A Brief History
Croydon Airport closed to full size traffic on 30th September 1959, leaving a huge expanse of unused open land.
Radio control was still a bit basic in those days with only one channel available, but as time went by 2, 3 and 4 channel became available on 27mgz. It would only be a matter of time, before space hungry aero modellers invaded this wide open territory.
In 1977, the old airfield was now buzzing to the sound of a variety of scale models, which soon attracted the attention of the local borough council, Sutton. It was about this time, then, that half a dozen or so R/C enthusiasts were standing in Tommy Harris’s Model Shop in Wallington. They decided to form a club, to present a united front to persuade the council to let them continue flying their models, and even let them cut some runways in the rough grass.
Frank Hawke, came up with the name for the club, Don Coe designed the club logo, and was the first Chairman, Beryl Hawke became club secretary, and other committee members included such notables as Marcus Norman, Richard Hawke, and Neil McKinnon who was the clubs first treasurer.
And so it was, The Croydon Airport Model Flying Club was born in 1978.
Tommy Harris was duly elected President, but Mother Harris adamantly refused to let them hold meetings at the Shop, or offer them any discount, she did the accounts! The new Club obtained permissions from the Council for flying and runways, when the Lads repositioned further South, and mowed some runways, with a resemblance to the full size pattern of the past. The Council insisted that it would have to be a public site, and the club were refused permission to erect a sign stating CAMFC only. A proper by-law for flying was established eventually by the State.
Becoming affiliated to the British Model Flying Association [[[ THE BMFA SAY 1972!!!]]], CAMFC grew in numbers and strength and by the mid 90’s there were 120 members.
Early club meetings were held at the home of Frank Hawke, with tea and biscuits served up by his self confessed beautiful wife of 26 years, Marilyn. As the club grew it moved its monthly meetings to a Church hall in Croydon, and after a while to a Sports and Social Club in Mollison Drive, which was adjacent to the Croydon flying site, this was a bit “wetter” than the previous venue, much to the appreciation of some of the membership.
The club then met at a small bar on Kenley aerodrome, thereby assisting the RAAFA maintain their little club. The Portcullis Club, was the Officers Mess during the war, and later years, and is steeped in RAF History. Such notables as Douglas Bader had stood at the bar on many occasion. In 2015, the Club moved its meetings to The Croydon Post Office Sports and Social Club in Warlingham, where there was more room and a huge field at the rear of the premises.
CAMFC had its own notable, Frank Hargrave, a wartime veteran and hero of the “Para’s” who dropped into Arnhem during WW2. Frank eventually became President, and remained so for many years. Frank was always a Gentleman, and loved every opportunity to relive and share his adventures in the Para’s.
Over the years CAMFC attended many community events and shows giving sometimes static model displays, and quite a few ”preferred” flying displays, this being a good way to attract new members and enhance the clubs reputation to the local community.
At a time when the Croydon Airport site became very busy with flyers, the club rented a private flying site at Farleigh, near Selsdon, to enable the more serious Scale flyers some room to manoeuvre in relative safety. The club could now afford such luxury.
Soon, it was announced that the Farleigh site had been sold to be made a Golf Course, and a search revealed a field that was available to rent, on a farm near New Addington, called Fickleshole. [[[ DATE OF WHEN WE MOVE TO FICKLESHOLE?? ]]] Apart from a short departure, the club still fly there today, and successfully obtained full planning permission from the local council, with the Farmers agreement.
Generally speaking, the club can use the Fickleshole facility 7 days a week, unlike Croydon, which had its flying times reduced by the council during the late 90’s, following a battle with the local residents and Sutton Council over alleged noise nuisance. At the Airport, the club and the public flyers agreed to an 82 decibel noise limit and a reduction in flying hours, to be able to keep the site. Rather than loose it. Roger Godly, club chairman of 17 years, and your scribe, spent many hours in the company of council officials, residents and solicitors, in order to save the day.
