A de Havilland hydroplane on Fleet Pond (approx. 1912)
Colin Gray, Chairman of Fleet Pond Society, writes:
Good news has just been received that Fleet Pond Society has permission from Natural England to proceed with the construction of a new viewpoint over on the eastern side of Fleet Pond. The new viewpoint will be built on the old embankment laid down by the army in the 19th century as a base for a very large jetty which stretched out into the pond to launch boat-based training exercises.
Early in the 20th century the jetty was demolished and another military use was made of the embankment.
In his book “Fleet –Town of My Youth” Geoffrey Edwards includes the following account recalled from his childhood memories of Fleet Pond:
“a contingent of workers arrived from Farnborough Balloon Factory. The small steam locomotive was brought from the Factory together with several railway lines. A rail track was laid from near the railway to well into the pond using material from the old pier (jetty) as a base. This inclined railway, nearly half a mile long, was completed.”
The writer, as a small boy, watched the following events:
“the workers from the Factory assembled a strange machine with a fuselage, biplane wings, an engine and a driver’s seat and with two 10 foot floats beneath. The steam locomotive got up full steam. It pushed a flat railway bogie in front on which the strange object rested. The bottoms of the floats were greased. (With a pilot in the seat) the locomotive took off at high speed pushing in front the plane, engine and propeller. The engine abruptly stopped at the water’s edge and …. (the) plane flew for about 100 yards above the pond. The plane then struck the water, the floats were broken off and the plane nose-dived into the water.”
The pilot was unharmed and other trials were later conducted using various designs. Geoffrey Edwards believed the pilot was Samuel Cody but later records show that it was in fact Geoffrey de Havilland. Cody used Laffams Plain and the adjacent canal, not Fleet Pond, for his aircraft trials.
The cost of the construction of the viewing platform, the decking and the access ramp and path are to be very generously met by a grant from Fleet Lions. To recognise this it is proposed to place two marker posts boasting lions heads at the entrance to Lions Walk, a path and a long ramp, fully accessible by people with mobility aids, leading to the new viewpoint “De Havilland Viewpoint” in recognition of its historic link to the successful development of de Havilland aircraft that served us so well in WWII.
Ed. see also the related post here.
Picture credit: picture provided courtesy of Percy Vickery, from his large collection of postcards and photos of Fleet and Church Crookham.