Tag Archives: aircraft

Actively Arizona

We have enjoyed a busy and eventful week, since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

Of particular interest was a recent ‘passive’ collection donated to us via Yeovil Library.

Most of the objects and photographs donated to CHAC are due to ‘passive’ collecting. This is where someone contacts staff, often by email or telephone to ask if we would like certain items. The opposite of this is ‘active’ collecting, where staff identify gaps in the collection and attempt to fill them, through actively doing something about it, often through a press release asking for specific objects to be donated. One example of this was the ‘Westland Aircraft 1914 – 1918’ Brochure, which came about as a result of asking for items during the Westland 100 Anniversary.

Two examples of ‘passive’ collecting this week started on Thursday with a call from Yeovil Library where a gentleman wanted to donate items related to an aircraft accident in Arizona, U.S.A, which had a connection to Yeovil. Rather intrigued, we asked when they would like to visit and they suggested right away. The call was very useful as this simply alerted us to expect the person, to also prepare the necessary paperwork and inform our colleagues if they came to the public reception, rather than our front door!

Upon arrival, the story emerged of John Leopold Gomm, from Yeovil, who had trained as an RAF pilot and then gone out to Mesa, Arizona for further activities during the Second World War. The central nature of the documents and photographs was recording his death due to an “aircraft accident” in August 1943 and the memorial in Falcon Field, Arizona. The documents sent a shiver through staff, as they include the original telegram informing John’s wife, Phyllis of 23, Sherborne Road, Yeovil of her husband’s death. There is also an official notice of condolence from Buckingham Palace and a colourful series of tourist postcards showing some of Arizona’s most popular attractions. The tone of this once simple document is altered completely by a simple cross in biro on the local map on the inside, which indicates The Falcon Field Memorial Graves for the pilots. Exactly what happened and why is the subject of further research.

There is also another mystery as the collection contains a black and white photograph of a ‘dancing lady’ inscribed “best wishes Phyllis” – which suggests this was obtained by John and sent home to his wife in Yeovil. This takes on an interesting meaning, when turning the image over to reveal a stamp of “The Windmill Theatre, London.”

CHAC Staff were also assisted by two Council Colleagues with a large donation of archaeological items.

We also experienced an interesting Thursday as the first afternoon without our Yeovil University Centre Students!

This week has illustrated once again that local people are being active on our behalf.

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Some of the items related to the “aircraft accident” in Mesa, Arizona involving John Leopold Gomm, we believe from Yeovil, Somerset.

Letter to P Gomm from Buckingham Palace345

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Our District Council Colleagues helping with a large donation of archaeological items.

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Learning to Fly

Another intriguing and thought-provoking week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre.

One of our main projects at the moment is our exhibition to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Westland Aircraft. This will be on show in Yeovil Town House, Union Street, Yeovil and we can let people know when this starts.

Selecting objects and photographs for the exhibition has proven to be an interesting process, especially as many of the objects were only recently donated to the Centre.

An initial search of the collection, found the Petters era (prior to the formation of Westland Aircraft) well covered in terms of objects, photographs and written information but less so on Westland and particularly the early years at the start of the First World War.

Due to this fact, we set out on a programme of ‘active collecting’ with a press release in the local newspaper. This led to some significant finds including A folder containing the original plans and drawings for the Westland Wizard dated 4th January 1928. It was handed to Mr Bruce who played such an important part in the formation of the Westland Aircraft Works in 1915 and was accessioned by our volunteers. Interestingly, this also came with another document, which details the Westland Aircraft produced in the First World War Period and how many of each type were manufactured, annotated in pencil above each image. They are also labelled ‘Confidential’ not to be taken from Mr Bruce’s office!

We also received a folder of Westland information assembled by one person, which included extra details on existing items in the collection, to enhance our knowledge of these areas. Examples included a booklet detailing the Flight over Everest by a Westland PV3 (Wapiti) and PV6 (later became a Wallace) in 1933 and a flyer for a play “First over Mount Everest” written by Kate Blacker and performed by Chris Crooks. The “specially commissioned illustrated lecture commissioned by the Discovery Gallery, London of the celebrated Houston Mount Everest Expedition was created from Colonel Blacker’s original lecture notes and magic lantern slides by his grand-daughter, Kate Blacker. In 1931, Colonel LVS Blacker, an officer in the Indian Army, assembled a committee including Lord Clydesdale, author John Buchan, Lord Peel and the Maharajah of Nawanagar to plan the conquest of Mount Everest by air.

We now have the labels completed and the objects selected and hope to install the exhibition towards the end of July 2015. This also raises another interesting environmental issue. We recently attended an “Introduction to Collections Course” organised by the South West Federation of Museums, which was held at The American Museum in Britain at Claverton Manor near Bath. One of the areas that stayed with me was ‘lux hours’ or the length of time an object is exposed to light and the type of light involved (direct sunlight or artificial light). As the Westland items are likely to be on show we will monitor this with humidity strips and regular visits. This is one of the main reasons why a ‘condition report’ is completed before an object selected for exhibition goes on display – to see the level of  deterioration or marking before, during and after display.

As in most things and particularly like Westland, we are learning all the time.

A ‘Wizard’ Find! and model of a Westland Wessex aircraft

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