Under the leadership of Roger Godly, CAMFC put on its own first show, at Riddlesdown School in Purley, on 9th September 1995. The club membership arranged the whole one day show with about 12 traders, 56 Pilots, and at £3 per head the public that came were enthralled, being informed of the proceedings by Dave Bishop of Db sound.
Club Member of note, Peter Lawrence, gave up a lot of his working hours, making and designing show posters, mowing the runway over and over and generally acting dogs body in the background to make the Show a success. Of course, lots of Club Members gave up their time for the Show, but to mention everybody would take forever.
The event was repeated and extended to a two day show the following year (1996), due to the success of the first, and was equally successful. The dates were moved to the 27-28th July 1996 in order to fit in and attract more Traders and Pilots. We had a much bigger audience and we even procured a full size display, by a Yak (52?), from a pal at Biggin Hill.
The following year (1997), was a big disappointment for the June show, as it poured with rain constantly for a week beforehand, and the flooded playing field left us no option but to cancel the event, to prevent damage to the property.
The club never went back to Riddlesdown as the show had started to outgrow the facilities but after a year or two’s interlude, in 2002 a show was planned and went ahead at Kenley aerodrome. Enormously complicated to arrange, because of all the interested parties involved for permissions, the show was a great success, and raised sufficient funds to enable the club to present the RAAFA charity with a sizeable donation.
Because of the by-law for the Kenley airfield, Croydon Council advised the club that it would not be possible to repeat the event at that venue, so the club once again had to go in search of a suitable place to mount a show.
After a long search for a suitable venue, a suggestion was made by member Daren Parvin, the club met with the owners of a 400 acre Hop Farm Country Park in Kent. After a assessing the grounds and test flight (or two), we quickly determined that this was the place! CAMFC’s first Hop Farm show was in 2003, and successfully grew bigger and better, right up to 2011.
Our first attempt at the Hop Farm was a complete success, much helped by almost perfect weather, which indeed we were blessed with almost every year.
The show continued to grow and to some extent took over from Dave Bishop’s hugely successful Plumpton show which had ended just as our show started. The Hop Farm management changed several times, but our show had become an established Hop Farm attraction, and we were asked back every year. Despite the show becoming one of the best attended by pilots, traders, campers and spectators in the south of England, we never changed the show’s concept of promoting model flying to the public – and to this end, we continued to produce a wonderful friendly atmosphere that attracted not only many great club flyers from far afield but also all the top flyers from around the country. All were glad to give their time and demonstration skills completely free.
However, by 2011, the show had grown to a size that was becoming difficult to manage by a small group of unpaid volunteers, and discussions were in place to resolve the best way forward. Sadly the decision was taken out of our hands. Despite all the clubs planning and arranging for the 2012 show, a change of Hop Farm management in the spring, presented the club with an impasse, which could not be overcome mainly because of a last minute problem where the sites management booked another event under our over-fly area. Due to insurance cover and health & safety concerns, this brought a rather sad end for the flying programme.As CAMFC would have been unable to present the show as advertised the committee were obliged to inform everyone, as best as possible, that the 2012 show would not be able to go ahead.
The show did continue in some form after Heritage events took over from CAMFC and ran a new show called “Southern Model Show”, at Headcorn Aerodrome from 2013.
CAMFC will always be eternally grateful for the support of all the Traders Pilots and Public, who were sadly let down at the last minute. At the clubs AGM in January 2012, under the leadership of James Beagley, it was decided that the club would not plan any future events.
This however may not be the end! Presently, the club is looking forward to manning a bring and buy stall, and flying their models, at the New Southern Model Show 2019 at Headcorn airfield in Kent, now being organised by Heritage Events. As usual, Dave Bishop of Db sound, and current CAMFC President, will be informing the Public over the tannoy at the new show.
To sum up, CAMFC have a monthly meeting, a monthly newsletter, proudly display their models in front of the public at every opportunity, and have a splendid social calendar. Fancy joining? Look us up, we just love coaching newcomers to learn to fly.
In closing, your scribe would like to thank Frank and Richard Hawke, Roger F Godly, Don Coe, founder members, who furnished me with invaluable information to be able to write this article.