You may wonder why this website about Cambridge's World War Two airmen and women has prewar content. Simply, in several of the interviews I have conducted the airmen have mentioned the first time they ever saw an aeroplane - usually as children or teenagers. Often this first glimpse was when a plane was making a special visit to Cambridge. So to give the reader some more background, I decided to research and include Cambridge's earliest links with aviation.
It has turned up some very interesting visitors, most were well known and some legendary aviators, such as George Bolt, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm, and parachutist daredevil 'Scotty' Fraser. One of the more colourful aviators to fly from Cambridge in the 1930's was a Cambridge resident himself, Ted Harvie. And Cambridge even set up its own little aerodrome right on the edge of town.
Though there is no longer a landing strip in the town, today Cambridge has regular air traffic overhead. Hardly a day goes by in Cambridge where something doesn't fly over - whether it is a topdressing Fletcher or Cresco, a private helicopter or the rescue chopper, a light plane from an aeroclub or an airliner flying to and from Hamilton International Airport at Rukuhia. So it is difficult for the younger Cambridge residents like myself to believe or understand that before the war the sight and sound of an aeroplane in Cambridge skies was a very rare and exciting event that caused much commotion among the locals.
The idea of a plane in our skies in the 1920's and 30's set minds racing and hearts pumping. Should a plane land here for any reason, crowds would gather and throng, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the aviator, who were treated just like rock stars are today. The more affluent members of the town would line p for a flight if it were available, and later in the 1930's when aviation was becoming more commonplace, there would still be crowds of young boys fired with enthusiasm by the machines and the heroic men and women who flew them.
In fact even the visit in 1928 of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew - without their famous plane - caused a huge stir and saw 1500 people turn out to see him at the Cambridge Town Hall. The fact they'd arrived by car meant little to them - the aviators were super humans to the average people in the street. Especially so to the youngsters.
So these little aviation interludes were milestones that set many Cambridge boys on the path to want to be fliers themselves. Many of them went onto become just that when the Second World War came. The following pages will hopefully give some background on the prewar aviation events discovered so far in this project that helped inspire that generation of boys who would later fly and fight for New Zealand.