Meet the Speaker: Paul Lang
(Ealing’s Aeronautical History)

By Dr Piotr Stolarski, Ealing Local History Assistant

Paul Lang

This month’s post features an interview with Paul Lang, the ex-librarian of St. Bernard’s Hospital Library. A former long-time resident of the borough, Paul has a passion for local history. Apart from giving several talks, ranging in subject from Ealing Studios to the history of local asylums, Paul was involved in the running of St. Bernard’s Hospital Museum, has written a number of local history books, and is an avid collector of local history postcards. Here he also shares his passion for music, film, and memories of the local area, among other topics. The interview sets the scene for Paul’s talk on Ealing’s Aeronautical History, to be given at Ealing Central Library on Tuesday 10th November 2015, at 6:15pm. 


Piotr: Before we talk about the aeronautical side, maybe we can talk about you. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Paul: I was librarian at St. Bernard’s from 1982 right up to 2014. Before that I started way back in 1966 at Acton library. I was in the reference department, in lending, and in the mobile [libraries] as well.  

Acton Library

                                    Above: Acton Library between 1900 and 1904

Piotr: So you grew up in West London. Can you describe your time in the area?

Paul: I was born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in Hammersmith, and lived in Shepherd’s Bush up to the age of three. Then we moved to Highfield Road in Acton; it’s near North Acton Playing Fields. It was a bungalow with a large garden in a quiet road. I remained in Acton until about 1982. [….] My grandparents lived in Shepherd’s Bush; I remember taking the 105 bus to them along the Western Avenue on a regular basis. I got to know the area around Shepherd’s Bush Green very well. As a child I remember there was a toy shop where you could activate a toy train by putting a penny in the slot – it was on the outside, so even when it was closed. I’ve never seen another toy shop that did that, it really impressed me. My grandparents had a protected shelter in their back garden from the War. They had a tin bath at the back of the door. In the Second World War, a V-1 rocket destroyed the next block along. They were dead lucky. My parents went to Hammersmith Palais during the War.  

Shepard's Bush Green today

                                              Above: Shepard's Bush Green today

Piotr: The Palais is quite close to Shepherd’s Bush.

Paul: Yes, indeed. They always lived around that area. One of her [mother’s] relatives wrote a book of the Great Western Railway, so she was always keen on the railways. My father was very proud of the fact that he worked on Radar, up in Scotland… during the War. He was always very good at languages. He could speak fluent French, Spanish, and German. And they used him to interrogate German prisoners during the War. One of the stories was that he had to escort this prisoner from Scotland to London, and they gave him a gun – but no bullets! I supposed he could’ve coshed him! I think at one time he went to Poland, because he bought me a pencil-case, when I was a boy, from Poznań. I remember that. He was widely travelled. Very widely travelled. Acton was a much quieter area than it is today… I went to church at the Congregational church in Churchfield Road. 

Acton Congrrgational Church

                        Above: Acton Congregational church, Churchfield Road, 1926 

Piotr: This was the sixties and seventies?

Paul: Yes. Indeed. I remember being there when President Kennedy was assassinated. I remember that day, I was in the Boys’ Brigade, in their courtyard area, and someone came and told me that Kennedy has been assassinated. 

Piotr: Did you meet Pete Townshend of the Who?  

The Who

            Above: Pete Townshend (centre), later of The Who, attended Acton Congregational
                         Church youth club in the late 1950s and early 1960s 

Paul: I think I saw him once. He did come to the church, yes. I also used to see Phil Collins walking along Acton High Street, because there was a recording studio on Churchfield Road. This was before he was famous. He was known, but not super, you know.  

Acton High Street

                       Above: Acton High Street, view from Town Hall, c. 1953

Piotr: He went to a stage school in Acton, didn’t he? 

Paul: Yes I think he probably did, yes. 

Piotr: He became famous in the 80s. 

 Phil Collins at his old primary school

                                  Above: Phil Collins returns to Barbara Speake Stage School, Acton, 1986

 Paul: The Speake School?

Piotr: The Barbara Speake Stage School; it’s still there.

Paul: I think it was on Horn Lane.

Piotr: Today, it’s just off Acton Park, near East Acton.  

