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Printed From: Cross & Cockade
Category: General Discussion
Forum Name: General
Forum Discription: General Discussion
Printed Date: 28 Jan 2021 at 12:00
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 10.03 -

Posted By: NickForder
Date Posted: 22 Jun 2009 at 08:47


Fred Kay learns how to fly


Fred Lawton Kay was born on November 17, 1899. Fred's parents, Fred and Nancy Kay (nee Lawton), then lived at 23 Llanver Street, Harpurhey, North Manchester. Fred's Father was employed as a manager for the Grimes Manchester Billposting Company. In 1902 Fred senior was offered a new position as manager of Smith's Billposting Company in Northampton. Therefore the family had to move from Manchester. Fred Kay junior was a pupil at Northampton Grammar School. On  January, 18, 1914, he enrolled in the school cadet force and served until he left school on December 16, 1915, to volunteer for the Royal Flying Corps.


Kay enrolled in the Grahame-White School at Hendon and started flying training on May 6, 1918, under the instruction of a Mr Orton (1). Orton began by flying circuits and Kay practised these for a month before Orton decided that he should concentrate on practice landings. During that first month Kay completed only 4 hours and 30 minutes flying time. Apart from the initial flight, presumably with Orton piloting, all Kay's flights were made either before 8:20 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. It may be assumed that these were the times when the air was calmest yet Kay's Logbook comments for these flights are invariably "gusty" or "bumpy".  There was little in the way of a co-ordinated approach to flying training in the privately run flying schools at this time. Even operations from the flying ground were organised with a laissez-faire attitude. An example of this is the fact that pupils from the Grahame-White School flew an anti-clockwise circuit of Hendon while pupils from the Beatty-Wright School flew clockwise. Those from the other schools simply tried to avoid everyone else !


From June 5 the pace intensified and a further 2 hours and 50 minutes had been completed by  June 7 when he went solo. This first solo was for 60 minutes and a flight of similar duration was undertaken on 8 June. This seems to have concluded Kay's initial training. After 7 hours 20 minutes dual and two hours solo Kay's logbook was signed by Captain R S Clinch (2), officer commanding the Grahame-White School, and counter-signed by Major Galton-Lane (3), officer commanding the School of Instruction at Hendon. Kay then moved to No. 40 Training Squadron at Croydon.


At the Grahame-White School Kay had flown two different Grahame-White Boxkites, '311' and '312'.  At 40 TS Kay learned to fly the Avro 504J fitted with a 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape engine. The 504J was fully aerobatic and considered to be an ideal training aircraft because its light and powerful controls quickly signalled any faults in the pupil's flying. It had a maximum speed of 82 mph.  The rather basis nature of the training provided by the Grahame-White School is highlighted by the fact  that Kay immediately reverted to dual instruction and didn't go solo on the Avro 504J until August 15 by which time he completed 34 hours and 20 minutes on the type. This instruction, by Lt S G Knock (4) and Matthew Edwards (5), was quite extensive and included stall, vertical and fighting turns; rolls and half rolls; landings and forced landings; cross country flights; formation flying; and 45 minutes of cloud flying.  On July 8 there was a brief moment of drama when the engine of 504J 'D4472' cut out  at 1 000 feet. It is unclear whether the instructor landed the aircraft but as Kay had practised seven forced landings four days before he should have been capable of handling the problem. Certainly he was airborne again 15 minutes later for 40 minutes of practice turns and fighting manoeuvres.



Following his first solo on the Avro Kay continued to increase his flying hours practising all types of flying including his first spin on August 25 . Periodically Kay flew with his instructor, Edwards, presumably to check on his progress. On September 5 he went for a 30 minute flight with a Major Munday (6). Gradually Kay's flying hours increased and he had completed a total of nearly 44 hours by September 23.


At this point there is the first clear indication that Kay was not progressing as quickly as he should have been for the Adjutant of 40 TS wrote "V. Bad" in the Remarks column. Edwards responded to this comment and on September 29 Kay made his first flight in the two-seater Sopwith Camel 'B7397'. Unfortunately progress was impeded during the second flight of that day when a wheel  came off the Camel during landing and it overturned. Neither Edwards nor Kay were injured and the incident was recorded by photograph. By October 3 the Camel had been repaired and Lt Knock took Kay up for two familiarisation flights, each of 45 minutes, the first of which concentrated on manoeuvres and the second, perhaps wisely, on take-offs and landings.


Lt Knock was satisfied with Kay's ability and on the same day Kay went solo on F1 Camel ' B7295' for 25 minutes to practise rolls and vertical turns. Problems with landings were identified on October 15 when F1 Camel 'D6510'  shed an undercarriage wheel on two successive flights. Lt Knock questioned  Kay's landing technique and on October 16 they practised eight landings in the two-seater Camel until  Knock was happy.


Next Kay moved on to practise aerial firing and spent just over a week at this before his logbook was signed off by Captain H V Rowley (7) on October 23 and Kay was posted to No.2 School of Aerial Fighting at Marske. Kay had now completed 78 hours and 20 minutes total flying time. The following day Kay was confirmed as a Temporary Second Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force with seniority from that date.


