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William Newton 'Bill' Lancaster

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NickForder View Drop Down
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    Posted: 07 Jun 2011 at 09:09
Having been interviewed for a 'doco' by members of Bill Lancaster's family last week (Lancaster disappeared over the Sahara in an Avro Avian in 1933, and the crash site was discovered by a French patrol in 1962 ~ see Ralph Barker's 'Verdict on a Lost Flyer'), I am trying to find out something of his WW1 service.
 
According to Barker, Lancaster joined the 'Australian cavalry' (Australian Light Horse ?) in 1916. "He also displayed a flair for mechanical things, and when the chance came to go overseas he transferred tot he engineers and embarked for Europe in November 1916.... in July 1917... he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps as an air mechanic second class. Within a few weeks he was training to be a pilot, and he was commissioned as second lieutenant on November 1st, 1917. He had not long begun his operational career, however, when he crashed in a snow-storm, and he was in hospital for the next three months. He seems to have spent only short periods on operational squadrons after this, probably for medical reasons, becasuse on October 14th, 1918, shortly before the Armistice, his appointment with the Australian Flying Corps was terminated through medical unfitness. Five days later he enroleld as a student at the Royal Dental Hospital in London (Guy's ?). But within a fortnight, his medical troubles apparently over, and his dental career forgotten or shelved, he was given a temporary commisison as a second lieutenant in the newly-formed RAF, in which he served until he was demobilized with the honourary rank of captain in February 1920...."
 
He rejoined "on April 30th, 1921," and was posted to "No 25 Squadron at Folkestone for flying duties." ...After five months at Folkestone Lancaster volunteered for service in India, and he was sent on a short refresher course on Bristol Fighters at Kenley before being posted to 31 Squadron." Early in 1923 he was posted back to England (with the suggestion that he didn't get on with 31 Squadron) and he arrived at No 1 School of Technical Training (Boys) at halton in August 1923. His short service commission was extended to 5 years and he was posted to the School of Technical Training (Men) at Manston in October 1924, undertaking essentially admin duties.
 

‘When, in April 1925, the RAF finally decided to go in for parachutes, stations were asked to put forward the names of volunteers for a ground parachute course at henlow, followed by a series of practice jumps with No 12 Squadron at Andover. “As there was no great eagerness for such training, “ recalls an officer stationed there at the time, “the obliging Lancaster was the obvious choice.”

 

"The RAF had clung too long to the suspicion that if you gave a man a parachute he was less likely to do all he could to save his aircraft…. Early in 1925 the RAF sent an officer named Flight Lieutenant FC Soden to America to study their methods, and when he got back he became the leading exponent of parachuting in England, acting as an instructor on the course at Henlow and again at Andover…..

 

…the three outstanding men from the two courses were selected to take part in the first-ever public display of parachuting by the RAF at the Hendon Air Display on June 27th. The first man to jump would be Soden himself. The second would be Lancaster.”

 

Unfortunately, Lancaster omitted to ask his CO for permission and, as his CO was in the crowd at Hendon, this was quite difficult to cover up.

 
Can anyone add anything ?
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NickForder View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jun 2011 at 09:11
Re Barker's statement :
"The RAF had clung too long to the suspicion that if you gave a man a parachute he was less likely to do all he could to save his aircraft…."
 
I know that this is the commonly held view, but has anyone ever come across any documentation stating an official view of the RFC/RNAS/RAF attitude towards parachutes ?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul R Hare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jun 2011 at 15:58
I did a lot of research, a few years back, on parachutes for an article in "WW1 Aero" and, whilst I found that statement, or variations of it, often repeated in books I could find nothing in the National Archive.
I finally decided that it was, at best, an off the cuff comment by a high ranking officer rather than offical policy.
Unless somebody out there can prove me wrong.
Paul.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DarrylDymock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Jun 2012 at 12:02
Hi Nick

I am undertaking research with the intention of writing a new biography of Bill Lancaster, and came across your post from June 2011 about being interviewed for a doco by his family. So I am interested in the nature of your knowledge about him, and if you know whether the documentary has been completed, and if so, if it is publicly available. Any help will be appreciated, and of course acknowledged in my book.

A quick intro: I live in Brisbane, Australia, and am not a pilot or authority on aviation but a writer of narrative non-fiction. My biography of Bert Hinkler will be published by Hachette Australia next year (my writing blog is at http://drdymock.wordpress.com)
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NickForder View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jun 2012 at 09:00
Hi Darryl
I have Avian G-EBZM here (Lady Heath connection, but no Lancaster or Hinkler direct connection), and some large b/w pictures of Lancaster & his Avian on the gallery walls. These seem to have prompted the family's visit, while they were in the country, and, while they had been in touch with the Marketing Dept here., they arrived unannounced to me.
 
I believe they were related to Lancaster's wife.
 
I don't know whether the 'docu' was ever completed : certainly, I've not seen it and there has been no contact with the museum subsequent to the visit ~ perhaps it was for the family only ?
 
Although I was aware of Barker's book, I only ploughed through it subsequent to the visit and the post was one consequence of that.
 
I get the impression from Barker's book that Lancaster's service career has not been researched properly, and what is in the book seems to be based on secondary sources &/or anecdote.
 
So, I welcome news of your book !
 
I am sure that C&CI would be very interested in articles for the Journal on either/both Lancaster
& Hinkler's WW1 service...
Nick
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jun 2012 at 13:51
16282 Driver William Newton Lancaster, AIF, enlisted on 10 July 1916, aged 19, in Sydney, New South Wales.
He had been employed as an electrician, and was Roman Catholic.
His next-of-kin was Mrs Maud Lancaster, 142 King Henry Road, South Hampstead.
Lancaster was one of the so-called "November 1916 reinforcements", embarking on HMAT A29 Suevic on 11 November 1916.
He was commissioned in the AFC, and discharged as a Lt on 14 October 1918
 
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