On Friday evening 2nd May, Henry Melly and his pupil, Edward Birch left the Liverpool Aviation School at
Waterloo, to race around the outskirts of Liverpool. Melly was flying a 50hp two seat Bleriot monoplane, while
Birch took off 3 minutes after him in a 35hp biplane. Melly rose to an altitude of 2,000 feet and went right
away in a southwesterly direction. Birch followed at a height of 1,500 feet. On reaching the vicinity of Mossley
Hill, Melly found a thick bank of fog, and as his engine was not working perfectly, decided to return to
Waterloo, which he reached without mishap. Birch had lost sight of his tutor, but thinking he was ahead,
raced a long hoping to complete the arranged course. He ran into thick mist and could see nothing. It was
about 6pm and he found himself over Bromborough. It was at this point that his engine decided to misfire.
Selecting a field about 200 yards from the river, Birch made an emergency landing. The field belonged to the
Bromborough Port Estate Company and was quite close to the village. News of his unexpected arrival soon
spread, and within the hour, a collection of cars, carriages, and cycles appeared in the surrounding lanes with
a crowd of about 200. Birch striped the engine down to find the cause of the problem. After two hours
examination he had discovered the problem, turned out to be a small carbon brush that had broken on the
magneto. A motorcyclist offered to ride off into New Ferry to see if he could purchase a replacement part. This
he was able to do and having effected repairs, Birch was able to resume his flight back to Waterloo. As a
show of appreciation for the assistance rendered, Birch did a circuit of the field much to the delight of the
assembled crowd, most of whom had never seen an aircraft before. His return flight took him over the
northeast part of The Wirral with many residents of Bebington, Prenton, and New Brighton reporting sightings
of him in the twilight. Meanwhile Mr. Melly, anxious as to what had befallen his pupil, had left Waterloo in a
motorcar on a search expedition. He was accompanied by a Mr. Hargreaves another promising young local
aviator. They reached the place where Birch had landed, but found the bird flown, and returned to Waterloo
two hours later, there to find Birch all smiles and claiming to be me winner of the race.
|Edward Birch, seen here pushing his Y engined Bleriot monoplane at Waterloo, made several visits to Wirral during May
1913. He landed with engine trouble at Bromborough, and then engine trouble again saw him put down on Wirral Ladies
golf club in Oxton.
|Henri Selmet visited Hooton Park in 1913 as part of the Daily Mirror sponsored tour of the North West.
21st April 1914 – Vivian Hewitt flies over Hoylake
On Tuesday 21st April, Vivian Hewitt, was flying in his rebuilt Bleriot over Rhyl and then on to Prestatyn,
where an exhibition was given, then on to the Point of Ayr, Flint, and across the mouth of the River Dee to
Hoylake. He flew back over the Dee to Rhyl then on to Abergele and Pensarn, finally landing at the
Aerodrome, Foryd, after a trip of 1½ hrs.
17th May 1914 – T. Elder Hearn flies over New Brighton
By 1914, aircraft were beginning to be used as a form of transport rather than a thing of amusement. T. Elder
Hearn a juggler on the music hall circuit was booked for a week as the top of the bill at the Liverpool
Hippodrome. On Sunday 17th May, Hearn flew his 80hp engined Bleriot up from London to Wolverhampton
which he reached in an hour. Then after an hours rest for lunch, and refuelling continued the rest of his
journey to Liverpool in seventy-two minutes, flying along the Mersey, round the tower at New Brighton, and
landing at the Childwall Polo Grounds. Hearn must have been an accomplished pilot for he gave flying displays
at Childwall polo club each afternoon before appearing on stage. Hearn and Freddie A. Fyfe were reported
using a grassy recreation ground at Eastham Ferry to fly from around 1910. Hearn had bought a Bleriot
aircraft in France, and after a basic flying course managed to get the plane to Liverpool without serious
Edward Birch, who had an engagement to give a flying display at Beeston Castle on Whit-Monday the 12th
May, decided to make an early start by flying there on Whit-Sunday. After taking off and circling round the
hangars at Waterloo, he headed straight for New Brighton Tower, but found the head wind at 1,500 feet so
was back at Waterloo in less than 10 minutes. Later on in the day the wind subsided, and Birch decided to
make another attempt. At about 3.15pm he was flying over the Dock Cottages at Birkenhead, when his
engine started to give him trouble. He had sufficient power to allow him to land safely on the Wirral Ladies
golf course next to Mr Harold Bickersteth’s house.
A telephone call to the Liverpool Aviation School at Waterloo brought Henry Melly across the Mersey within
the hour, he along with Mr Bickersteth’s chauffeur, dismantled the engine looking for the problem. They were
unable to find anything wrong and reassembled it. After running the engine several times, it was decided to
attempt a take off. Birch only managed to reach a height of 100 feet, when the engine gave up the ghost
again. Birch managed to land in a gorse bunker, which resulted in a strained fuselage through three wires
breaking. The machine was dismantled and placed in the garage of Harold Bickersteth, who had been most
generous with help, and hospitality. The machine, was packed up, and on Tuesday towed home by the School
car. Birch eventually received his flying certificate (No.327) on the 15th October 1914.
11th July 1913 – Henry Melly’s aircraft “spotted” by King George
On Friday the 11th July, King George V sailed up the River Mersey in the “Galatea” to open Gladstone Dock.
High above the river, Henry Melly and his wife Nelly, who often accompanied him on short flights, could be
seen circling the “Galatea”. Just before the dock was reached, the King who was standing on the bridge,
being the first to spot the aircraft, pointed at Melly’s machine and exclaimed “There is an aeroplane”, could
this be classed as the beginnings of the “Royal Observer Corp”!!!!!
11th September 1913 – Henry Melly flies over The Wirral
Henry Greg Melly flew over The Wirral on Thursday evening the 11th September. He took off from the
Waterloo Aviation School in a two seat Bleriot for a 45-minute flight. Again he flew to Mossley Hill at about
1,500 feet then crossed the River Mersey to Port Sunlight, then continued up The Wirral, passing over Rock
Ferry, Bidston and Leasowe shore. The Liverpool side of the river was shrouded in mist but The Wirral side
was clear offering the residents an excellent view of the aircraft as it returned to Waterloo. He had travelled
the 32 miles in 44 minutes.
1913 - Henri Salmet second visit to The Wirral
In 1913, Henri Salmet made a tour sponsored by the Daily Mail of the north west of England and North Wales
including visits to seaside resorts. During the tour, Salmet made his second visit to The Wirral, when he
landed at Hooton Park, long before it became an airfield. The Bleriot aircraft, which he used, was occasionally
fitted with floats for some of the appearances.