Mr Gustav Hamel and his aircraft with the words 'Aerial Mail' painted on the underside of the wings. Photograph by J Roberts
During September 1911, the press was full of anticipatory news concerning the Aerial Post experiment for certain mail to be carried from Hendon to Windsor by aeroplane. King George V had given permission for the aeroplanes to land in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
"The Aerial Post has been the chief
topic of the week. Success attended its inauguration but it is
not likely to become a permanent institution yet awhile. "Weather
permitting" must accompany any announcement of a proposed
aerial flight. On Saturday afternoon Mr. Gustav Hamel conveyed
a bag of mail a distance of about twenty miles in fifteen minutes,
but he was the only aviator of four who reached Windsor, the
other three not venturing out with their machines owing to the
gusty wind. During the week we have had many interesting experiments,
and the scenes in Windsor Great Park have been remarkable. Some
splendid flights have been made to and from Windsor, and it is
conceivable that one day there will be a flying department of
our Post Office. The views of Mr. Rushton, the representative
of the Postmaster General, on the subject, which he gave us on
Saturday, appear in another column, and will undoubtedly be read
with interest. An aerial post is not a new idea, and the special
article elsewhere on attempts to fly in the past will probably
interest our readers. The Postmaster General may be commended
for lending his sanction to the first authorised demonstration
in England of the utility of the aeroplane for postal work; and
it is easy to imagine circumstances in which it might prove invaluable
for the national service. Recent events remind us that even in
times of peace ordinary postal communications may suddenly be
in danger of interruption. The service is too costly yet for
regular use, and it is also too risky. It is hoped, however,
that something more than passing interest will be taken in this
latest endeavour to keep abreast of the times.
"Flying is very fascinating, and the skilful way in which the aviators ascend and descend is certainly marvellous. Huge strides have been made in aviation, and, as has been pointed out, it will indeed be a pity in many ways if, when the novelty of the idea is over-shadowed by the next new sensation, the mail-carrying aeroplane is allowed, metaphorically, to drop.
"The Windsor Postmaster (Mr. A.A.T. A'Vard) and his staff are to be heartily congratulated upon the way in which they have got through the extra work this week. Aerial letters and post cards have been pouring into the Windsor office in thousands, but the earliest mails have been caught. Every available man has been employed, and it is a feather in the cap of the local postal staff that they have been able to cope with the tremendous amount of extra work in such a satisfactory way. It shows that the staff is thoroughly well organised and most efficient, and we are sure the Postmaster General has recognised the splendid manner in which the Windsor Post Office officials have carried out their part in the aerial service. Very few staffs of the size of Windsor's could have equalled their record this week.
"The novelty of the aero-post is soon over, and were such a service permanently introduced tomorrow it would create no undue notice. The fact is there is not time to give due appreciation to any great innovation. Trips to the sky would be a nine-days wonder - or even less."
There is one aspect of the Aerial Post
that we at The Royal Windsor Website particularly enjoy. On September
20th 1911 a visitor to Windsor, possibly named 'Doug', sent a
very ordinary card of Windsor Castle to Miss Luff, c/o Mrs Meacock
at 5 Dorian Villas, Vicarage Road, Sunbury, Middlesex. His message
read: "Amy was pleased to receive the cards and hopes you
will like this one. Amy has seen quite a lot of flying machines
go over the castle."
'Doug' seems blissfully unaware that Amy had witnessed a very significant step forward in the national - and international - postal service!
In 1934 this advert was published for The Coronation Aerial Post, 1911. It has not so far been possible to identify this book or locate a copy - it is probably a very collectible and expensive publication by now!
I am grateful to the ukphilately.org.uk for publishing this entry for Francis J Field.
FIELD, Francis John 1895-1992.
For seventy years a student of airpost history and aerophilately. In 1921 he founded the firm of Francis J Field Ltd, dealing specially in air stamps. At Birmingham, in May 1923, he gave the first British philatelic talk on radio. He compiled 'A Commercial and Historical Atlas of the World's Airways' , and was co-author, with NC Baldwin, of 'The Coronation Aerial Post 1911' . Works published by his firm included: 'British Air Mails - A Chronology of the Air Posts of Great Britain and Ireland' , 'Air Mail Labels (Etiquettes)', 'The Blitz Book' , 'Great Britain and Ireland - Catalogue of Internal Air Mails 1910-41' compiled by NC Baldwin , 'World Air Posts - A concise priced summary of the Air Post and Aviation Souvenirs of about 200 countries' , 'British Air Mail Society Souvenir' , and from 1926 the house magazine 'The Aero Field'. President Aerophilatelic Federation and Streetly P.S. Named in Roll of Honour of Birmingham P.S. RDP 1968.