On 3rd June, 1927, twelve days after becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, and having completed his brief tour of England, Charles Lindbergh took off from RAF Kenley at 6.50am, bound for Le Bourget, in a Gloster Woodcock aircraft borrowed from No.17 Squadron.
The wireless had been removed to make room for his suit case and hat box. Only about 50 people saw Lindbergh off from Kenley – less than 20 were members of the public.
He was escorted by two of No.32 squadron’s Gloster Gamecocks flown by Flight Lieutenant J. A. Boret and Flying Officer R. H. Horniman. They took off in formation with Lindbergh in the centre, climbed steeply out of the aerodrome and wheeled around in close order, setting course south eastwards towards the coast at 1000ft. Foggy conditions caused a stop-off at Lympne to check the weather over the Channel, but Lindbergh took off at 8.13am and arrived safely at Le Bourget at 10am, where hundreds of spectators had turned out to greet his arrival yet again.
Lindbergh had been scheduled to fly to Paris the previous day, but bad weather had delayed him and he had stayed overnight in the Officer’s Mess at Kenley, (probably Flintfield House) being entertained by Kenley’s pilots. Although his plans had been kept secret, a small crowd of well-wishers had gathered at Kenley to see ‘Lucky Lindy’ off.
He was returning to Paris to take part in a few small ceremonies before slipping away to Cherbourg to begin the return trip to America by sea, aboard the ‘Memphis,’ which had already picked up his crated aircraft, the ‘Spirit of St. Louis,’ in Southampton.
The Operations Record Book for No.17 Squadron contains a letter dated 31st May, 1927, from The Wing Commander Air Staff, Headquarters Fighting Area, Hillingdon House, Uxbridge, to The Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Station, Upavon, Wilts – where No.17 Squadron were based.
Stamped “URGENT,” it records the preparations for Lindbergh’s flight to Paris:
Visit of Captain C. Lindbergh.
- Confirming conversation between Station Adjutant and Wing Cmdr. Reilly, I am directed to instruct you to detail a pilot of No.17 Squadron to ferry a Woodcock of that Unit to Northolt to arrive not later than 1700 hours on 1st June, 1927. The guns must be removed from the machine, which is required for use by Captain Lindbergh.
- On arrival at Northolt the pilot is to collect a map of the route to Paris and a lifebelt (King’s regulation 642) for use when flying the Channel: arrangements for the supply of these articles are being made by this Headquarters.
- The pilot will then receive instructions as to where the aircraft is to be handed over to Captain Lindbergh; this will probably be at Croydon.
- Captain Lindbergh will fly the machine to Paris and the pilot of No.17 Squadron will proceed there by Imperial Airways. He should take with him as small a quantity of luggage as possible but sufficient to enable him to stay two days in Paris if necessary. He will in due course receive orders as to when he is to fly the machine back from Paris to Upavon. He will return to England by the Imperial Airways route.
The Operations book records, on 2nd June, 1927:
One WOODCOCK provided for use of Colonel LINDBERGH of NEW YORK on his return to PARIS. F/O S. A. Thorn proceeded to Paris by Imperial Airways and piloted the Woodcock back.