Coachlines - September 2021

23.09.21 The Clerk

Clerk’s Notes – September 2021

On 24th September 1911, the Royal Navy’s Rigid Airship No1, referred to in the contemporary press as Mayfly, was the largest aircraft in the world. It was also one of the shortest-lived aircraft as it was wrecked that day while being hauled from her floating hangar alongside the Cavendish Dock at Vickers, Sons and Maxim in Barrow-in-Furness.

Mark The Clerk

Mark The Clerk

It was an inauspicious start for the Royal Naval Air Service, after which no doubt, many referred to the doomed craft as the May-Not-Fly. However, the Royal Air Force was not at that time even a twinkle in the eye of anyone, so at least the earliest ‘Naviators’ were spared any light blue banter. That said, as has been seen so regularly over the subsequent 110 years, the demise of the Mayfly led to an equally rapid, though temporary demise of interest in aircraft across the Royal Navy.

With their one and only aircraft reduced to a pile of bits, Captain Murray Sueter, Inspecting Captain of Airships, and his assistant Commander Oliver Schwann (I wonder what happened to him in 1914) were both returned to general service. However, in keeping with modern change culture, both were recalled to naval aviation a year later to have another go.

The Mayfly was designed by RN officers and built by the submarine specialists at Vickers which should have begged the question: “what could possibly go wrong?” Well, as mentioned above, everything actually; however the Mayfly did mark the birth of British naval aviation, and since then everyone else has followed in her rather short-lived wake.

Superhero update

Last year our hearts were warmed by the late dip for the tape made by Captain Sir Tom Moore at a time when good news stories were a little hard to come by. His demise was sad but not unexpected, and since his passing it seems that we have all been on a roller coaster ride of good-news/bad-news. So, after our faltering emergence from the pandemic, the events in the East, the realisation that Brexit might not be as positive a thing as some made it out to be and the appalling spectacle of large swathes of the US population still beguiled by the orange one, a new Superhero was needed.

Step forward recent A-level graduate and tennis phenomenon Miss Emma Raducanu.

What a girl. But to paraphrase the late great el Tel (himself a superhero to those of a certain age): “she is young, intelligent, articulate and supremely talented – she has no future.” Not so I think, this year’s Sports Person of the Year is in the bag (hard luck Lewis), who knows how many more Grand Slam wins and other tournament victories may come in the future, and from my perspective, the future World Queen has already been found. What a strange but wonderful world in which we live.

Forthcoming events

The Aerospace Industry Dinner will be held on Thursday 11th November 2021 at Vintners’ Hall. Shortly after this edition of Coachlines has been issued the advert will be distributed; please book early because Vintners’ Hall is not large and I expect demand to be high.

The Aerospace and Automotive Lecture at Cranfield will be held on Thursday 21st October 2021 (Trafalgar day) and there are a small number of places still available. Follow this link to book.

The Lewis Motor Collection Tour will take place on Tuesday 26th October 2021 which provides a rare opportunity to view one of the most prestigious private car collections in the world. Follow this link to book.

City News

Lord Mayor’s Election – Wednesday 29th September 2021

All those who were clothed in the Livery prior to 31st May 2020 are eligible to vote in the election to determine the next Lord Mayor of London and it will take place on Wednesday 29th September 2021 at the Guildhall. It will be followed by lunch at Tallow Chandlers’ Hall at a cost of £60 per person (inc vat). If you wish to participate, contact the Clerk at

City Briefing Courses

The booking system for City Livery Committee Courses has now transferred to the new City Livery Committee website. Members, particularly newly sworn Freemen, are encouraged to register for a City Briefing. Simply click the ‘Courses’ menu tab on the website to take you to the right page or just follow this link:

A new book: ‘The Lives of the Great and the Good’

The former Clerk to the Woolmens’ Company has published a book entitled The Lives of the Great and the Good; Honorary Freemen of the City of London. A synopsis and details of how to purchase said book are here.

Shiny stuff

For the magpies amongst you the Goldsmiths’ Company will be holding its Annual Fair from 28th October to 10th December. Full details are here.

Woody stuff

For the woodpeckers amongst you, the Wood Turners’ Company will be holding its Wizardry in Wood 2021 event from Wednesday 13th to Saturday 16th October 2021 at Carpenters’ Hall where you can “view, love and buy many beautiful items that will be for sale”. So to beat the rush follow this link.

For those with an artistic bent

The Painter-Stainers’ Company will again be presenting its ‘Art in the City’ exhibition from Monday 4th to Wednesday 6th October 2021 between 10:30 and 17:30. The Exhibition at Painters’ Hall exhibits work by members of the Worshipful Company and all are welcome. For full details follow this link.

And finally

I began this piece by highlighting that 110 years ago today, the hopes and aspirations of the early naval aviators were cruelly dashed by high winds and mishandling that left their dreams in tatters – literally. However, it will amuse you to know that the modern Fleet Air Arm celebrated its 100th anniversary not in 2011 but in 2009, choosing instead to commemorate 7th May 1909, 100 years on from the date on which Rigid Naval Airship No. 1 was officially ordered from Vickers, Sons and Maxim.

The cost was £35,000 (accounted for under 1909-1910 Navy Estimates) which today would be circa £4.5m; all of which was lost when high winds helped to wreck the airship as she was moved from her shed. Luckily, no-one was injured and surprisingly for the time, no-one was held responsible.

Having established the Royal Naval Air Service, forerunner of the modern Fleet Air Arm, on the basis of an order for one airship in 1909, despite the fact that things didn’t quite go to plan and the interest in aviation demonstrated by the surface fleet has waxed and waned over the decades, the Royal Navy’s subsequent development of naval aviation has led the world in innovation and application, and dare I suggest it, probably still does, albeit on a more modest scale perhaps.

It’s good to be back in business and I hope to see many of you at Vintners’ Hall on the 11th of November – which just happens to be Taranto Night too.