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THE GRUNAU BABY IN ENGLAND by Laurence Woodage

 Slingsby in Yorkshire

In England Louis Desoutter, a member of the London Gliding Club at Dunstable, began building a Baby 1 in 1932.  Unfortunately in June 1934 Desoutter was fatally injured in an accident to a Dagling primary glider (a flying wire broke) before completing the project.

Slingsby in Yorkshire finished the Baby.  This was, probably Fred Slingsby's first chance to study the design closely, though at least one imported Baby 2 was already flying in Britain at this time.  The Desoutter Grunau Baby was returned to Dunstable to make its first flights as a club sailplane there on December 30, 1934.  Its success was immediate, especially since Desoutter, a superb craftsman, had used ball bearings in place of the plain pulleys in the control circuits, making the aircraft extremely pleasant to fly.

The London Club asked Slingsby to supply another Grunau Baby and an order also came from Alan Cobham, who incorporated some gliding in his flying circus displays.

Slingsby negotiated a licence from Schneider, and production of the Type 5 Grunau Baby 2 began at Kirbymoorside immediately.

Cobham took the first one, employing Eric Collins, the best sailplane pilot in Britain at the time and the first British Silver C pilot, to fly it.  Tragically, in a display at Upwood on July 30, 1935, Collins unwisely attempted an outside loop in the Grunau Baby.  It had not been designed for inverted manoeuvres of this sort.  The wing collapsed; although Collins had a parachute he did not use it and was killed.

The London Club took delivery of its Slingsby Grunau Baby 2 soon after this disaster.  It was very successful, operating with the club fleet alongside the Desoutter Grunau Baby.  Other clubs and a few private-owner groups soon followed the Dunstable lead.

The market for sailplanes in Britain was not large.  The relatively small total of Grunau Babies coming from Kirbymoorside during the next few years may be explained partly by the fact that Slingsby was very soon offering other types of sailplane, especially his Type 6, Kirby Kite, in direct competition with the Grunau Baby.  The first Kite was already under construction before the London Gliding Club received its Grunau Baby 2. The Kite was, in most important respects, an improved Grunau Baby, of slightly better performance, more elegant appearance and only a little more expensive.

The price of a Type 5 Grunau Baby 11 was £137.10.0 in 1939.

Slingsby built 15 aircraft Type 5, Grunau Baby 2, C/N: 24A, BGA 216; 25A, BGA 218; 215A, BGA 230; 225A, BGA 248; 233A, BGA 257; 270A, BGA 309-@ 274A, BGA 315; 290A, BGA 329; 295B (Rebuild), BGA 148/NF 745-1 297A, BGA 344; 325A, BGA 386; 332A, BGA 396; 354A, BGA 424/ZS-38/ZS-GAK-, 362A, HM 576*; 363A, MM 587*.

*Unconfirmed. 

Wartime repair and rebuilding of captured

German built Grunau Baby: VT 916 to VT 925.

 Although the Slingsby factory was responsible for the reconditioning and repair of some Grunau Baby 2Bs in the immediate post-war period, there was no further production of the type at Kirbymoorside.  Elliotts of Newbury stepped in.

 ELLIOTTS OF NEWBURY LTD Elliotts of Newbury grew out of an old established joinery works that had existed on a part of the present site since the "nineteenth century.  After the 1914-18 war a change to furniture manufacture was made which has continued to the present day.  During the Second World War, however, Elliotts became involved with glider manufacture, one of a number of furniture manufacturers, including Harris Lebus Ltd., that co-operated in the building of the large transport gliders.  Elliotts built about one third of the total Horsa production including the development of the hinged nose for the Mark 2 version, and it was also responsible for powered version of the Hamilcar glider.  However, Elliottís prime interest was, the making of furniture.  At the end of the war, when the contracts for the transport gliders were coming to an end, the firm was hoping to resume furniture manufacture but, for technical reasons, was not "designated" by the Board of Trade for the manufacture of "Utility" furniture.