Paul: You would see quite famous people [in Acton] then. At the Congregational church, the Rev. Plaskett was the minister. I remember going to the Bible study groups. I was in the Boys’ Brigade. I played the bugle. We marched around Acton on Sunday mornings – sometimes it was freezing cold. I was also in the Boys’ Brigade first aid team, and we came first in a competition, I remember. We always used to go camping, with the Boys’ Brigade, in Devon. We always went to the same place. I was also in the Scouts based in the St. Gabriel’s church hall, along Noel Road. 

Paul Lang playing bugleSt Gabriel's Church

      Above Left: Paul playing bugle in back garden, Highfield Road, Acton, 1950s
      Above Right: St. Gabriel’s church, Noel Road, Acton 

Piotr: In North Acton?

Paul: Yeah. I think I preferred the Boys’ Brigade. I was in Acton Youth Orchestra as I progressed from the bugle to the trumpet. A natural progression. I was commended for my trumpet playing at a concert in Peckham. I was also a member of the Acton Water Gypsies – this was a private swimming club… held at the Acton Swimming Baths. I got lots of badges – we used to sew them on to our duffel bags: it was a competition with the lads as to how many you could sew on, you know! 

Piotr: Yeah, I remember that… 

Acton BathsWalpole Cinema in Ealing

  Above Left: Acton Baths (now demolished), undated
  Above Right: Walpole Cinema, Bond Street, Ealing, 1975 

Paul: We had to dive in fully clothed and save someone who was pretending to be drowning. I also remember seeing Douglas Bader, the Second World War ace, at a school prize-giving, at Clement Danes School, I think it was at the sports field. I also saw Yehudi Menuhin play at Acton Town Hall. I used to go to Ealing, to the cinema, to the Walpole Picture Theatre, down Bond Street, which I think they nicknamed the Fleapit! It wasn’t very salubrious. I distinctly remember those toilets outside the church in Ealing. Remember taking long walks around Walpole and Lammas Park, and watching the bowling. Used to go on long walks around the Park Royal area, as that was not too far from where I lived, in Acton. And Hanger Hill woods, that sort of area. I was very keen on cycling, when I was young, and used to cycle all over the area. Remember taking my trumpet exams in Ealing in what is now the Polish church [….] Near Bridge Road, there was an industrial area, and this was an interesting area. The café in Bridge Street was owned by the Hazel family, and I was friendly with the son of that family. There was a narrow gauge railway track that ran across the road just at the top of Alliance Road; I think this was probably linked to the Metal Box Company… this was the sixties and seventies. 

Piotr: This was North Acton? 

Metal Box Company

              Above: Metal Box Company, Acton, 1931

Paul: Yes. This was in the industrial estate near where the Alliance Aircraft Factory was… the tracks headed off into the Metal Box Company… there was also a footpath leading off to the Metal Box Company… The houses along Saxon Drive were those used for the railway employees…. On the corner of Bridge Street was an Egg Marketing Board building, and just around the corner, the BBC outside broadcast – they had a motor pool. The BBC had studios by Landys & Gyr by North Acton Station… then there was the Palm Toffee factory… you used to use a hammer to break pieces off the toffee… At Alliance Road itself was the former aircraft factory. You could tell it was an aircraft factory from a huge metal purlins on the roof… it was quite an advanced structure for its time. And when the hanger doors were open, it was of a vast size. In the 1970s this building was the Union Cold Stores, a meat storage facility. Renault had taken over the other side of the road, and had hundreds of their cars parked along there.  

                                     Above: The Alliance Factory, Acton, 1975

Piotr: They’re still there, aren’t they?

Paul: Are they? I haven’t been down there.

Piotr: What are your best and worst memories?

Paul: Churchfield Road was very seedy-looking at that time, in the sixties. With Kasbah’s, junk-shops and second hand bookshops. It had a seedy air to it. You don’t get that sort of thing now. 

Piotr: It’s supposed to be gentrified now. It’s got a flower shop, a Sainsbury’s, but it used to have a laundry. 

Churchfield Road 1900ADChurchfield Road 2014AD

      Above Left: Churchfield Road, c. 1900                  Above Right: Churchfield Road, c. 2014

Paul: It was sort of seedy then. 

