric P.5 Kingston, N9712.
Note: The second and third items are from English Electric Aircraft by Stephen Ransom.
It appears that both of these examples had ended up at FELIXSTOWE during the 1920s, and, not much proving themselves for service duties, had lanquished there before it was decided to transport the hulls, by road, to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at FARNBOROUGH in 1926 for structural tests. However, seeing as flying boats were then being built of metals, there seemed little point in testing wooden hulls. For some odd reason they were not set fire to - the normal procedure at that time for disposing of gash airframes.
Note: The letter was witten by Stephen Ransom to the Aldershot News, published on the 2nd December 1966.
A MOST BIZARRE TWIST TO THE TALE
In 1941, Rudolph Hess, the Deputy Führer to Adolph Hitler since 1933, decided to fly solo to Scotland, baling out in the hope of meeting up with the Duke of Hamilton, a known opponent of the British government, to ostensibly arrange a peace deal. Without any doubt many people in the British establishment were sympathetic to the German people, but not the Nazi regime. Indeed, the British Royal family were essentially of German origin, changing to the House of Windsor in 1917, and relinquishing their Saxe-Coburg-Gotha title.
He was arrested almost immediately and ended up interned at Mychett Place, near the canal and Mychett Lake. Now then, depending on which accounts you care to read, many if not most will declare that many of the lesser officials in the British government, and officers in the armed forces, were - take your pick: Idiots, morons, buffoons, imbeciles et al. No doubt proven in this case as it appears that these flying boat hulls were positioned, from RAE Farnborough, probably on Mychett Lake, to prevent an attempt to rescue Hess. Mychett Lake has a maximum landing run of 400 metres - so yes, a flying boat might land there - but, it couldn't take-off!
If, the hulls were moored at Greatbottom Flash during that period, (very unlikely?), then the idea was utterly preposterous - no chance whatsover of a flying boat landing there! (See below)
Note: The book excerpt is also from English Electric Aircraft by Stephen Ransom.
FROM THE BIZARRE TO UTTERLY BONKERS
In investigating this subject, Mike Holder came across information stating that two barges were also placed in Greatbottom Flash to prevent a flying boat landing there. And, they are still there!
It is hard if not impossible to imagine today the degree of paranoia that was commonplace in certain elements of the population during WW2, especially in the early years of that conflict. Indeed, the government stoked up the fear of an invasion long after they knew that any such threat had gone - supported by photo-reconnaissance missions. But, one has to wonder about the mindset of the person, or people, who thought a flying boat could land, and then take-off, from Greatbottom Flash. Clearly they were stark raving mad, or drunk out of their minds? Or, to be more kindly disposed - clinically insane?
AN END NOTE
Presumably these two hulls remained in position until after WW2 when Rudolph Hess was taken back to Germany in 1946 to stand trial in Nuremburg. He was imprisoned in Spandau prison in Berlin, remaining for many years the only inmate until he hanged himself aged 93 in 1987. After which the prison was demolished.
The two hulls didn't last anywhere near as long as Hess, the Ayr sinking in 1957? The Basingstoke canal it appears, was still being used commercially until 1963. It is perhaps just a rumour (?), but possibly some of the Kingston hull is stored at the RAF Museum at HENDON. Another rumour is that is was restored to some extent at RAE Farnborough? There are other rumours to be found, but, what is certain, is that the two hulls did spend some time moored at Greatbottom Flash.