The 1912 tour by Henri Salmet
Note: Our thanks go to Mr Dave Hill for kindly sending this scan of a postcard produced in Falmouth at the time Henri Salmet was visiting the town in 1912. It appears he actually went to the publishers to see it being laid out and printed.
We have Mike Holder to thank for finding this copy of Henri Salmets British Aviators Certificate, issued after he had passed his test at HENDON on the 27th June 1911. Salmet had already gained considerable flying experience in France.
We have Mr Michael T Holder, a great friend of this 'Guide' to thank for doing the research into this tour by Salmet in 1912. The result is, without much doubt, unique to this 'Guide' and of much interest to those seeking to learn more about our early aviation history. We need to remember that from the earliest days the Daily Mail newspaper was a champion of aviation, and had also sponsored the equally famous British aviator Claude Grahame-White, to conduct another tour that year, called 'Wake Up England!"
Note: This article, published in Flight magazine on the 18th May 1912, to coincide with Henri Salmet's departure from WORMWOOD SCRUBBS, tells of the initial plans for this Tour. Remarkably, especially in the early stages, Salmet appears to have been able to adhere to the original schedule.
Wherever Salmet went he was féted as a hero, something very much like a 'super-star' in modern terms. Thousands turned out to watch his dislays. Usually he managed to land to be greeted, but on a few occassions the winds were too strong, so he decided to do an aerial display for the assembled crowds. We do of course need to remember that in 1912 fixed-wing aviation was still in its infancy. Their machines, (they were usually called 'machines' in those days), were really quite fragile, underpowered with unreliable engines, and the pilot sat up exposed to the elements. They had no instruments and navigation was very much a hit and miss affair. There were virtually no aerodromes along the route Salmet used, his main reference being to spot a field with a large crowd of people assembled in it! This said, normally marked with a large white cross in the area selected for him to land on.
THE REALLY BIG ACHIEVEMENT
What appears to be Salmet's major claim to fame, not usually recognised - even at the time, was that he actually flew the entire route throughout England. (Or so it appears?) Mostly, other equally famous aviators, such as the much féted Gustav Hamel, sometimes flew between venues if fairly close together, but otherwise had their machine transported by rail for most of the distance, then by road to the venue to be assembled.
That he generally managed so well to find his intended venues, speaks volumes for his ability, without a map or compass, to determine the route he intended to take. Presumably he studied maps in great detail before taking off, and committed the main points along the way to memory?
Mike Holder has identified the 60 individual venues for this Tour of England by Salmet. Three were visited twice, which is why the total of venues in England numbers 64. The maps and notes are given below. It must also be mentioned that, as of April 2022, many of these venues are listed within the 'Guide' with much more detail. And the many of the rest will be added eventually.
WORMWOOD SCRUBS to NEWPORT From the 16th May to the 22nd May.
Venue No.1: WORMWOOD SCRUBS 16th May (See WORMWOOD SCRUBS)
Venue No.2: TAPLOW 16th May (See TAPLOW)
Venue No.3: READING 16th & 17th May (See KING'S MEAD)
Venue No.4: MARLBOROUGH 17th May (See MARLBOROUGH COMMON)
Venue No.5: BATH 17th & 18th May (See NEWTON St LOE)
Venue No.6: BRISTOL 18th to 22nd May (See MANGOTSFIELD)
Venue No.7: NEWPORT 22nd May (See GAER FACH)
NEWPORT to LLANELLI From the 22nd May to the 29th May
Venue No.8: CARDIFF 22nd to 24th May (See SOPHIA GARDENS)
Venue No.9 SWANSEA 24th to 25th May (See PORT TENNANT BOG)
Venue No.10 LLANELLI 25th to 29th May (See STRADEY PARK)
LLANELLI to EXETER From the 29th May to the 5th June
By this stage, Salmet was already proving himself to be a quite extraordinary pilot, and to achieve this really was quite a feat in those days. But, of course, we must remember that earlier this year, he had achieved a non-stop flight from HENDON to Paris on the 7th March.
Venue No.11 THE MUMBLES 29th May (Flying 'exhibition' only - did not land)
Venue No.12 WESTON-super-MARE 29th May (Flying 'exhibition' only - did not land)
Venue No.13 BRIDGEWATER 29th May (Flying 'exhibition' only - did not land)
Venue No.14 TAUNTON 29th to 1st June (See HALCON CORNER)
Venue No.15 CHARD 30th May (A seperate side trip from TAUNTON)
(See SNOWDON HEIGHTS)
Trying to determine the exact details of Salmet's tour can be very fraught. Take this article from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette published on the 1st June 1912. In which it states that Salmet will be arriving from Wellington. Without any doubt he did not land here, but overflew the town en route from Taunton.
