Every Lord Mayor of London has to have a theme to his term of office. During 1961-62 Sir Frederick Hoare was the incumbent and his theme was ‘Youth and Leadership’, to aid him in his work he had working for him in The Mansion House one Brigadier George Chatterton DSO. The Brigadier was the former leader of the Glider Pilot Regiment, the men who had taken up the reins from the Glider Training Squadron and won many honours at Sicily, Arnhem and other places far and wide.
On investigation the Brigadier realised that there was little being done to get the older generation, with their skills and knowledge gained from years of experience, together with the younger generations with their thirst and eagerness to gain that same knowledge. Having been a pilot all his life, he had started with the RAF flying Hawker Fury’s, he obviously saw an opportunity to pass on his own interests and just happened to know the right people to help him. His idea was that a centre should be set up where young people between the ages of 16 and 21 could learn to fly at as cheap a cost as possible, the figure he had come up with was £7 10s to get to solo standard. To keep the costs down it was obvious that gliding was the cheapest form of flying around at the time and of course he knew plenty of glider pilots who wanted to keep their hand in and do something worthwhile at the same time. Several of his former soldiers were still gliding and so he went to them to help get his idea ‘off the ground’. All of these men received the idea with enthusiasm but of course the hardest tasks were still to come - finding the money and the place to set up such a centre.
Arthur Procter had stayed interested in gliding after the war and had
in fact been a founding member of the ‘Windrushers’ club at Bicester. One
fine Summer’s day in 1961 he was aerotowed aloft in an Olympia with the
aim of ridge soaring the Chilterns some miles away. After only a couple of
hours though the lift started to die and he headed North again for home.
However things conspired against him and spying a deserted airfield below
him landed and went looking for a phone so that he could get a trailer
organised to come and fetch him. The Security man at a nearby factory said
that all the gates were locked and that the only man with keys was the
Managing Director of Airtech Ltd, the firm that owned the field, who
fortunately lived in the village. After getting Mr. Codling out of his
bath the keys were found and all proceeded smoothly.
Now Arthur had been touring the area with John Williamson for some time now, having been approached by the Brigadier, looking for just such a small and little used airfield as this and of course he took the opportunity to mention the new venture to the man who was obviously in charge. Unfortunately Mr. Codling had been approached by others with grand schemes before and so it seemed like this one was about to fall on deaf ears. This is where more luck arrived because it just so happened that Bob Somerscales also an ex-GP and good friend of Arthur’s knew Frank Codling and so he became Ambassador to the scheme and eventually won Airtech over to allowing the operations to start from Haddenham Airfield. This was also done for a much reduced rent which has little changed over the years and has no doubt contributed to the Trust’s longevity.
Once the airfield had been found it was easier to start the necessary
fund raising, this started with an initial £500 from Brigadier Chatterton
himself with which a Slingsby T-31 and a Wild winch were purchased from
the Northampton Gliding Club. Because there were still no facilities for
them at Haddenham the glider and winch were stored for a while at Bob
Somerscales Garage in Tackley, the winch being towed by road the glider by
air! The Tiger Moth tug was arranged and the pilot briefed as to the
release point, (the field behind the Garage being the slightly illegal
landing zone). So into the teeth of a howling gale ‘The Oxfordshire and
District Youth Gliding Club’ took off.
With the intention of instilling leadership and air-mindedness the organisation soon changed its name to ‘Upward Bound’ and its founding Staff and Instructors, all ex-wartime glider pilots were Arthur Procter (CFI), John Williamson, Ernie Thorpe, Bob Harvey, Gordon Pyne, Harry Rathband, Bob Somerscales, Godfrey Freeman and Oliver Boland.
Once operations had got under way more funds began to be found. Sir Frederick Hoare donated £500 of his own money, The Goldsmith’s Company £2,500 and the Dulverton Trust £1,500 to name but a few. To ease the contribution of these funds the Upward Bound became a registered charity and was subsequently known as ‘The Upward Bound Trust’.
The Trust finally got under way in mid-1963 and with much support soon became very busy with youngsters coming from all over to sign up on courses. More gliders were acquired, at first an EoN Baby for the Instructors to get a little more soaring time in and then through a donation from Major Philip Cooper who was Chairman of the Glider Pilot Regimental Association, a Blanik was obtained. This is an all-metal tandem two seat glider and was relatively advanced compared to the T-31. Two more gliders were donated by the Pathfinder Association, another T-31 and a Slingsby Tutor, and named ‘Pathfinder I’ and ‘Pathfinder II’ respectively. Another, relatively famous, glider that soon came along was the Slingsby T-21 (BGA 856) which had been built by the pupils of Leighton Park School and named ‘Min’ after the character Minnie Bannister off The Goon Show. It was purchased from the Cotswold Gliding Club. (It was to be blown over in strong winds in 1980 but its remains have been bought by Peter and David Underwood so will no doubt fly again in years to come).
Bob Somerscales and Arthur Proctor pose beside a T.31.
Mike Clark shows off the T-31 to local school children (in the school!).
A permanent hangar was finally erected in late 1965 in the South-West
corner of the airfield, the equipment having been kept de-rigged in a shed
up to that time. To keep the costs down launching was and still is by
winch only, although a motorglider was seriously considered at one time.
Various vehicles have at one time or another also been used to help
operations the most obvious being a single-decker bus that was used as a
mobile clubhouse/briefing room/control tower and then their were ‘Bobs
Bangers’ built by Bob Somerscales which were Ford Popular powered
runabouts used for fetching the gliders after they had landed.
Bowing no doubt to economic pressures Airtech Ltd. made one of the more obvious changes to Haddenham Airfield in 1975 when it ploughed up all but a 1000 x 100 yard strip of the field for crops. This strip is what the Trust used until 2008, having access from the hangar via the old perimeter track once used by the motorcycle racers.
This shot was taken from a Bergfalke II glider in 1978.
The Upward Bound Trust was, and still is, a unique organisation in Britain and so has always had to rely on funds donated by others to keep going. By the middle of the 1990’s it was obvious that the gliding world was leaving the Trust behind with most clubs having training gliders of glass and carbon fibre construction just like the fast competition single-seaters that would race over Haddenham in great gaggles on any summer afternoon. So it was decided that a major fund-raising campaign would have to be started in order to buy more relevant training machines, the AS K-13 being the preferred choice. The advent of the National Lottery released large amounts of ‘official’ funds and so an application to the National Lottery Sports Fund for £28,200 was made in 1995. The following year it was learnt that the Trust had been successful in its bid and so shortly afterwards two K-13’s were purchased, one from Essex and one directly from Germany.
John Concannon, Chairman of UBT, receives a cheque for £28,200 from the National Lottery Sports Fund in July 1996. They are standing beside the Trusts first K-13.
2008 saw a major threat to the Trust. The industrial estate was growing
and access by large lorries and increasing numbers of cars was through the
village itself. Planning permission was sought and given for a new road
leading directly from the A.418 into the estate. Unfortunately the planned
routeing would cut right in front of the Trusts hangar denying access to
the airfield itself. The owners of the industrial estate and the
airfield offered a parcel of land in the eastern corner of the airfield as
an alternative but the trust would have to raise the money to build a new
Today the Trust’s fleet consists of two K-13’s and a K-8 single seater and continues to train 16-25 year old’s to fly as cheaply as possible.
This shot was taken in July 2008 and shows the strip re-aligned due to flooding in the south-west corner of the airfield following several wet winters.
Shot late in 2008, work has started on the new road leading from the A.418 into the industrial estate.
2009 and the road is complete.
©Copyright Peter Chamberlain, 2009, 2010, 2011