Kay made a slow start at Marske. His first flight was on November 11 when Captain Gibson (7) took him up for 15 minutes of stunting in an Avro. Eleven days later Kay was practising formation flying at 2 000 feet and on November 28 Lt Collins (8) took him up in an Avro to practise dual fighting. The rest of the course at Marske consisted of nearly two hours of  aerial firing, both at Marske and Saltburn, 30 minutes formation flying and an hour practise fighting; half of which consisted of simulated attacks on a DH 9.


The course ended on January 22, 1919, and on January 23 Kay was graded as a Flying Officer. By this time the Armistice had been in force for over two months. This may explain why Kay did not receive an operational posting and passed straight to the RAF Unemployed List. The last two entries in his logbook are for February 9, 1919, when he took up Avro 504K 'E4205' for a 20 minute familiarisation flight before he ferried the same aircraft to Manston.


Fred Kay wanted a postwar career in the Royal Air Force. However a combination of the difficulties involved in gaining a permanent commission and family opposition prevented this. In consequence Kay looked for alternative employment. His first venture was chandling, and he set up a business with a friend, but this proved unsuccessful. Meanwhile Fred Kay senior was considering buying a business.  In 1924, along with two business partners, he purchased the Cambridgeshire and District Billposting Company. He then offered his son a position as manager in Cambridge. Fred Kay junior, having married in July of that year, readily accepted. He was to remain in Cambridge until 1948 when he suceeded his Father as manager of the Northampton company. In 1935 he was elected onto Cambridge Town Council and continued to serve as a councillor until 1945. On the outbreak of war in 1939 Kay was offered a commission in the RAF with the rank of Squadron Leader. He declined and his war service was confined to the Home Guard in which he served as a corporal, though his uniform  appropriately carried his RAF brevet.  Fred Lawton Kay died in 1969.


Aircraft flown :           

Grahame-White Boxkites

(Grahame-White School, Hendon) :            '311', '312'

(These numbers are not RFC/RAF serials. A similar aircraft was impressed as '309'  and it is possible that other Grahame-White Boxkites were given sequential numbers  even though they were not impressed)


                                                                                                Avro 504J (40 TS) :                          'D4472', 'C4363', 'B8709', 'D100', 'D4472', 'E2944'


Avro 504K (40 TS) :                                                  'F8711', 'D7103', 'D2112', 'E2945',  'E2943', 'D2089',


Avro 504K

No 2 Fighting School) :                                '12', '8'

(aircraft numbers or abbreviations ?)


Avro 504K (Eastbourne) :                            'E4205'


Sopwith Camel 2 seater

(40 TS) :                                                                                 'B7397'


Sopwith F1 Camel (40 TS) :            'C190', 'B7295', 'E1530', 'D6510', 'F3208', 'F3209', F3199'


Sopwith F1 Camel

(No 2 F School) :                                                      '7', '2'

(aircraft numbers or abbreviations ?)










Personnel :    

(1)       Mr Orton. Instructor at Grahame-White School. Probably a civilian. This is not Lt R E Orton who gained Ticket 540 at the Bristol School on Salisbury Plain. At that time Orton was a Major in command of 250 Squadron at Padstow.


(2)       Captain C S Clinch. Officer commanding Grahame-White School.


(3)       Major Galton-Lane. Officer commanding School of Instruction, Hendon.


(4)       Lt S G Knock, General List attached RFC and RAF. T2Lt 5 September 1916.  Graded as Flying Officer 31 January 1917. Lt RAF 1.4.1918. Instructor at 40 Training Squadron, Croydon.


(5)       Matthew Edwards. Instructor at 40 Training Squadron, Croydon.


(6)       Major Richard Burnard Munday DSC. Served with 8 (Naval) Squadron claiming four German aircraft shot down out of control and five balloons destroyed. See Above the Trenches p287. Served with Draper and Crundall, so see also The Mad Major and Fighter Pilot on the Western Front. Believed to have served at 40 Training Squadron, Croydon.


(7)       Captain Herbert Victor Rowley. Served with 1 (Naval) and 201 Squadrons. See Above the Trenches p326-7. Served at 40 Training Squadron, Croydon.


(8)       Lt Collins. Instructor at No 2 School of Fighting, Marske.

Mr Carver. Instructor 40 Training Squadron, Croydon.


Sources :

MSIM 1997.28 (Library and Record Centre, Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester)

Avro Aircraft since 1908, A J Jackson, Putnams, 1990 (edit)

British Military Aircraft Serials 1911-1979, B Robinson, PSL, 1979 (edit)

Aeroplanes of the RFC (Military Wing), J M Bruce, Putnams,

Above the Trenches, C Shores, N Franks and R Guest, Grub Street, 1990

RAF Squadrons, C G Jefford, Airlife, 1988

London Gazette

Air Force List, April 1918

Army List, 1917, 1918, 1919

J M Bruce/ G S Leslie Collection

Department of Records and Information Services, RAF Museum

British Flying Training in World War 1, R Sturtivant, Cross & Cockade Journal, Volume 25 No. 1

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