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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.