FAA Plaque for Eastchurch Memorial
Dignitaries from the Isle of Sheppey and senior Fleet Air Arm Officers from the Royal Navy Fleet Headquarters paid a moving tribute to the two remarkable firsts at the site of Royal Naval Air Station Eastchurch in Kent. Not only was this the birth place and spiritual home of the Royal Naval Air Service but the very first powered take off from a ship’s deck was achieved just nearby on the River Medway.
The event was commemorated by the unveiling of a brass plaque by Captain Nick Blackman RN OBE, Deputy Chief of Staff Air Engineering from Fleet Headquarters, Portsmouth. The plaque will eventually be replaced by a stone monument which has been paid for by serving Fleet Air Arm Officers.
A parade of Fleet Air Arm Association members and standards preceded the ceremony which arrived at the Memorial to Pioneer Aviators. Capt Blackman said; “This is a poignant reminder of an important place in the heritage of the Fleet Air Arm, the significance of which has been generously acknowledged by serving Officers in today’s FAA with a permanent memorial stone.”
One man commemorated on the memorial is Commander Charles Rumney Samson the Commanding Officer of RNAS Eastchurch in those early days and the pilot behind that first take off from HMS Africa in 1912. He later went on to Command the RNAS in Northern France and the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War. He was also a major innovator in the development and the use of armoured cars a pre-cursor to the first tanks.
Eastchurch was the home of British Aviation and at the heart of research that saw the first bomb-dropping experiments, the first machines mounted in an aeroplane and fired whilst a machine was in the air and the first wireless signals transmitted from air to ground. Its historical importance in the early development of Naval Aviation is immense. Not only were the first four naval pilots trained at Eastchurch but the first naval aircraft were built there.
Attending the event from RNAS Yeovilton was Lieutenant Luke Edwards of 702 Naval air Squadron. “It is an incredible honour to have been privileged to organise such a poignant memorial which has a special place in the history of the Fleet Air Arm and an immeasurable importance to aviation today not only to the Fleet Air Arm, but to the aviation heritage of Great Britain itself.”