1929 Schneider Trophy Race, the last competitive race.
Great Britain had been struggling under the burden of debt racked up during WW1, and with little investment in new machinery to boost exports, things looked bleak; what could the politicians give the workers to cheer about, winning the Schneider Trophy.
The new Government lead by Ramsey MacDonald considered rightly that investing in new machines for the 1929 contest worthwhile, and R.J.Mitchell was on his way to developing a real winner, much of which was due to Rolls Royce and their new supercharged ‘R’ engine, later to become the Merlin.
The Italians were equal to our developments, with a new Macchi M67 having sleek lines but lacking in power, a revolutionary design by Savoia Marchetti S.65 using push pull layout with an engine front and rear, the pilot sitting in the middle, but this had problems and was not ready for the race.
Despite Italian efforts to postpone the 1929 contest, Saturday 7 September remained the day of the battle. The atmosphere was electric with an estimated one million spectators congregated on the shores of the Solent. They had plenty to be thrilled about as the British outclassed the Italians. Nevertheless the visiting pilots, Lieutenants Remo Cadingher and Giovanni Monti gave brave displays of flying in the wickedly beautiful, if untried, Macchi M.67s. However they were forced to retire after only a few laps. Dal Molin in his old Macchi M.52R managed to keep the Italian challenge alive, but there was no sign of the S.6s slowing for him to catch up. Nevertheless, he succeeded in just defeating D’Arcy Grieg in his S.5 into third place.
Although the contests were not strictly races, the 1929 contest provided a unique spectacle of the silver and blue Supermarines chasing the Scarlet Macchis around the circuit. The excitement when Waghorn in his repaired S.6 overtook Dal Molin was evidenced by the cheers of the assembled crowd. In the fray, Waghorn had lost count of the number of laps he had completed and on an extra lap of the course his aircraft duly ran out of fuel, but his average speed of 328.63 mph was more than adequate for victory.
His British team-mate in another S.6, Flying Officer R.L.R. `Batchy’ Atcherley was unfortunately disqualified for missing a pylon on his first lap whilst sorting out his goggles and so the Italians were given second place as a consolation. This great British victory culminated in Squadron Leader A.H. `Harry’ Orlebar RAF, CO of the High Speed Flight at Calshot, claiming a world speed record of 358 mph in an S.6 a few days after the contest.
With the sun shining and more than a million people — the majority of them women — waiting in Calshot and the Isle of Wight, everything is ready for the world’s greatest air race and biggest thrill this afternoon.
Except for a very slight haze, the Schneider Trophy planes will fly in almost ideal conditions. This is the forecast: Fine and warm, with little or no low cloud. Slightly hazy. Wind North-Easterly or variable, not more than ten miles an hour. Sea smooth.
And when the first of the racing planes — Flying-Officer Waghorn’s Supermarine Rolls-Royce — skims along the Solent and hurtles in the air two million eyes will turn skyward. The race was timed to start at 2 p.m.
Then, at intervals of about 20 minutes, five other seaplanes will start up with a roar and shoot across the sky. This year’s struggle between Britain and Italy for the £200 trophy given by M. Jaques Schneider in 1913 will be the fastest and most thrilling race the world has ever known.
It is expected that the speed of 281.65 mph put up by Flight-Lieut. Webster when he won the Trophy for Britain at Venice in 1927, will he exceeded by 70 miles an hour.
The tremendous crowd swarmed into the Isle of Wight by car and train throughout the night. Among them will be the Prince of Wales, who will see the race from a motor speed-boat piloted by Sir Henry Segrave, the Prime Minister and his daughter, Miss Isabel MacDonald. Ten thousand of the million watchers left Waterloo by train before 7 a.m. to-day. Thousands more organised all-night bathing-parties on the moonlit beach.
As dawn broke over Southsea beach to-day, armies of laughing girls had lit fires and stoves all along the sands and began to cook breakfast. The fragrance of eggs and bacon spread for miles.
Dawn brought vast reinforcements to the midnight army. Trains poured into the station at five minute intervals, crowded to the doors with eager people.
Everybody seemed to go down to the beach almost as soon as they arrived for a dip after their journey.
The beautiful scarlet Macchi 67 forced to land after a few laps. Click on photo to enlarge. Click here to see M67 in Italian museum.
The 1929 winner of the Schneider Trophy at the Solent Sky Museum, Southampton.
The British race team, Flt.Lt. D’Arcy Greig. Flt. Lt. Waghorn and Fg. Off. Atcherley. The winner Flt. Lt. HRD Waghorn A.F.C. Link to Waghorn’s tragic death in 1931
Southsea beach 1929, what a party!