Piotr: For some reason there was a Saab dealership there… Do you remember the Christian bookshop? 

Paul: Oh yeah…

Piotr: There was a man on the corner of Alfred Road (and Churchfield Road) with a junkshop. With a shop full of junk, I think he was there until the early 2000s, and then he sold off and moved out. 

Paul: The Tony Brothers had an ice-cream place.

Piotr: They did, yeah…. So it wasn’t as gentrified as it is now.  

Tony Bros ice cream parlour

                                       Above: Tony Bros., Churchfield Road, 1977 

Paul: I went to Acton Wells School. And there was a custard factory and a rubber factory nearby, and there was an incredible smell! It was really pungent and off-putting!

Piotr: You wouldn’t get that now, would you?

Paul: No, no – it would be Health and Safety, wouldn’t it? The mixture of the custard and the rubber, you know! A very industrial area. My memories of Ealing are very pleasant – walking around the parks.  

Acton Wells School

                            Above: Afternoon rest, Acton Wells School, c. 1952 

Piotr: But compared to now, when you can’t buy a DVD in Ealing – there’s no cinema; there are shops, but it doesn’t seem to have the things it used to have…

Paul: I remember in Ealing, in W.H. Smiths, there were listening booths downstairs… you could actually listen to a record… at Beggars’ Banquet you could exchange records in Bond Street, even if you didn’t have much money! You wouldn’t get that now…

Piotr: Yeah. You worked at Acton library. Why did you choose the library service? 

Acton Reference Library

                       Above: Acton Reference Library, 1958 

Paul: I just liked books. I started in 1966 at the reference library: Mr Goodlet was in charge. He was of the old school, if one of the women came in in jeans, he would send them home. He had a key to his own toilet and wouldn’t let anyone else use it. He never went to staff parties because he didn’t want to mix… he didn’t think it right, from his level, to mix with the junior staff. He was absolutely stratified… not sure if we should put this down, actually!

Piotr: Was he quite old? 

Paul: Oh yeah, I suppose he was coming up to retirement. He was very much set in his ways, strict in his outlook. Authoritarian. There were also atomic energy reports. There was a chap from the Russian Embassy who would come as soon as they were declassified, and he would takes copies of them. Regular as clockwork he would come, you know! They were stored on the back stairs – again that wouldn’t pass Health & Safety today. 

Mr H Goodlet, former Acton Library Manager

                                        Above: Mr. A. H. Goodlet (centre) 

Piotr: Your wife was also a librarian. 

Paul: I met my wife about 1979, in library school, in Woodlands (Acton). She subsequently worked for Surrey Libraries, and later for Kingston-upon-Thames. I was interested in local history even at that period. My mother worked at the Central Middlesex Hospital at the Gastroenterology Department – a very specialist library… she devised her own indexing system, and I would help her with this… she found the material for the consultants, for they needed to write specialist papers, so she did the donkey work, and took all the credit! All the top consultants came to her funeral. She continued to work at the library in to her seventies, and they paid her out of the research fund. Out daughter Araminta, who got her Masters in Ecology, works for Kingston-upon-Thames library… 

Piotr: When and why did you move to Ewell in Surrey? How does it compare to Ealing, and which do you prefer? 

Paul: I moved to Acton in 1982. And then I moved to Teddington… a very nice area… the film studios were nearby of course… I stayed there about a year, then I moved to Putney… near the Barnes Common… then to Surbiton; after about five years we bought a house in Chessington… stayed in Chessington for over twenty years. Had quite a large garden. My mum died in 2008, and I inherited a bungalow in Highfield Road in Acton, so I sold her house and the one in Chessington, and bought a much larger one in Ewell. Ewell is a much quieter area than Ealing, but more historical than Chessington, very interesting houses… [Ewell] has a 1540 church tower… there’s a very posh school – Ewell Castle – built by Henry Kitchen. Ewell has retained its village identity more than Ealing, I would say. The Romans made offerings by the stream. I found a Neolithic flint in my garden… and it was authenticated. I very much like Ewell, but I am always driven back to Ealing, because of childhood recollections – particularly Acton. Ewell is more peaceful. I like both places for different reasons, I would say. 

