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The Day Royalty Dropped Into Onslow Village

Published on: 1 Nov, 2018
Updated on: 2 Nov, 2018

Scheduled royal visits these days are amid much security, for good reason. Details are usually kept a closely guarded secret until just before the event, with even the press, national and local, not told until a day or so before, or even not at all! In this story, Onslow Village resident and keen aircraft enthusiast Steve Mills tells the story of Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester’s unscheduled emergency landing in Guildford in 1932.

Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester. More details here.

Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, was the youngest son of King George V and the brother of two future kings, Edward VIII and George VI, when he made an emergency landing in his Gipsy Moth aircraft on the edge of Onslow Village in the early 1930s.

Before Ellis Avenue was built, his aircraft put down safely among green trees in the fields behind Orchard Road.

Pam Gotham knew the story and contacted the Onslow Village Residents’ Association from her home in Plymouth. She was keen to locate her grandparents’ home and investigate the story of the unscheduled royal visitation that explained the aircraft and the royal Rolls Royce captured in her family photographs of a house in Onslow Village.

Pam Gotham’s family photo showing 10 Orchard Road, (when new named “Laburnums”), Onslow Village, with the fields behind where the Duke of Gloucester’s aircraft made an unscheduled landing in 1932.

Pam’s grandparents, Albert Leslie and Flora Elizabeth Oubridge, had moved into 6 Wilderness Road 1922 and they moved again into their new home named “Laburnums” at Orchard Road (now number 10) in 1932 before they eventually left the village in 1935.

Pam was unsure which of these Onslow Village homes the Duke had landed near, the question we have now answered.

The Duke’s aircraft, G-ABDB, was a DH.60M, the metal-fuselage version of the Gipsy Moth. It was delivered in the autumn of 1930 to Flt Lt Edward “Mouse” Fielden, the nominee for the Duke of Gloucester and the aircraft was sold in June 1933, so it must have been in Onslow Village in 1932.

Open cockpit biplanes were still front-line aircraft at this time, so it would not have been considered old or out of date or even small.

A DH.60M, the metal-fuselage version of the Gipsy Moth, owned by the Prince of Wales. It is similar to one owned by the Duke of Gloucester that made an emergency landing in Onslow Village.

The royal aircraft were lovingly maintained. As an example of the type of the machine the villagers must have seen, the then Prince of Wales’ also had Moth aircraft (seen above). It was described in 1930 as dark red and dark blue in the colours of the Household Brigade.

The red registration letters were outlined in white on the blue fuselage and in plain red on the aluminium wings. A streamline headrest was installed behind the rear cockpit which the Prince used.

Both cockpits were instrumented, the upholstery was red leather and the luggage locker was made especially deep.

The royal Rolls-Royce parked in Orchard Road from Pam Gotham’s family photos. Presumably it was driven there to collect the Duke of Gloucester after his emergency landing.

The machine was kept at Windsor Great Park. The Rolls-Royce Phantom V car with the number plate XH8888 that is pictured in Pam’s family album was built for Prince Henry who was in the 10th Royal Hussars, hence the registration. The car is still in the royal collection.

I wonder if anyone else has any information or pictures of this incident in the village? It was not ‘good taste’ in those days to publicise such events, so we must thank Pam for her family’s story. Pam is now one of our latest Onslow Village Residents’ Association members!

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