Touch down at the Silverlands

Postcard showingn Gustav Hamel's flight over the Silverlands in Buxton. Photo contributed.
Postcard showingn Gustav Hamel's flight over the Silverlands in Buxton. Photo contributed.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Well, yes, actually it is a plane, but not as we know it!

This postcard commemorates the arrival in Buxton of intrepid airman Gustav Hamel approximately 100 years ago, during the Daily Mail circuit of Britain Air Race in his Bleriot.

Gustav Hamel

Gustav Hamel

On that late August evening in 1912, crowds had flocked to the Silverlands football field to watch the arrival of Hamel from Northwich, via Macclesfield, after two previous failed attempts due to the weather.

Capturing the mood of the occasion, the High Peak News of Saturday August 31 reported: “‘He’s coming’ shouted the great crowd, and right away in the heavens was a little dark streak about the size of a walking stick. As it increased in size excitement ran high.

“For close upon two minutes the onlookers enjoyed the most magnificent spectacle in their lives. Gradually the ‘hawk-like thing’ stole over the ground, and then the whirr of the 50hp Gnome engine could be plainly heard.”

Eventually the plane gently glided to the ground, running along it for 50 yards, and the arrival was met with deafening cheers: “Congratulations went to Mr Hamel from old and young - he had, in fact, a right royal reception, and he deserved it.”

In an interview with a High Peak News reporter immediately after he landed, Mr Hamel stated that he had a fine fly, but it was very cold. Asked how long the journey from Macclesfield to Buxton had taken, he calmly replied: “Between five and six minutes.”

The British aviator lost his life two years later, on May 23, 1914, after disappearing enroute to Hendon from Paris.

The featured postcard was obtained recently at a fair in York by local collector Andrew Cunningham, who said of its significance: “This was a big thing at the time, and probably the first time the people of Buxton had seen an aeroplane.”