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Sir Athur MarshallSir Arthur and a Tiger

Andrew Bates reports on a reunion at Duxford

A vintage De Havilland Tiger Moth, restored with the support of Marshall Aerospace, has recently been placed on display with the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. Installed in hangar number 1, otherwise known as the 'superhangar', the aircraft became the centre of attention on Friday 9 August as Sir Arthur Marshall, founder of Marshall Aerospace, came over to Duxford to view the beautifully restored Tiger Moth for himself. Painted as 'DE998', the Moth is a composite rebuild from spares, including parts released during overhauls of G-ANFW, G-APAO and G-APAP (the latter two both ex-RAF R4922 & R5136 respectively). The serial number 'DE998' is false, albeit a genuine Tiger Moth one. The code painted on the fuselage, 'RCU-T', represents an aircraft from 22 Elementary & Reserve Flying Training School. The restoration was completed by engineers from Duxford's Aircraft Restoration Company.

Based at nearby Cambridge (Teversham) Airport, Marshall Aerospace, the UK's leading privately owned aerospace company, have had associations with the Tiger Moth dating back to the 1930s. In 1937, Marshalls formed No. 22 Elementary & Reserve Flying Training School (22 E&RFTS), which was equipped with Tiger Moths and based at Cambridge. During World War Two, Marshalls trained around 20,000 RAF pilots in Tiger Moths based at its airfields.

On 1 January 1946, a Tiger Moth took off from Marshall's airfield on what was the first civil flight in post-war Britain. Tiger Moths continued to operate from Cambridge during the fifties and sixties with the Cambridge University Air Squadron, and the Cambridge Aero Club, and even today, privately owned Tigers still operate from the airport.

The Tiger Moth

A development of the Gipsy Moth, the Tiger Moth first flew in 1931. Originally introduced into service in February 1932, it was ordered by the RAF as its standard basic trainer from 1934. Between 1937 and 1939, Tiger Moths equipped a total of 44 Elementary & Reserve Flying Training Schools. By the outbreak of war in 1939, over 1,000 examples had been delivered. Nearly all RAF and Commonwealth pilots received their initial basic training on this simple, reliable and fully aerobatic aircraft. Production figures in Britain amounted to 4,668 airframes for the RAF, including 3,433 built by Morris Motors Ltd at Cowley. A further 2,751 were built in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand for the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. There was even a radio-controlled pilotless target version known as the Queen Bee, 380 of which were also built for the RAF.

The military career of this remarkable aircraft extended beyond wartime. It was still in use as a standard elementary trainer as late as 1947 with Flying Training Command, and continued in service with the RAFVR until 1951. It was thus the last biplane trainer in RAF service, being supplanted by the Prentice and Chipmunk.

"The Tiger Moth has been a most wonderful aircraft in which to teach pilots" said Sir Arthur, "Its key role in the history of aviation must make it one of the finest British aircraft ever built."


Sir Arthur Marshall graduated from Cambridge in 1925 with a first class Engineering degree. He soon learnt to fly, and established what became Marshall Aerospace, a major part of the Marshall Group of Companies, founded by his father in 1909. Since the end of the war, the company, under Sir Arthur's leadership, has grown into a major aerospace company, with the capability to maintain and convert large transport and passenger aircraft. From the enthusiast point of view, they are probably best known for the amount of work they do for C-130 Hercules operators from around the globe.

The Marshall Ab-Initio Flying Instructor Scheme

The RAF's long-established procedure for the training of flying instructors was for new recruits to go on an elementary course, followed by an advanced training course, and then on to a squadron. After four or five years' squadron experience, those who were thought to be instructor material were creamed off at the age of 25 to 27 for a flying instructor's course at the RAF Central Flying School. This meant in the case of the Battle of Britain that any new instructors were at the expense of fighter and bomber pilots.

Ninety years youngWith the big shortage of good instructors in the pre-war years, Marshall decided in 1936 to train its own instructors and virtually turned the RAF scheme upside down. Young men from 18 years upwards were taken and given intensive elementary and advanced flying training and an instructor course, a total of 175 hours. They were then submitted to the RAF Central Flying School who passed them out as advanced flying training instructors, all within a 12-14 week period - this was from scratch to a fully qualified flying instructor all within a period of three to four months.

The C-in-C Fighter Command during his very critical periods would often lament "If only I had 200 more pilots." If' it hadn't been for the Marshall scheme in operation before the war, Dowding would have had 200 or so less pilots than he actually had. This poses the question of what might have happened if Dowding had not got those 200 or more extra pilots at the beginning of the Battle of Britain.

This scheme also meant that one of the Marshall Ab-Initio pilots could be an instructor for a year and then go on to operational flying with 1,000 or more hours flying experience behind him. Many of the pilots sent into the Battle of Britain had less than 100 hours total experience, of which only four to five hours were on a fighter aircraft.

When war broke out on 3 September Marshall started a major campaign for the Ab-Initio Flying Instructor Scheme to be adopted by the RAF, including an emergency meeting of the Parliamentary Air Committee in October 1939 and making direct approaches to the Minister. At the fall of France the campaign was intensified and the RAF finally adopted the Marshall scheme at the end of 1940.

At a Royal Aeronautical Society Cambridge Branch lecture on 8 February 2001, the introduction to the Air Marshal's lecture on flying training stated that it was now freely recognised that had the Marshall scheme been adopted at the outbreak of war, there would have been no shortage of pilots for the Battle of Britain.

The scheme continues to this day with the RAF, who now cream off potential instructor pupils during their elementary course to continue their advanced training and become flying instructors, followed by being allocated to a squadron after a year or so. The only thing that is missing now is the pre-war and wartime tempo of 1,000 hours per instructor per year.

Duxford's Tiger MothAces of Marshall

Johnnie Johnson, Great Britain's ace fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain with 38 recorded German aircraft shot down, undertook his initial elementary training at Marshall's RAF Elementary Flying Training School at Cambridge in December 1939. He was sent by his instructor, 'Tap' Tappin, on his first solo in a Tiger Moth on 29 February 1940, all within eight miles of the famous Imperial War Museum at Duxford.

It so happens that 'Tap' Tappin was also advanced flying instructor to Leonard Cheshire VC, the ace bomber pilot with over 100 bombing flights over Germany and who was the country's representative at the dropping of the Hiroshima atomic bomb over Japan in 1944. Cheshire's elementary flying and first solo were with the Oxford University Air Squadron and he was then passed over, as were other Oxford undergraduates who had completed their elementary flying, to Marshall's RAF Volunteer Reserve training centre at Kidlington, Oxford for his advanced training instruction, where 'Tap' was his instructor.

'Tap' Tappin

'Tap' Tappin became one of the Marshall Ab-Initio Instructor-trained instructors towards the end of 1938 at Oxford. During the last nine months to the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939, his logbook records that he averaged 1,063 hours per year day-and-night elementary and advanced flying instruction. 'Tap' finished his Service career as a Wing Commander, with a DFC for leading two sorties in the very costly Dieppe raid and a Bar to his DFC for his operational flying in Italy. After the war he returned to Marshall's.


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