MEMORY LANE: Fly back in time to the World Gliding Championships
Flying enthusiasts from around the world descended on the Peak District in 1954 as the famous Derbyshire and Lancashire Gliding Club had the prestigious honour of hosting the World Gliding Championships.
The beautiful, idyllic surroundings of Great Hucklow greeted the 45 competitors from 19 different countries who lined up to compete in the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) event between July 20 and August 4.
Nothing was left to chance. Except, of course, the traditional British summer weather!
The damp and windy conditions were such that many feared the event would prove to be a washout.
To qualify as a world championship event, a minimum of four days’ flying was required to be completed in each of the two classes - solo and multiple seaters - and two thirds of the way through the meeting this had looked increasingly unlikely.
The airfield at Camphill - home to the pioneering Derbyshire gliding club since 1935 - had been turned into a morass by the rain, reportedly leading some to rechristen it ‘Damphill’.
Blustery conditions were another factor. The high winds - some the strongest recorded at Hucklow - forced the flags of the competing nations, which had been hoisted on steel masts, to be temporarily lowered after one was badly bent back.
But the weather failed to dampen spirits. The Buxton Advertiser of Friday July 30, 1954, reported: “To while away the time during grounding, they (the competitors) have been enjoying informal sing songs, etc.”
Two Buxton men had important jobs in connection with the championships at Camphill. Eric Taylor was secretary of the meeting and much of the general administration, while C Faulkner was the technical marshall.
Following the successful conclusion of the championships, representatives of the various nations attended the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton for the presentation of prizes by J. D. Profumo, Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation.
The awards were made in the presence of The Duke of Devonshire, President of the Derbyshire & Lancashire Gliding Club, who apologised to the gathered audience for the bad weather experienced during the meeting.
The Advertiser of August 6, 1954, said: “It spoke well for the determination of those taking part that the championships had been completed, and the winning competitors were just those people who would rightly have been at the top even if the contests had run their full course.
“It was not given to everyone to break world records, but he (Mr Profumo) thought they had all earned that distinction - they had broken the world record for patience. Day after day, though they had their heads in the clouds, they had been forced to keep their feet well on the ground.
“He hoped and believed that their lasting memory of this visit would not be of the weather but of the comity which they had made, and that they would remember not the lack of flying but the true and lasting friendships they had made.”
The solo champion, Gerard Pierre flying a Breguet 901, was honoured by the playing of La Marseillaise, and when the multi-seater winners - Zvonimir Rain and Bozidan Komac, of Yugoslavia - received their award, their compatriots sang national songs, the paper also reported.