|When Oswald Gayford, Hadleigh's world record
holder, returned to his home town in May 1933, he was followed by
a film crew anxious to catch the moment.
Gayford drove through the town in an open top car with his
mother to her house which was bedecked in a Welcome Home banner
and decorated in model aeroplanes. He received a special plaque
from the British Legion to mark the occasion.
His long distance flying exploits had been
first filmed in 1931, when together with Flt Lt Brett, he
made the journey from Cranwell to Abu Sueir in Egypt.
However, it was his two day flight to South Africa in
early February 1933 which drew the plaudits and the crowds.
Gayford set off on February 6th in a Fairey Long
Range Monoplane with Flt Lt G E Nicholetts and took 57 hours and 25
minutes to reach Walvis Bay. The total distance flown was 5410
miles which broke the world record.
| They enjoyed a civic
reception in Pretoria before returning to England.
They were greeted at Farnborough by Lord Londonderry, the
Air Minister, Sir Philip Sassoon, Under Secretary for Air
and Sir John Salmond, Marshal of the Royal Air Force.
In the fallow period of the late 20s and early 30s, world
records and air shows where the only activities which kept
the RAF in the public imagination.
Gayford, who was born in 18th May 1893, began his
military career with the Royal Navy's Armoured Trains in France and
Belgium at the start of the First World War. He served with
the Navy on ships in the North Sea before transferring to the fledgling
Royal Naval Air Service as an observer in the Mediterranean.
For the rest of the war he was involved in reconnaissance, fleet
spotting, bombing and anti-submarine operations.
He received a Distinguished Flying Cross on 21st
September 1918. The citation recorded how he and Captain John
William Boldero Grigson had flown together for a year. They
had carried out their duties "in all weathers, by day and
night." They brought down several hostile aircraft and
the citation concludes with the words: "no task is too
difficult for these officers".
At the end of the war Gayford transferred to the RAF
and took part in reconnaissance and bombing in Southern Russia,
based at Petrovsk, in early 1919. He was part of a British
force fighting with the White Russians against the Bolsheviks.
Over the next few years he served in British
Somaliland, Iraq, Sudan and Egypt. He received a bar to his
DFC on 22nd December 1919.
This was a period of small wars for the British
Government and the RAF proved to be a useful and relatively cheap
imperial police force to use against revolting natives. For
instance, Winston Churchill, secretary of state for war and air,
estimated that without the RAF, thousands of British and Indian
troops would have been needed to control the country. The RAF
bombed the rebels into submission.
In the early 1920's Gayford's career blossomed and
he developed a particular expertise in long range missions. He
was appointed Officer in charge of the RAF Long Range Flight. Over
this period his world record breaking flights took place.
As late as 1938, he was involved in distance record
attempts, when his Long Range Development Unit, oversaw the flight
of two Vickers Wellesleys, from Egypt to Darwin, Australia; a
distance of 7,162 miles in 52 hours.
At the start of the Second World War, Gayford was in
command of RAF Wattisham. He was posted to Egypt, before
returning as Air Commodore. After his retirement in 1944, he
served as Regional Controller for the Ministry of Fuel and Power and
died in 1945.