At around 9pm on the evening of the 16th December 1908, the pulling and sailing Lifeboat ‘Queen Victoria’ under coxswain John Holbrook answered signals of distress made from a vessel which had grounded on the ledge at…
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.
Heavens to Betsy but moving is exhausting, as if we didn’t all know! It’s going to be at least another week or two before I’m back to normal or as normal as my life ever is. My landline and internet are not going to be up and running until 1st August so I’m still having to pop into the Pilot Boat Inn next door.
There are great advantages to having them as neighbours and I’m thankful that it’s not a rowdy establishment. I stayed there for three days before I could actually move into the cottage and the rooms are excellent. Included in their restaurant menu are mussels accompanied by a cream sauce with white wine and Vermouth, which is to die for. In fact, I’m so besotted I’ve yet to try anything else on the menu.
As for the process of moving, when your mobility and dexterity are limited, it takes a great deal more time and effort to do what you can and organise help for what you can’t. My niece and sister-in-law are doing as much as they are able but the stumbling block, which will come as no surprise to my friends, are the boxes of books. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I said to the delivery guys. ‘I promise to stop reading!’
The locals are charming and helpful while the supermarket provided me with the biggest laugh:
I look forward to ‘rest bite’ care as and when.
In the meantime…
Take care and keep laughing!