Old Watch House in Surrey

                       Above: Old Watch House, Ewell, Surrey 

Piotr: Paul, you’re a keen film lover. Can you tell us a bit about that, and is it related to your interest in local history?

Paul: I gave a talk on Ealing Studios’ films as well as Ealing’s cinemas… I have the Ealing Studios’ rarities’ boxset, I’ve been going through those.  

Piotr: What is it about Ealing Studios and their films?

Paul: Because of the local connection. Some of the scenes were shot locally. You can recognise in some of the films locations like Walpole Park, some in Acton. So you can identify more with them.

Piotr: Are the studios still used?

Paul: Well, yes. Downton Abbey, yes – they’ve had a revival… A Little Chaos – have you heard of that film? About the gardener at Versailles… that was an Ealing Studios’ film. 

Ealing Studios

                                  Above: Ealing Studios, Ealing Green  

Piotr: Music is another of your passions. What sort of music, and why?

Paul: I’ve mentioned about the bugle, and then progressed on to the trumpet. I did the various exams… I was in charge of the gramophone record collection at Acton library, so that fostered an interest. I was very much into classical music in the 1960s… Brückner, Bartok, Messien, Chopin, Shostakovich. I liked Jazz, probably as I played the trumpet. 

Piotr: In the heyday of Jazz in the 1960s, did you ever go to Southall or Hanwell to any of the Jazz venues? 

Paul: I went to Ronnie Scott’s – very expensive, of course – in central London.

Piotr: Did you see any famous performers?

Paul: I can’t for the life of me remember, but I remember going to the Bull, in Barnes, and Ronnie Scott’s… I’ve kept all my vinyl albums and have some rare material, first pressings and things. I liked Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, but also some old stuff like Al Boley – he was buried in Hanwell.  

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club

                      Above: Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, Soho, 2014

Piotr: You mentioned that you are interested in the Ealing Studios. How did you first get into local history? 

Paul: At Central library, when it was in Walpole Park, I was Maureen Gooding’s assistant – she was the local history librarian back then. Andrew Scott was quite keen on local history. Kate MacEwen was doing her book on Ealing, and I used to get out maps for her… 

Piotr: This was before 1984?

Paul: Yes, yes. And Maureen’s books (and Andrew Scott) – they both did those books on Ealing in the 1940s… those pamphlets…. She [Maureen Gooding] went to the Public Record Office and got Legionnaire’s Disease, and she was never the same again…

Ealing Central Library at Pitshanger Manor

                       Above: Ealing Central Library, Pitshanger Manor, Walpole Park – basement store   

Piotr: You’ve given several talks on local history subjects. Could you describe them, and what was your favourite and why?

Paul: There first talk I gave was a Hanwell library, on the Asylum, in about 2007 I think. Then I gave Dickens and the Asylum… linking Dickens with the asylum. Ealing’s Lost Cinemas – at Ealing Central Library, a talk on Ealing Film Studios, also a talk on my postcard collections; a talk on asylums… They’re all interesting in their own specific way. 

Piotr: You’ve also published a number a books and articles on local history. Could you briefly say what you’ve done, what was the most interesting, and why?

Paul: I think my most recent book was the most challenging, as it had 90 illustrations, and my previous Richmond one had 45. 

Piotr: What’s the title of your latest book?

Paul: Richmond Upon Thames Through Time, for Amberley. I also included areas such as Petersham, Ham, East Sheen, Mortlake, Barnes…

Piotr: How long did it take to write?

Paul: About a year.

Piotr: Did you go to local history in Richmond for that?

Paul: I went to the local studies in the old Town Hall, I did a lot of research, I was going twice a week, there. I did an awful lot of research for that. 

Piotr: Okay. Your postcard collection has become a byword among local historians in the area, including Jonathan Oates, David Blackwell, and Paul Fitzmaurice. Describe your collection. How and why did you get into postcards?   

Paul: I started collecting as a boy… I collected cards of Breton costumes, from France… in the 1950s… and local Brittany scenes. That kicked it off. Then I collected ones of Acton, Ealing… my Acton ones are on the Acton History Group website… I did two books with Jonathan [on Ealing] – based on my postcard collection. 

Piotr: How many have you got?