 Early in 1945 the company was approached by Chilton Aircraft Ltd. to make one pair of wings for the Chilton Olympia.  Elliotts had, by then, already planned to manufacture the Newbury Eon four-seat light aircraft but they agreed to make one pair of wings only for the Chilton prototype.  Upon the loss of the furniture "contracts" Elliotts wished to keep as much work as possible in their factory to maintain full employment. They therefore refused to sell Chilton the wing jigs and maintained legal rights and ownership of their own manufactured jigs.  Chilton's later decided to give up all aircraft work, to concentrate on electrical products, and an agreement was subsequently reached whereby Elliotts purchased from Chilton the production rights, fuselage jigs, and work in hand on all Olympia sailplanes.

Quantity production of the Eon Olympia commenced in 1946, and was followed in 1948 by the production of two further ex German designs, the DFS Grunau Baby 2b sailplane and the SG.38 primary glider.  Elliotts, and their design consultants Aviation & Engineering Products Ltd., introduced improvements in each of the designs before commencing production.  The Baby was fitted with an enclosed canopy; upper surface spoilers and a main skid of fixed centre, plus tail skid

Meanwhile, the Newbury Eon aircraft had its first flight in August 1947, and, in conjunction with their consultants, they produced a Design Study and tendered to the Air Industry specification T. 16/48 for a two-seat training aircraft in competition with Percival Aircraft Ltd., Handley Page (Reading) Ltd. and Auster Aircraft Ltd.  Elliotts produced no further aircraft but aircraft parts were made, under subcontract, for Vickers, de-Havilland, Follands and the R.A.E., as well as parts for Vosper's Ltd. and Marshall's of Cambridge.

In 1954 a new version of the Olympia was produced as, by this time, the original Olympia design was nearly fifteen years old.  The Olympia 4, later known as the 401, was the first in a series of gradual stages of improvement and led to the 402 in 1956, the 403 iii 1957, and finally, in 1958, to the Open Class 419 with its companion the 415 for the fifteen-metre Standard Class.  Limited production of these two latter types was then initiated.  A completely new Standard Class sailplane was introduced in 1961 known as the Type 460.  'This was put into production and became very popular in Britain, resulting in a special version, the 'type 465, being developed for the 1965 World Championships.

In the summer of 1965 the Managing Director of Elliotts, Mr. H. C. C. Buckingham died.  He had been a keen supporter of the gliding movement for many years and had been very anxious to provide the gliding world with up to date sailplanes.  After his death Elliotts carried out a review of the firm's activities and decided that it was time to end glider production due to its increasing unprofitability.  A joint advertisement in the April 1966 edition of "Sailplane & Gliding" announced that Slingsby Sailplanes Ltd. had taken over the production of Eon sailplanes.  However, no Elliott designed gliders were ever built at Kirbymoorside although spares were supplied and repairs has undertaken.

 Slingsby produced a total of 47 aircraft, some also built from factory supplied kits. Type 8 Baby Eon

All Baby c/n.'s commence EON/B/ followed by the number below: 001, BGA 608/G-ALLU~GSA 217; 002, BGA 626/G-ALRS/ZK-GAF; 003, BGA 627/G-ALRV; 004, BGA 628/G-ALRU  owner Bob Kent; 005, BGA 629/G-ALRH; 006 and 007, BGA 633 and 4/Malaya; 008 and 009, India; 010, Pakistan; 01 1, LN-GBF; 012 to 016, Pakistan; 017, Malaya; 0 1 8, LN-OBI-@ 019 to 026, Pakistan-, 027, RAFGSA 104; 028 to 032, Pakistan; 033, India; 034, CS-PAO; 035, CS-PAM; 036, ZK-GAK; 037 to 046, India; 047, RAFGSA 255/BGA 1252; (048 was a rebuild of 047, BGA 1252.)

Grunau Baby 2B with canopy BGA 628/G-ALRU  Owner Bob Kent

Other Grunau Babyís were built by: BGA 220 built by H. Dunning, in 1935.  BGA 277 built by F. Coleman in 1936.  This was, later, G-ALKU/RAFGSA 270.  BGA 347 built by the College of Aeronautics, in 1938.

