1917 – 1947

SHORTS BOYS | These are the men, women and boys who worked for Short Brothers

WILLIAM JOSEPH FOREMAN by Jill Gesseau

My maternal grandfather, William Joseph, left London with his family to work as a mechanic for Short Brothers when the Eastchurch Aerodrome first opened. He was present, with some of his children – including my mother – at the famous 1911 Airshow, which attracted so many people from far and wide. My mother Marjorie, (then aged 6) and her elder sister, Kitty (aged 8) well remembered being present at that event – and their father hoisting them up into the cockpit of one of the Bleriot planes.

Many, many years later, when my brother showed the video “Wings Over Sheppey” to my mother she recognised the plane immediately – and cried “That’s it! That’s the one! (My brother had purchased the video at the Aviation Centenary held at Muswell Manor to which my mother had been invited).

My mother retained an excellent memory to the very end of her life – was the eldest resident in Sheppey before she died in 2012 (less than a fortnight before her 107th Birthday.

My brother and I always marvelled that when my mother watched those early planes leaving the ground, with just one pilot – how could she ever have imagined that one day she would fly non-stop to South Africa, with some two hundred other passengers and all amenities on board?

What amazing progress aviation has made in little more than a century!

Jill’s brother, Roger, added…

Our grandfather was born in 1872 and worked for Merryweather in London. I think he worked on fire engines.

William moved his family to Eastchurch to become an aircraft mechanic. He worked on J.T.C. Moore Brabazon’s aircraft.

Roger and Jill lived with their grandparents in Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey and Roger remembers a Sunderland being moored at Harty in the early 1950’s. He and a friend, aged about 9 years would row out to the aircraft and play in it pretending to be ‘Biggles’.

The Sunderland was closed up but not locked and there was nobody about!

SHORTS BOYS