Paul: Oh, hundreds, absolutely hundreds. Most of them are in albums, shoeboxes…

Piotr: Is it mainly car-boot sales that are the sources?

Paul: No, I go to proper postcard fairs, I’m going to one tomorrow… so I travel quite a way… all over the place really… to dealers.

Piotr: So are there dealers in Richmond, or is it on the internet?

Paul: It’s more a sort of luck thing… certain dealers have lots of stock, and you get to know the dealers… on Ebay you are in competition with other people… Paul Fitzmaurice might want one, and I might be in competition with him!

Piotr: Paul, you worked as Librarian at the St. Bernard’s Hospital Library from 1982 and 2014. Describe your time there, the nature of the work, and your contact with patients and staff.

Paul Lang at Hospital Library

                                       Above: Paul Lang at St. Bernard’s Hospital Library, c. 2000


Paul: I enjoyed my work as a librarian at St. Bernard’s. Tailoring the stock to the clients. To the clients’ needs. We had a pamphlet collection on mental health issues: it would all be on the internet now, but it was then of course. I visited similar institutions to get ideas for running the library. When to Springfield Library in Tooting Bec… I often spoke with the librarian at Broadmoor… I attended conferences and talks relating to hospital libraries…. And compiled a report on the library for when Mr. Moss was in charge [of the Ealing library service] – that was quite a long time ago. Started a reading group in the Limes, in Southall (a psycho-geriatric establishment), I’d contact the staff, and we’d take the book trolley along around the wards, the John Connolly Wing, and the Regional Secure Unit. This would often generate lots of requests, and we had a captive audience, for books, films, music. I produced booklists to promote the library, and I went on ward radio, and went to hospital meetings as well as library ones, to know what was going on within the hospital as well. I provided a computer for the patients. 

Piotr: Can you please go into your involvement with the St. Bernard’s Hospital Museum? What was in its collection and what has happened to it? 

Paul Lang with Michael Portillo

                             Above: Paul Lang with Michael Portillo, during filming for BBC programme
                                          Great British Railway Journeys. The presenter visited St. Bernard’s
                                          Hospital, close to Brunel’s Wharncliffe Viaduct, in Hanwell, to
                                          discuss the work of Dr. John Conolly with Paul.   

Paul: I was a member of the St. Bernard’s Hospital Museum committee. Pauline May was the curator, but she retired and subsequently died. Several other members have passed away. We relocated four or five times, so each time I had to help move the artefacts. So I knew them intimately. We actively searched out artefacts relating to the history of the hospital. It was an Open House venue, with quite a unique collection. We had admission books, statistical books (the Victorians were meticulous in taking details with regard to the patients), matron’s timepiece, and a reconstructed padded cell (one of the patients ran out screaming, I remember!), a straightjacket and restraints, neck restraints, I have a Georgian pillbox and it was taken to the British Museum and actually authenticated. I was on an archaeological dig they were doing on the site of the Regional Secure Unit, and we found a pharmaceutical slam used for rolling the pills out, it’s now in the Gunnersbury Park Museum…

Piotr: What happened to all that stuff? 

Paul: In about 2005, Pauline retired, and the Hospital didn’t want to pay for it… although she was doing it on a voluntary basis, she was not paid for it. The Hospital… saw it as a bit of a burden. At that time, it was stored in the [St. Bernard’s hospital] church, where there were problems with roof leaking and they had to spend a lot of money on it [….] All the archival material went to the London Metropolitan Archives, the medical artefacts went to the Wellcome Institute (Bush House), and all the non-medical material went to the Gunnersbury Park Museum… it’s still of great interest…

St Bernard's Hospital Museum

                                  Above: Curator, Pauline May (left), shows Mayor of Ealing Umesh Chander
                                               around St. Bernard’s Hopsital Museum, c. 1998 

Piotr: St. Bernard’s Hospital is already well documented. Can you tell me about the local history work you’ve done on local asylums of the Ealing area?

Paul: I gave a talk on that, of course. I had to do a lot of research on that. 

Piotr: Were there quite a lot of them, then?

Paul: Yes, surprisingly. 

Piotr: One in Southall Park, wasn’t there?