BGA 370 built by J.Hobson, also in 1938.  After the war, three more were built (probably from part existing gliders).  BGA 648 and 653, C/N.  FL 002 and 001, by R.N.A.S. Fleetlands.

GA 669 built by Portsmouth Gliding Club.

In Britain, perhaps the most remarkable flight made in a Grunau Baby was the climb, after a winch launch, to 11,14Oft by Noel McClean in June 1939, in the Helm Wind wave over Cross Fell.  The cold was intense in the open cockpit, with no windscreen.  Contraction of the cables in the low temperatures caused all the controls to become extremely stiff Getting the Baby 2 down, lacking any type of spoilers or dive brakes, proved extremely difficult.  To drift back to the downward side of the wave would have dumped the sailplane far from home in rough country.  This had already happened to another pilot on a previous occasion.  McClean rightly few on the upwind side of the cap cloud, but getting down through the up current was almost impossible. Steep side slipping was the only way the sailplane could be forced to lose height without gaining excessive airspeed.  McClean landed safely at last, but held the record for only a few weeks.

 Grunau Baby IIb - BGA 2433

The story of our Baby, BGA 2433 (DWF) is roughly as follows: 1947 Built at the Royal Navy Air Repair Yard, Fleetlands, Gosport to drawings prepared by John Sproule.  The Tailplane and Rudder were rounded off, but it is basically a standard 2b.  Fleetlands produced 6 GBs to equip the newly formed RNGSA before production was stopped following complaints from Slingsby about unfair competition.

From 1947 to approx. 1969 it was used by various service gliding clubs but no records have been passed on, it is believed that the service no. was VW 743 and later RN 1 - 1 3 1970 to 1980 it was with the Army Gliding Association at Upavon 1980 to 1987 owned by Barry Smith who took it to one of the first Baby Treffens. 1987 Purchased by R.Bonsfield 1988 Purchased by G.Kench 1989 purchased by myself and flown at Trent Valley GO Kirton-inLindsey, Lincolnshire

1991 Laurie Woodage joined me in ownership, we flew it at the International Vintage Rally at Arnhem.

Subsequently, I have transferred my share to Laurie as he has done most of the work on the glider, including buying and fitting out a brand new metal trailer.  The Glider is now based at Dunstable, rondon Gliding Club, where sooner or later we hope to do some hill soaring.  Most recently we have participated in a Rally at the Naval Air Station, Lee-on-Solent to celebrate the 50th.  Anniversary of the formation of the Royal Navy Gliding and Soaring Association and the Woodworm Rally at Dunstable for vintage gliders.  The machine still performs very well, 1 took her up to 2,750 feet at Dunstable, fortunately having taken the precaution of putting on extra clothes.

As a postscript, at one stage in its career the glider had a little engine fitted on a pylon above the centre section. I believe the experiment was not a success, Laurie has more details.

Tealby 25 July 1997 Marry Hayes

Additional history by Laurange Woodage

Constructed by Lt. Cdr. John Sproule at RNAS Fleetlands, Portsmouth, England, in approximately 1947.  The only surviving glider from a small batch of about six GB's constructed.  Some parts may have originated from GB's liberated from Germany.  As related to me by John Sproule (Now deceased)

Production ceased, when Fred Slingsby found out about his efforts, and threatened to sue him.  He apparently took exception to having a commercial competitor, subsidised by the British taxpayer & based at a military installation!

 

Identification

RNG&SA2 = RNI-13 AGA3 = 16 BGA C of A= 2433 (Issued 18/04/80) REG DWF

Interesting technical Details - Alloy welded nose cone. - Wheel (Split hub, same as used in T3 l). Rudder top is round, and probably originates from a Slingsby Kite. - During the 1960's? was modified to accept a pylon mounted motorcycle engine powered prop, above the wings.

Owners  Currently owned by: Laurence Woodage&Murray Hayes 

The glider is currently based at the London Gliding club, Dunstable.  The glider is in airworthy condition.

Notes:  RNAS = (Royal Naval Air Station) RNG & SA = (Royal Naval Gliding & Soaring Association) AGA = (Army Gliding Association)

Stevenage 22 July 1997