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William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

as scouts for the great fleet of patrol vessels. The Service has gathered laurels in all parts of the globe, its
achievements ranging from an aerial food service into beleaguered Kut to the discovery of the German

cruiser Konigsberg, cunningly camouflaged up an African creek.


CHAPTER XXXVII. The First Man to Fly in Britain

The honour of being the first man to fly in this country is claimed by Mr. A. V. Roe, head of the
well-known firm A. V. Roe Co., of Manchester, and constructor of the highly-efficient Avro machines.

As a youth Roe's great hobby was the construction of toy models of various forms of machinery, and
later on he achieved considerable success in the production of aeroplane models. All manner of novelties

were the outcome of his fertile brain, and as it has been truly remarked, "his novelties have the

peculiarity, not granted to most pioneers, of being in one respect or another ahead of his contemporaries."

In addition, he studied the flight of birds.

In the early days of aviation Mr. Roe was a firm believer in the triplane form of machine, and his first
experiments in flight were made with a triplane equipped with an engine which developed only 9


Later on, he turned his attention to the biplane, and with this craft he has been highly successful. The
Avro biplane, produced in 1913, was one of the very best machines which appeared in that eventful year.

The Daily Telegraph, when relating its performances, said: "The spectators at Hendon were given a

remarkable demonstration of the wonderful qualities of this fine Avro biplane, whose splendid

performances stamped it as one of the finest aeroplanes ever designed, if not indeed the finest of all".

This craft is fitted with an 80-horse-power Gnome engine, and is probably the fastest passenger-carrying
biplane of its type in the world. Its total weight, with engine, fuel for three hours, and a passenger, is

1550 pounds, and it has a main-plane surface of 342 square feet.

Not only can the biplane maintain such great speed, but, what is of great importance for observation
purposes, it can fly at the slow rate of 30 miles per hour. We have previously remarked that a machine is

kept up in the air by the speed it attains; if its normal flying speed be much reduced the machine drops to

earth unless the rate of flying is accelerated by diving, or other means.

What Harry Hawker is to Mr. Sopwith so is F. P. Raynham to Mr. Roe. This skilful pilot learned to fly at
Brooklands, and during the last year or two he has been continuously engaged in testing Avro machines,

and passing them through the Army reception trials. In the "Aerial Derby" of 1913 Mr. Raynham piloted

an 80-horse-power Avro biplane, and came in fourth.


CHAPTER XXXVIII. The Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service

The year 1912 was marked by the institution of the Royal Flying Corps. The new corps, which was so
soon to make its mark in the greatest of all wars, consisted of naval and military "wings". In those early

days the head-quarters of the corps were at Eastchurch, and there both naval and military officers were

trained in aviation. In an arm of such rapid - almost miraculous - development as Service flying to go

back a period of six years is almost to take a plunge into ancient history. Designs, engines, guns, fittings,

signals of those days are now almost archaic. The British engine of reliable make had not yet been

evolved, and the aeroplane generally was a conglomerate affair made up of parts assembled from various

parts of the Continent. The present-day sea-plane was yet to come, and naval pilots shared the land-going

aeroplanes of their military brethren. In the days when Bleriot provided a world sensation by flying


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