Venue No.16 EXETER 1st to 5th June (See TOPSHAM BARRACK FIELD)
NOT EVERYTHING WENT TO PLAN
This article was published in the Exmouth Journal on the 8th June 1912.
Today it seems astonishing that Henri Salmet achieved as much as he did on this tour. Although with the backing of the Daily Mail, he nevertheless had to face numerous problems - not least English summer weather. This being a typical example when a promised visit to Exmouth was defeated by heavy rain. In those days heavy rain really was a major problem for those early aviators. In no particular order, sitting up high and exposed to the elements, even wearing goggles, heavy rain rendered them almost blind. It could also seriously damage their wooden propellers and had very detrimental effects on their skimpy cloth covered wings and other flying surfaces.
EXETER to LAUNCESTON From the 5th June to the 12th June
Venue No.17 TIVERTON 5th June (See TIVERTON ATHLETIC GROUND)
Venue No.18 BARNSTAPLE 5th to 8th June (See MR COPP'S FIELD)
Venue No.19 WESTWARD HO! 8th June to 10th June (See WESTWARD HO!)
Venue No.20 BUDE 10th to 11th June (See BUDE FLYING SITES)
Venue No.21 LAUNCESTON 11th to 12th June (See SHEER'S BARTON)
LAUNCESTON to LISKEARD From the 12th June to the 22nd June
Venue No.22 NEWQUAY 12th to 13th June (See NEWQUAY FLYING SITES)
Venue No.23 TRURO 13th to 14th June (See TOLGARRICK FARM)
Venue No.24 FALMOUTH 14th to 18th June (See MR DALE'S MEADOW)
Venue No.25 FOWEY 18th to 19th June (See FOWEY 2 VENUES 1912)
Venue No.26 St AUSTELL 18th June (See ROCKY PARC)
Venue No.27 LANDRAKE 19th June (See LANDRAKE)
Venue No.28 LISKEARD 19th to 22nd June (See TENCREEK FARM)
Salmet certainly did zig and zag around quite a bit during this Tour. Weather was obviously a major problem, but also, although remarkably reliable in those days, his engine sometimes needed major attention. Quite how all this was managed seems to remain something of a mystery today. He did have at least one mechanic to aid his progress, and presumably the Daily Mail provided back-up for the public-relations aspects and publicity.
LISKEARD to CARDIFF from the 22nd June to the 18th July
Venue No.29 TAUNTON 22nd to 24th June (Second visit - see HALCON CORNER)
The only mention of this visit to Weston-super-Mare found so far was published in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on the 29th June 1912. We do not know the location of the venue. Can anybody kindly offer advice?
Venue No.30 WESTON-super-MARE 24th to 26th June (Second visit)
Venue No.31 CARDIFF 26th June to 18th July (Second visit) (See SOPHIA GARDENS)
I had assumed that by this time in his Tour Salmet deserved a decent holiday. But, not at all, the true story is quite remarkable, and the article found by Mike Holder only tells part of it. As it says, on arriving in CARDIFF, Salmet became very ill and returned to London. The cause of his illness resulting in an operation for appendicitis - in those days a very serious surgical operation.
Indeed, as is said in the article, they expected Salmet to be recuperating for some weeks. Without any doubt, as demonstrated by his previous exploits, Salmet had extraordinary stamina and physical strength, and, just around three weeks later he was back in CARDIFF to resume the Tour. Without much doubt, having many thousands of people still eagerly awaiting his arrival must have strengthened his resolve to get going again. But, he must most certainly have been in a weakened condition physically, which without much if any doubt, explains why he fell ill again, having to terminate this Tour at BARROW-in-FURNESS in August.