Paul: It burnt down and that [incident] helped to form the Southall Fire Brigade. At Elm Grove, the East India Company used to put their employees… 

Piotr: I suppose that in those days all sorts of different conditions were lumped together as ‘lunacy’?

Paul: Yes, yes [….] People with learning difficulties and all sorts of things, were lumped into that. Even Downs… Anyone who didn’t conform to what they thought of as normal, could end up… even women who had children outside of wedlock… 

Piotr: Basically, it was more behavioural than psychiatrically specific…

Paul: Yes. A lot of eccentrics probably got caught up it that. What’s the difference between being mad and eccentric, you know?

Postcard of Wilbur Wright plane

                      Above: One of Paul’s aeronautical postcards, ‘L'aeroplane Wilbur Wright’ 

Piotr: Moving on now, to your Ealing’s Aeronautical History talk, which you’ll be giving on the 10th of November. From where did you get the inspiration?

Paul: When I was doing the research for the local film studios, I came across the Black Island Studios in Acton, which was the former Alliance Factory, the aeroplane factory…

Piotr: What is the Black Island Studios?

Paul: A film studios in Alliance Road… it’s still there. I’d been inside the building and that in itself was quite interesting… the other thing that inspired me was reading a pamphlet on Acton Aerodrome by Mr. Goodlet. Of course a lot more material is available now than was available then… The Acton Gazette has been indexed, which wasn’t previously available…  

Acton Aerodrome                             

                            Above: Ruffy-Baumann Flying School, Acton Aerodrome 

Piotr: Have you always liked flying and flying machines? (As opposed to cars, buses, bikes, and trains…?)

Paul: Yes, yes, I think so. I used to visit Shoreham Airport at lot, because my wife’s parents lived in Worthing, nearby. I used to go there quite a lot and look at the planes. That’s a lovely 1930s airport… my wife’s stepfather flew planes and he told me about them… A cumulative thing.

Piotr: You weren’t ever a plane spotter?

Paul: No, not really. I think I made a balsa wood aeroplane, in the Congregational church…

Piotr: What resources have you used to research the subject?

Paul: Acton Gazette material that was not available to Mr. Goodlet. Various books, and Jonathan gave me a book on Napier’s [factory in Acton]… culling different information from various sources…

Piotr: Is there much online about it?

Paul: Yeah, there’s some online, C.A.V. (factory) who did ignition systems have various things online about them… N.E.C. (New Engine Company)… you can get various bit online, it’s pooling it all together… that’s the tricky bit.

Piotr: I suppose your talk is more about the different things that have happened in Ealing as opposed to one particular tradition, factory, or aeroplane… 

Hoover Factory building in Perivale

                                       Above: Hoover Factory (now a Tesco), Perivale 

Paul: I was trying to include the whole… there’s a lot of Acton, but also on Hanwell, Perivale (the Hoover Building during the Second World War – producing components for aircraft), Northolt, and the Polish War Memorial to broaden it out…

Piotr: Has the Ealing Local History Centre helped in your research?

Paul: Oh yeah, Jonathan’s been very helpful, he set up the microfilm machine and helped with the Acton Gazette… and you’ve been helpful to me… yes, staff were helpful with scanning images on the a memory stick… so yes. 

Piotr: What do you think have been the most surprising discoveries that you made?

Paul: Areas that I didn’t think had much of a connection with aeronautics, like Hanwell – it turned out that they did. The Twining Aeroplane Company, the first aeroplane company in the borough – that was quite surprising – was in Grosvenor Road, Hanwell. So the borough’s first aircraft manufacture dated to 1910! Various companies had connections to aeronautics that I hadn’t realised. I think you’re learning as you go along…

Piotr: Are you most interested in the Manufacturing side of things, or more in the people associated with flying in the local area? 

Paul: I do remember reading, as a youngster, something about Amelia Earhart [d. 1937], how she was lost… so from that aspect it was the human connection…

Amelia Earhart

                                                     Above: Amelia Earhart, d. 1937

Piotr: This is a bit more subjective, but, from the airships and biplanes of the First World War to the Spitfires of the Second, do you think there used to be a romance associated with flying which has now waned?

