The Borstal Boy, The Can-Can Dancer and The Stolen Auster Aircraft

You couldn’t possibly make it up.  A borstal boy, Windmill can-can dancer and stolen Auster aircraft make headlines for Bembridge on the Isle of Wight around the world.

On the 30th May 1949, an 18-year-old serial absconder from borstal institutions all across England broke into a hanger at Bembridge Airfield and although never having piloted a plane before took off and attempted to fly to Southern Ireland. This story made newspaper headlines around the world and put Bembridge on front pages from Hobart to Honolulu.

Brynley Fussell was a young miscreant who had spent many years in various borstals and had previously escaped from one such Island institution, Camp Hill at Yarmouth, and attempted to sail a small boat to the Mainland. On that occasion, he was caught and sent to Rochester, Kent before escaping yet again. He made his way back to the Island,  stole some cash from houses in Ryde and paid for two short duration flights as a passenger at Somerton Airfield, Cowes, quizzing the pilots on their instruments as they flew along.

He then made his way to Bembridge and having broken into the Sailing Club and stolen money and a pair of binoculars he arranged another half hour joy ride as a passenger in an Auster carefully watching every action the pilot made. Having then stayed around until nightfall he broke into the hanger moved two other aircraft and a crash tender out of the way before pushing an Auster Autocrat registration G-AGVL out onto the airfield. Climbing in, he started the engine and roared off into the early evening.

The flight lasted an hour but running low on fuel he was forced to land just outside Cheltenham close to the Severn Estuary. After again going on the run he was finally arrested at Whitchurch Airfield, Bristol whilst attempting to find another aircraft to continue his flight.

Meanwhile, the stolen Auster was hurriedly flown back to Bembridge and as had been the original intention was prepared for an upcoming Island air race. The pilot was to be Anita D’Ray (born Dorothy Poore) who was a featured dancer at the world-renowned Windmill Theatre, London. At just nineteen she was an accomplished pilot with over one hundred solo flights and had entered the Air Race piloting this privately owned aircraft. Over the Whitsun weekend not only does she enter the international race as one of the very few female entrants but pitted against many well-known international pilots goes on to win it.

Brynley Fussell went on to commit many further crimes including stealing another aircraft and flying to France before eventually settling down and becoming a world-renowned microlight aviation expert gaining his full pilots licence in 1988 some forty years after that first maiden solo fight out of Bembridge airport. Anita D’Ray become an accomplished actress and dance advisor to the film and television industries.

© Peter Chick 2017 (Facebook)


Britain is no country for a very old Second World War Submariner called Jim Booth

jimJim, who is 96 years old, was born in 1921 and joined the Navy in the second year of the Second World War in 1940, when he was 18. He served on the North Sea convoys before he became part of the Combined Operations Pilotage and Reconnaissance Parties : ‘COPP,’ which had a wartime military base on Hayling Island in Hampshire in 1943 under the instruction of Lord Mountbatten. It was here that he became part of a small team of sailors and soldiers trained as frogmen and canoeists for covert beach explorations prior to landings on enemy

via Britain is no country for old men: Britain is no country for a very old Second World War Submariner called Jim Booth

A Complete Break

My recent experience in hospital and the prospect of further investigations into other health problems has made me realise I need to take a complete break from blogging and social media, which will include Rogues & Vagabonds and First Night Design. I hope that occasionally I will be able to create some art pieces but I will not be promoting them on First Night Design, simply adding them to my various galleries as below.

Zazzle Design UK

Zazzle Design US

Zazzle Vintage UK

Zazzle Vintage US

Fine Art America


Saatchi Art

Take care and keep laughing!



The Downfall of Rosewater, Once America’s Favorite Flavor – Atlas Obscura

Vanilla, once an expensive ingredient, usurped rosewater as a pantry staple.

Source: The Downfall of Rosewater, Once America’s Favorite Flavor – Atlas Obscura

The battle of Stockton, 1933

These days, Sunday afternoons in Stockton are relatively quiet. In the High Street few shops are open, and with the loss of the Cinema, the only signs of life are to be found in those pubs that are still open.

But this was not the case some 58 years ago when Stockton, for a few hours, suddenly found itself playing…

Source: The battle of Stockton, 1933

“The Ideal German Soldier” | toritto

“The Ideal German Soldier” –  appearing on the front page of Berliner Tagsblatt newspaper, Sunday edition during the invasion of Poland – 1939. Our soldier’s picture w…

Source: “The Ideal German Soldier” | toritto

A Brief History of The War in Croatia – Background, Battlefields and Outcomes – Croatia, the War, and the Future

Vukovar, Croatia 1991 – brutally devastated from Serb aggression

To understand Croatia’s war in the 1990s, one needs to understand the historical background, as well as geopolitical interests of the international community, neighbours and international powers – and all of those interests before, during and after the war, as well as in the future.Croatia was, and still is, the hottest piece of geographic real estate in Europe. Croatia is the…

Source: A Brief History of The War in Croatia – Background, Battlefields and Outcomes – Croatia, the War, and the Future

The History Girls: ‘Algernon and Ernest’s Excellent Adventure’ by Lesley Downer

‘younger by six centuries’ pic from Rutherford Alcock The Capital of the Tykoon 1863

In October 1866 a young man called Algernon Mitford arrived in Japan. ‘I found myself in a world younger by six centuries than that which I had left behind,’ he recalled. Like the eponymous heroes of the 1989 film ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’, he had stepped into a time machine, but in his case, his experiences were real.
The extraordinary world that Mitford found himself in is …

Polish-Jewish ballet dancer Franceska Mann

Arriving at Auschwitz in 1943, Polish-Jewish ballet dancer Franceska Mann was ordered to disrobe for the crematorium….

Posted by HistoryBites on Friday, 8 September 2017

Lest We Forget | Actonbooks

A brave and by his own words modest man died last month. His name was Mike Dauncey. He was 97, and so in the language of the battle for hearts and minds that the English call the game of cricket, D…

Source: Lest We Forget | Actonbooks

October 1, 1918 Lawrence of Arabia – Today in History

I have been in hospital for two weeks, hence the gap in transmission.

Lawrence tried to convince his superiors that Arab independence was in their own best interest, but found himself undermined by the Sykes-Picot agreement, negotiated in secret between French and Br…

Source: October 1, 1918 Lawrence of Arabia – Today in History

WW2 espionage: The spies who surprised me | History Extra

Sir Max Hastings’ new book tells the story of espionage in the Second World War. Here he introduces some of the remarkable agents who captured his imagination, and reveals the momentous impact o…

Source: WW2 espionage: The spies who surprised me | History Extra

Revolution in Russia 1: Understanding Influences | First World War Hidden History

The First World War drained Russia, literally and metaphorically. By January 1917, after two-and-a-half years of mortal combat, six million young Russians had been killed, seriously wounded or lost…

Source: Revolution in Russia 1: Understanding Influences | First World War Hidden History

September 12, 1940 Lascaux Caves – Today in History

Entering via a long tunnel, the boys discovered what turned out to be a cave complex, its walls covered with depictions of animals.  Hundreds of them.  Four teenagers in Nazi occupied France, had d…

Source: September 12, 1940 Lascaux Caves – Today in History

The History Girls: The writer, the spies and leaf-mould memories by Deborah Burrows

I first visited the museum at Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, UK in 2014, and went again last month. It is a fascinating museum, in many ways representing the triumph of eccentricity over evil. At Bletchley a group of dedicated men and women – many of them amateurs with a gift for …

Source: The History Girls: The writer, the spies and leaf-mould memories by Deborah Burrows