It would have been Grandpa Joe's 116th birthday today. He was a rather special and intrepid person.His father died when he was only 5 and his mother was unable to cope and disappeared. He was sent to live with his grandmother and an array of uncles and aunties. He arrived with a small suitcase and a white mouse in a cage.
Here he is looking incrediblyyoung aged about 18 in his RAF gear. He joined the Royal Flying Corps which later became the RAF, as soon as he was able during the First World War. He was shot down and had his elbow smashed to pieces and was the first person in England, possibly the world, to have it replaced with a pig's bone. After the War he set up the Berkshire Aviation Company which was a Flying Circus - he and two other pilots toured all over the country giving flying displays -including wing walking. People could also be taken up in his little bi-plane for a tenner - their oldest customer was 100 years old!
In 1924 he joined the Oxford Univeristy Polar Expedition as a pilot and engineer. This expedition headed for the North Pole and although they took dogs and sledges, they also took a seaplane which Grandpa Joe was responsible for.
On his return he was sent to Jersey to where he bumped into a young lady selling poppies. He was looking very tanned and rugged with a mighty beard, still in Arctic fashion, and the story goes that he bought her whole tray of poppies, swept her off her feet and married her by the end of the week! Granny Grace had met her match!
Joe continued to be obssessed with planes and was a Squadron Leader and glider trainer in the Second World War. He was lucky enough to have his own biplane - his flying days ending when he had a small stroke mid air. Granny apparently seized the controls and brought them back safely!!
When he died he had the oldest civilian flying licence in the Uk.
Not only was he an extraordinary aviator, he was also a a lovely man - unassuming, calm, dependable with a great sense of humour. The steady rock to my lively granny - now she's another story altogether!
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