The new Gasbags to Super Zeppelins exhibition has certainly stimulated interest in the World War One era of flight. We’ve had some great comments from visitors who’ve enjoyed learning more about this era of aviation and daily life which can sometimes be difficult to document.
In our modern digital age, it’s easy to forget that 100 years ago, photography and film making was still in it’s infancy. Most people still travelled on foot or in early steam trains, so the sight of people flying overhead in balloons and other aircraft must have been incredibly exciting.
These images have been kindly given to our archives department by visitors following the launch of the new exhibition and it’s fascinating to study the details of these early photographs and postcards.
The two balloon images below depict ‘Grand York Gala’ which took place annually in Bootham Park from the mid 1800’s until the 1920’s. The balloons gave passenger flights to brave members of the public which will have given an aerial view of York that had never been seen by human eyes before.
This fund raising image of an early British Army tank in the centre of York is typical of the type of Government War Office promotional activity at the time. A combination of motivational wording to bolster support for front line troops, plus fund raising by public donation to pay for more weapons for front line fighting, these exhibitions toured the UK in wartime. The reverse of the image has written the amount of several million pounds and while it’s unclear what area or time period this fundraising covers, it’s a pretty significant amount of money for the time.
These images of early Royal Flying Cops pilots and aircraft were taken at The Knavesmire in York as they travelled up to Edinburgh on 21st February 1913. Many early airfields were simply pastures, with no real infrastructure such as buildings and little evidence of them remains today. Horse racing courses were often used, as they offered a smooth, prepared surface to land the early aircraft on. As you can see, the crowds attracted were quite large, so the race course barriers will have been useful to keep the excited spectators in check.
Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, the new First World War exhibition has allowed us to show other examples from our archives department for the first time which have previously been in storage. When you visit the Museum, be sure to take some time to study the exhibition, as visitors comment that it offers a fresh insight into what life was like in the period during World War One, when air war came to the British public for the very first time and the first military flying units were established as the fore runners of our modern Royal Air Force