Paul: Oh yes, definitely, definitely. Bader… and all that… you’ve lost a lot of that connection with the individual. You don’t know who’s flying the jets, now. I think there was far more of a connection with the person in the olden days. 

Piotr: Do you think in the past it required more courage, because there were fewer safety measures, and also they didn’t have computers so had to navigate themselves?

Paul: Oh yes, definitely. They were very primitive things – very primitive equipment. It would have been far more difficult, wouldn’t it, to navigate… It involved far more skill than it would now…

Piotr: They didn’t seem to have any harnesses or parachutes until quite late on, did they?

Paul: No, no. Indeed, quite dangerous. If you imagine that those bombers were flying with all that duel and all those bombs if they were hit, that was it… it was like a flying bomb, wasn’t it? So I have great admiration for them, really. 

Piotr: Was Ealing heavily bombed during World War Two?

Paul: I’ve looked at Dennis Upton’s book [Ealing at War], I’ve used some of his statistics… that will be covered in the talk…

Piotr: There have been a number of tragic recent air-crashes around the globe. But there was even one in Southall in 1958, wasn’t there?

Paul: More recently of course was the Shoreham air-crash… I was given the telephone number of Roy Trowbridge, who witnessed the [Southall] air-crash as a boy of 10 years old, sadly I have so far been unable to contact him, but will keep endeavouring to do so. I have some newspaper accounts of that in my talk as well. Quite a horrific thing. I think he was aiming for an open space, but he… hit the buildings before he could make it. A split-second thing, these air-crashes.  

Heathrow Control Tower

                                                   Above: Heathrow’s Control Tower 

Piotr: Ealing is close to Heathrow. Heathrow expansion has a long history of opposition in the West London area (as evidenced by the newspaper stories on microfilm kept at the Ealing Local History Centre). What is your view on the subject, as a former west London resident?

Paul: In areas like Cranford or Heston where the planes are constantly coming over – I can see how annoying it would be. You can see their viewpoint. I think it should be limited to a certain extent…. Sometimes they just skim over the rooftops in areas like Cranford… even in Kew Gardens you can notice it. It must be very annoying for the residents. 

Piotr: Do you prefer the Gatwick option?

Paul: Where I live it is easier to get to Gatwick, so yeah….

Piotr: A more personal question. Are you an aisle man or a window seat man? 

Paul: Being quite tall, I actually like to spread my legs, so I prefer the aisle. You can’t actually see much even if you get a window seat! My wife likes the window.

Piotr: What has been your most enjoyable plane trip and to where?

Paul: When I went to Boston, I flew from Heathrow to Boston, and then internally from Boston to Bermuda. I flew back from Bermuda to Gatwick. 

Piotr: You flew across the Bermuda Triangle?

Paul: Yes, yes. Didn’t disappear! 

Piotr: Can you name your favourite aircraft of all time? 

Paul: Now, some say the Spitfire, but I say the Hurricane. That was the workhorse of the Second World War. My daughter used to take piano lessons with the daughter of Sydney Camm, the Hurricane designer… and [of] the Harrier Jump Jet… 

Hawker Hurricane

  Above: Hawker Hurricane 

Piotr: The Americans still use the Harrier – they support Marines, don’t they?

Paul: Oh yes, yes. 

Piotr: Okay, final question. What more is there to be discovered about Ealing’s aeronautical history at your talk? 

Paul: I mentioned George Lee Temple, the first British airman to fly upside down, and the Twining Aircraft Company. But I’ll also tell the audience about the Ruffy Baumann Flying School, and Piffard’s experimental flights in North Ealing. Also, I’m sure there’s a lot more to explore – this is only scratching the surface really; I’m sure there’s a lot more research that could be done in this area.  

Ruffy, Arnell and Baumann Lorry

                                               Above: Two female drivers in front of Ruffy, Arnell and Baumann
                                                            lorry at Acton Aerodrome, c.World War One 

Piotr: Thank you very much Paul for coming in, and being interviewed. 

Paul: Thank you.  

Paul Lang’s talk, Ealing’s Aeronautical History, will take place on Tuesday 10th November at 6.15pm in the Green Room at Ealing Central Library. Tickets are: £1.50 for library members, and £3 for nonmembers.   


In this section:

What's On Guide & Ealing Highlights

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