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Echoes from Dawn Skies (Hardback)

Early Aviators: A Lost Manuscript Rediscovered

Aviation > Civil Aviation Military > Biographies > Military Biographies P&S History > British History

By Frederick Warren Merriam
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 100 black and white images
ISBN: 9781526726209
Published: 25th March 2022



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No one could doubt that Frederick Warren Merriam was one of the earliest and most important of Britain’s aviation pioneers. Indeed, he taught many of the others to fly; men such as Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferte, Air Commodore P.F.M. Fellowes (who led the aerial Houston Everest Expedition), and Sub-Lieutenant R.A.J. Warneford VC, the first pilot to down a Zeppelin.

In his later years, Merriam decided that he wanted to compile a book that presented ‘a more personal and intimate picture than has yet been produced by aviation history writers of the civil pioneers of British flying’. It was no simple task.

‘Some two years ago,’ Merriam continued, ‘I conceived an idea and set to work most energetically to hunt up all the survivors of those wonderful days, to ask them if they would each contribute a story of a personal nature, something that had never before been published. It was a tall order and admittedly my hopes were not too high of finding sufficient material of the sort to fill a book. A tireless search ensued for more than a year. Many obstacles and disappointments assailed me. Of some “oldtimers” no trace could be found, others had passed on and one or two were too tired to trouble. However, after a little gentle persuasion [many] made the effort.’

The remarkable collection of stories that Merriam gathered together was never published, his death in 1956 curtailing the project. For more than sixty years the manuscript lay hidden away, all but forgotten, until it was rediscovered in 2013.

"....there is much to enjoy and learn...."

Royal Aeronautical Society members magazine

This is an absolutely fascinating book. Although the author died in 1956, it has only now been published... It is an amazing book that every real aviation enthusiast should have in their library... Anyone interested in the early days of aviation simply must buy this book.

Aeromodeller December 2022

Now, seemingly resurrected from oblivion, this veritable treasure trove of firsthand information has finally been made available to the reading public.

Aviation History Magazine

With a foreword written by Michael Oakey, who also edited the original manuscript, this book, which was first compiled back in 1956, comprised a collection of short articles, each about a well-known aviation pioneer, written with their consent and co-operation, by the original author, himself a flying instructor at pre-war Brooklands. The various subjects include such early aeroplane constructors Geoffrey de Havilland, Richard Fairey, and Thomas Sopwith, test pilots like Ronald Kemp and Howard Pixton, and the holder of pilot’s licence No.1, Lord Brabazon of Tara.

My beloved B.E.2 is accorded several mentions, all of them favourable, including a story of how one example landed itself, both of its occupants believing that the other was in control.
The book is well illustrated with photographs from the Author’s own collection, augmented by more from the libraries of both The Aviation Historian and Philip Jarrett.

An extensive appendix gives details of every one of Merriam’s pupils, arranged in alphabetical order and with records of their licence numbers, where known, together with the place and date of its award. The listing includes many famous names including C.A.H. Longcroft and Philip Joubert de la Ferte. A second appendix describes the book’s original conception and includes a letter from Lord Trenchard apologising for his feeling unable to make a contribution of his own.

I found the book enjoyable, and recommend it to any member who shares my interest in pre-war aviation.

Paul Hare, Cross and Cockade

"This is a unique and enjoyable assemblage of memories from early pioneers now long departed, and there is much to be gleaned from it apart from pure pleasure."

The Moth - The de Havilland Moth Club Ltd - No 198

"The book is generously illustrated with photographs,
including a number from the authors archive...Definitely worth reading if you have an interest in the pioneering era"

Cher Ami, Great War Special Interest Group Newsletter - July 2022

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About Frederick Warren Merriam

Frederick Warren Merriam was born Frederick Warren but changed his name by deed poll in 1901 to Merriam after being befriended and sponsored in his flying aspirations by an American, Olin Merriam. At the controls of a Bristol Box-kite, in 1912 he was the first pilot in Britain to fly through cloud. Later, as manager and chief instructor of the Bristol Flying School at Brooklands, he had many pupils who subsequently became famous. At the outbreak of the First World War Merriam was the most senior flying instructor in Britain; he duly became chief instructor to the R.N.A.S. at Hendon and later at Chingford. In 1922 he founded Britain’s first gliding school, near Shanklin, Isle of Wight. It was only the toss of a coin at the Royal Aero Club which decided that Alcock, rather than Merriam, should accompany Whitten-Brown on the first direct transatlantic flight. Forever linked with the earliest days of British aviation, Merriam died at Christchurch, Hampshire, on 12 November 1956 at the age of 76.

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