Cheltenham ‘Flyer’ Connections

The Blue Plaque at 3 Queen's Parade, Cheltenham

 Quote from Switzerland ‘At the risk of sounding fulsome: loved the house, the attention to detail – and the great care you took in looking after us.’

The blog title doesn’t on this occasion refer to the famous ‘Cheltenham Flyer’ which was the world’s fastest steam train during the 1930s, recording average train speed of 71mph between London Paddington and Swindon on Brunel’s Great Western Railway (GWR) to Bristol (where Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge and the SS Great Britain are two of his marvels!). It could have been pertinent, as Cheltenham’s GWR St James’ terminus used to stand just behind Hanover House, but was demolished after the Beeching Cuts. However the title refers in this case to aeronautical flyers with Cheltenham connections.

In 1881, the widow and children of a wealthy shoe and boot manufacturer, Thomas Bostock from Stone in Staffordshire, moved into 4 York Terrace, later to become Hanover House. The eldest daughter opened a school at 3 Bayshill Terrace in about 1890 to educate the daughters of people who could not afford the Cheltenham Ladies’ College fees, and her youngest brother William Masefield Bostock, then aged about 15 attended Cheltenham Gentleman’s College (Now Cheltenham College). He didn’t do particularly well academically and left at age 16 to became a clerk, and in the late 1880s emigrated to Australia where he married, and where his son William Dowling Bostock was born in 1892. All very boring so far, but William jr, joined the army during the Great War and became a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in which he served on the Western Front, the RFC later becoming the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1918. After the war he transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force and attended the RAF Staff College at Andover in 1921. By 1939 he had become Deputy Chief of Staff of the Australian Airforce and as an Air Vice Marshal, the Air Officer Commanding the Allied airforces in the Pacific in World War II, working to the American General MacArthur in his campaign to liberate that part of the Pacific from the Imperial Japanese occupying forces. He was present at the signing of the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay in 1945.

Coincidentally, also born in 1892 around the corner from Hanover House, at 3 Queen’s Parade, was Arthur T Harris, who as a Marshal of the Royal Air Force and later known universally as ‘Bomber Harris’, was Air Officer Commanding Bomber Command RAF during the Second World War.  He later became notorious for his strategy for the bombing of Cologne and Dresden in Germany in the latter stages of the Second World War.  More recently, however, with the wisdom of greater hindsight and the release of further documents, he has been reprised by pundits and experts as having been a master strategist who helped shorten the war significantly.  A memorial to the many thousands of aircrew who died during the campaign has been authorised within the last month to be built in London’s Green Park as a 70-year retrospective acknowledgement of their sacrifice, their travails having been typified in films such as The Dambusters.

Totally coincidentally to the drafting of this blog, I remembered that my accommodating neighbour is heading for a wartime Lincolnshire airfield this weekend, to treat an elderly relative who’d worked as RAF groundcrew, to a taxi along the runway in a real Lancaster (as seen in The Dambusters) bomber – I would guess a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience!


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