By 1911, the villagers of Datchet were getting used to the roar of car engines and the sight of daredevil youngster Tommy Sopwith racing his motorbike around the greens, scattering chickens, when he visited his mother and his family. sister who lived in the mansions.
But, one Sunday in mid-January, a new and different engine noise was heard overhead.
Tommy, who had learned to fly at Brooklands, had decided to take his plane to Datchet for a ride.
Mr. Page, the village school principal, had settled in to enjoy a relaxing afternoon when someone started ringing violently on his door.
He later told a reporter that the visitor had exclaimed enthusiastically: “A plane! A plane! Mr. Sopwith landed on the golf course ‘.
There was only one golfer on the course at the time and he was greatly surprised to see the machine sail over the bunkers.
Few people had seen a plane before and within half an hour, a thousand villagers had rushed to see it.
Mr. Page joined them and found the “bird machine,” a Howard-Wright biplane, resting quietly.
By this time, Tommy, who had made a name for himself as a pioneering aviator, had gone to the Manor Hotel for coffee with his sister, leaving his plane under the watchful eye of Mr. de Paravicini, the race keeper.
When Tommy returned, silence fell.
He jumped into his seat and decided to perform a flight demonstration.
The engine hummed and the nose of the aircraft rose as it rolled on its wheels for approximately 150 meters before taking off.
It climbed to about 400 feet in a circular course and then did a steep dive in which it completely shut down the engines and came in to land with the lightness of a feather.
Everyone applauded and Mr. de Paravicini thanked him on behalf of the villagers before Tommy and his plane left for Brooklands.
Two weeks later, Tommy returned.
He had been invited to Windsor Castle by King George V. He took off again from the golf course, flew over the east terrace where the royal group had gathered, circled the round tower and landed on the lawn is where he was presented to the king. and warmly congratulated.
On his return he had to leave his plane in Datchet overnight because the fog had subsided and Mr. Page gave the school children time to visit him.
The director didn’t know at the time how familiar a plane would become to Datchet.
Thanks to Janet Kennish for researching the Datchet History website.
Alison Crampin is Interim President of the Datchet Village Society, www.DatchetVillageSociety.org.uk.