CARDIFF to SWINDON 18th July to 29th July
Venue No.31 RAGLAN 18th to 19th July (See RAGLAN 1912)
Venue No.32 ROSS-on-WYE 19th to 20th July (See ROSS-on-WYE GOLF LINKS)
Venue No.33 HEREFORD 20th to 22nd July (HEREFORD RACE COURSE)
Weather diversion: BROADHEATH 22nd July (See BROADHEATH)
Venue No.34 WORCESTER 22nd to 24th July (See PITCHCROFT)
Venue No.35 EVESHAM 24th July (See LONG MEADOW)
Venue No.36 STRATFORD-upon- AVON 24th and 25th July (See STRATFORD-upon-AVON RECREATION GROUND)
Venue No.37 GLOUCESTER 25th July (See PORT HAM)
Venue No.38 CHELTENHAM 25th July (See LECKHAMPTON)
Venue No.39 CIRENCESTER 25th to 27th July (See CIRENCESTER ABBEY GROUNDS & DEER PARK)
Venue No.40 SWINDON 27th to 29th July (See PIPER'S CORNER)
It is of course rather interesting to see that Salmet only made fleeting visits to Gloucester and Cheltenham, but appears to have regarded Cirencester, and indeed Swindon, as deserving of more significant visits - spending more time at both these places. His sponsor, the Daily Mail, would have been very aware that Gloucester and Cheltenham were both far more important locations. So, can this be explained?
SWINDON to GRAVESEND 30th July to 13th August
Venue No.41 NORTHAMPTON 30th July to 1st August (See NORTHAMPTON RACECOURSE)
Venue No.42 COLCHESTER 1st August to 3rd August (See BERGHOLT ROAD)
Venue No.43 SOUTHEND 3rd August to 7th August (See PRIORY FARM MEADOW)
Venue No.44 CLACTON 8th August to 10th August (See CLACTON-on-SEA flying sites)
Venue No.45 IPSWICH 10th August to 12th August (See GIPPESWYK HALL FARM)
Venue No.46 GRAVESEND 12th and 13th August (See MILTON HALL)
GRAVESEND to SHOREHAM: 13th August to 21st August
Venue No.47: HERNE BAY 13th August (See UNDERDOWN FARM)
Venue No.48: BROADSTAIRS 13th to 15th August (See CALLIS GRANGE FARM)
Venue No.49: WHITSTABLE 15th August (See POUT'S FARM)
Venue No.50: FOLKESTONE 15th to 17th August (see BROADMEAD FARM)
Venue No.51: SHOREHAM 17th to 21st August (See SHOREHAM)
SHOREHAM to SOUTHAMPTON 21st August to 24th August
Venue No.52: EAST PRESTON 21st and 22nd August (See my article - "A TROUBLOUS JOURNEY")
Venue No.53: GOSPORT 22nd August (See my article - "A TROUBLOUS JOURNEY")
Venue No.54: SOUTHSEA 22nd August (See SOUTHSEA COMMON)
Venue No.55: SOUTHAMPTON 22nd to 24th August (See SOUTHAMPTON COMMON)
Being in August, and especially towards the end of that month, Salmet had to cope with traditional English summer weather. Always at its worst normally and by tradition arranged to coincide with when most people went on their holidays. As a young lad in the early fifties, I can testify to this. A seperate account of this stage in the Tour has been included in the article in this 'Guide'; A Troublous Journey. A most appropriate term used by a reporter in those days.
LEAMINGTON SPA to CHESTER 24th August to 29th August
Venue No.56: LEAMINGTON SPA 24th to 26th August (See OLD FOOTBALL GROUND)
Venue No.57: BERKESWELL 26th and 27th August (See BERKSWELL)
Venue No.58: BURTON-upon-TRENT 27th and 28th August (See BURTON-upon-TRENT flying sites)
Venue No.59: CHESTER 28th and 29th August (See FROG FARM)
CHESTER to BARROW-in-FURNESS 28th August to 31st August
Venue No.60: NEW BRIGHTON 29th August (See also RED NOSES)
Venue No.61: PRESTON 29th to 31st August (See MOOR PARK)
Venue No.62: ULVERSTON 31st August (See ULVERSTON)
Venue No.63: BARROW-in-FURNESS 31st August (See also FURNESS ABBEY)
When he reached Barrow-in-Furnace, Salmet was again too ill to continue and returned to London, saying that he intended to resume the tour later on in Ireland. Which he did! The purpose of this article is of course to chart his progress across much of England and Wales. But, Mike Holder has identified a few venues in Ireland. What we don't know is what happened to his aeroplane after he left Barrow-in-Furnace? Presumably it was dismantled and shipped across to Ireland.
What we need to remember of course is that in 1912 Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it did not become independent until 1922, as the Irish Free State. The Republic of Ireland, (Éire), as we know it today, wasn't formed until 1948.
In effect, his visit to Ireland constituted a seperate phase for Salmet in 1912. So therefore does not come into the scope of this article. The main distinguishing feature being that in the first tour Salmet flew between all the venues.