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Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Thursday, 19 August 2010 16:27 UK
Town's 1910 air show: The first man to die in flight?
The Hon Charles Rolls flying his biplane
Charles Rolls was the first man to fly across the English Channel

As the Bournemouth Air Festival begins in what is the town's 200th year, 100 years ago another major air show was organised in Bournemouth.

It celebrated Bournemouth's centenary and its growing links with flight - but witnessed what is believed to be the first death of a British airman.

Charles Rolls, the co-founder of Rolls Royce, was killed in a plane crash at the International Aviation Meeting.

Historian John Cresswell said: "His death was a great shock to the nation."

'A pioneer'

Charles Rolls, known as a pioneering motorist and aviator, died when his craft hit the ground at Southbourne aerodrome on 12 July 1910.

Commemorative plaque to Charles Rolls
Local aviation historian John Cresswell lives near Rolls' plaque

A few months before, Charles Rolls had become the first man to fly across the English Channel and back again.

Today, near to the place of the accident - which is now a school playing field - is a plaque.

The 1910 air show attracted a lot of press interest but flying was still in its infancy.

John Cresswell, who lives near to the site of the 1910 air show, compares the awe around air travel then to our view of space travel today.

He said: "Remember that the first [powered] flight, by the Wright Brothers, had only been carried out in 1903."

Record attempts

The 1910 air show had been the idea of Bournemouth's council, and it cost them around £30,000 to arrange - a huge sum of money for the time.

The Blades
The Blades are one of the air teams on display at the 2010 air show

Mr Cresswell said that the council "courted" the French aviation group Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) - the world governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records - into holding the festival at Bournemouth.

The show attracted many aviation enthusiasts and several records were attempted, such as flying at an altitude of 4,000 ft (1219 m) by French pilot Robert Morane.

Mr Cresswell said: "The show lasted six days and attracted about 2,000 visitors."

Growing industry

The show was one of the first key moments in the town's growing connections with the aviation industry.

Later, Bournemouth's Hurn airport would be become one of the busiest airports in Britain during the late 1930s, and had some of the first passenger flights to Australia.

John, who is campaigning for another memorial plague for Charles Rolls that is closer to where the airfield would have been, would like to see the current Bournemouth Air Festival acknowledge the town's aviation heritage a bit more.

He said: "I think it would be nice to say that [today's show has] grown out of all the things we had - Hurn airport, and the 1910 show."


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