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Archives Centre: Image of the Month

3rd May 2012 in Archives Centre, Our Collections

Churchill taking an early flying lesson, c 1914. Peregrine Churchill Papers, PCHL 8/7

Have a look at this month's image from the archives, a rare photograph of Churchill about to take to the air.

Here we see Churchill taking a flying lesson in about 1914. His interest in aviation went back to before this date; as early as 1909, as a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence, he had seen the importance of aircraft in war, and had pressed for the Government to make use of the skills of the great aviation pioneer Orville Wright. Then once he became First Lord of the Admiralty he was responsible for the creation of the Royal Naval Air Service, and naturally, being Churchill, wanted to try this exciting new technology out for himself.

Churchill is pictured here with his flying instructor Captain Gilbert Wildman-Lushington (who was to be killed in a flying accident a few weeks after this photograph was taken) at the Royal Naval Air Service's aerodrome at Eastchurch in Kent. Churchill was immensely keen on "this fascinating new art", but after going up nearly 140 times (and suffering a number of accidents) he yielded to the entreaties of his worried friends and family and reluctantly gave it up.

Peregrine Churchill Papers, PCHL 8/7