Old images of Cranwell, Lincolnshire

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Glimpse history through old images of Cranwell, Lincolnshire, England.

Sir Philip Sassoon (1925)

Sir Philip Sassoon, cousin to the World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon, was descended from the Rothschild banking family. He was a Member of Parliament, who served as wartime private secretary to Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig 1915 to 1918.

The footage shows him attending the Passing Out Inspection at Cranwell in 1925.

Sir Philip Sassoon died on 3 June 1939, aged 50, of complications from influenza.

Sir Philip Sassoon (1925) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Sir Hugh Trenchard (1928)

The Passing Out inspection at the RAF College in 1928 was lead by Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard.

UK: England: Passing-out inspection at Cranwell (1928) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Passing Out Inspection (1929)

ARMED FORCES: RAF: Aircraft apprentices pass out at RAF Cranwell (1929) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Fairey Monoplane (1929)

In 1929, a Fairey monoplane, also known as a Napier, was prepared for a record-breaking attempt to fly from Cranwell to Durban, in South Africa.

There were 3 tonnes of petrol stored in the wings.

AVIATION: The Fairey Monoplane at Cranwell, Lincolnshire (1929) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Long Flight (1933)

In 1993, an RAF Monoplane, polited by Squadron Leader Gayford and Flight Lieutenant Nicholetts, broke a long-distance record flying to the Cape in South Africa. The flight took them two and a half days and nights.

Bravo – Gayford! Bravo – Nicholetts! Bravo – The Raf! (1933) – British Pathé (YouTube)

New College (1934)

In 1934, the new college was opened by the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward. (He briefly became King Edward VIII in 1936 until his abdication a few months later, from which point he was known as the Duke of Windsor).

In this short newsreel from 1934, he is seen meeting Lord Londonderry, Secretary for Air, and other officials. Then there’s a nice shot of the front of the new building, which was to become the RAF’s equivalent of Sandhurst.

Air Force “Sandhurst” (1934) – British Pathé (YouTube)

King George VI (1937)

Silent, black and white footage from 1937 shows the official visit of King George VI to the RAF College.

His Majesty Visits Cranwell (1937) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Passing Out Parade (1937)

Footage from 1937 shows the RAF Cadets at their Passing Out Parade at the RAF College.

Cranwell (1937) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Firefighting Display (1937)

In this newreel from 1937, the Royal Air Force at Cranwell practice putting out fires.

The fire engine they arrive in is a very curious design. But rather worryingly, two of the men are wearing asbestos suits!

At the time asbestos was a prized fire retardant. No one realised it was a deadly material that causes an untreatable form of cancer. I’ve personally known two older women with mesothelioma, showing how prevalent and dangerous this terrible material was. In 2019, the Health and Safety Executive estimated that 5,000 people a year in the UK from asbestos-caused cancers.

RAF Firefighting Display (1937) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Passing Out Inspection (1938)

A year before World War II began, the RAF College Passing Out Inspection was held inside a hangar because of the heavy rainfall.

It is probable that many of the men seen in this newsreel lost their lives over the next eight years.

R.A.F. Cadets (1938) – British Pathé (YouTube)

Princess Elizabeth (1951)

The RAF College welcomed Princess Elizabeth in 1951, whose father King George VI had once been stationed at Cranwell.

She presented the Sword of Honour for the best cadet to Flight Cadet Under-Officer Merriman.

The following year, following the death of King George VI, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II.

Cranwell (1951) – British Pathé (YouTube)

College Pool (1953)

Cadets are shown using the college pool to learn how to survive if their planes crash in open water.

Dinghy Drill (1953) – British Pathé (YouTube)

King Hussein of Jordan (1962)

In 1962, King Hussain of Jordan attended the Passing Ot Parade at RAF College, Cranwell.

King Hussein With RAF (1962) – British Pathé (YouTube)


1960s footage shows a Provost jet trainer in flight at RAF Cranwell, along with a steam train travelling through the countryside.

Cranwell (1960-1969)- British Pathé (YouTube)

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