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Navy Wings was greatly honoured to be the beneficiary Charity of the Worshipful Company of Coach Makers and Coach Harness Makers Livery Banquet in the City of London Guildhall on 17 May.

The banquet was held in the splendour of the Great Hall which dates from the early 15th Century and was attended by The Lord Mayor of London, the First Sea Lord, Wardens and Liverymen of the Company and heads of industry in the Capital.

The City of London Guildhall has been the centre of City government since the Middle Ages. London’s livery companies or guilds used to wield immense power and the merchants and craftsmen of London forged the economic wealth of the nation.

The evening was an opportunity not only to reaffirm the close links between the City of London and the Royal Navy but to mark the 100 years since the formation of the Fleet Air Arm and to celebrate the history and heritage of naval aviation.

Bristol Scout in the Great Hall

The Great Hall has seen many Royal and state visits down the centuries. However, on this occasion, the magnificent medieval hall was to witness something completely different, a WW1 naval aircraft taking centre stage among the diners!

The celebrity was Navy Wings Associate Aircraft, Bristol Scout 1264. Undeterred by the imposing grandeur of the surroundings, she commanded an undeniable presence – a 1914 Biplane representing a big story!

“It was a truly an unforgettable experience seeing the Bristol Scout in the Great Hall” said Bettine Evans, The Master of the Worshipful Company. “We will be talking about it for years to come!”

The ability of the Scout to take off from a ship at sea was a pioneering development in the early history of naval flying, demonstrating the advantage of wheeled aircraft over floatplanes – and from then on there was no looking back.

“She was far more than a blip in the evolutionary story” said Sue Eagles of Navy Wings. “The Bristol Scout heralded the way towards modern aircraft and ship design.”

The Bristol Scout’s role in the Coachmakers’ story was significant too, as she is an early example of the transition of coach making skills from the automobile industry to the aviation industry. The Bristol Scout was developed in a Tram works at Filton in Bristol and her successful design benefitted from the coach making skills of manufacturing Trams.

With lots of willing helpers, getting the Bristol Scout into and out of the Great Hall was accomplished with practised Naval efficiency and speed. RN motto: The difficult takes no time at all. The impossible takes a little longer.

The main concern was getting the aircraft through the main front doors and up a flight of steps. Number one priority was to avoid getting oil on the Guildhall banqueting chamber carpet!

Not damaging the Grade 1 Listed wooden entrance doors, that had survived the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, was another priority!

The doors were exactly 8ft high and the centre section of the aircraft is just under that, but she was carefully eased through the doors successfully and safely with barely millimetres to spare!

Reassembly, putting her wings back on and fixing the rigging took a couple of hours and then she was ready for the lighting technicians, photographers and guests!

Two Admirals in Conversation

A highlight of the evening was the light-hearted sketch called ‘Two Admirals in Conversation’ presented by Navy Wings President, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, and the much loved London actor, Robert Lindsay who played Admiral Sir Edward Pellew in the TV series Hornblower. Discussing topics ranging from the Royal Navy’s role on the global stage to Robert’s family history in the Royal Navy and his experience playing Sir Edward Pellew, their quips and humorous comparison between the Royal Navy today, and 200 years ago, brought the house down!

Earlier in the evening Robert Lindsay was made a Liveryman of the Coachmakers Company and granted the Freedom of the City of London in the time honoured and ancient ceremony in the Chamberlain’s Court in the Guildhall.

“It was an incredible honour and privilege” said Robert. “Both my father and my grandfather served in the Royal Navy, my grandfather in HMS Prince of Wales in WW1 and my father in minesweepers in WW2.  It was a great joke in the family that I reached the rank of Admiral – and Wolfie would have been equally amazed that I have become a Freeman of the City of London!”

Livery companies play a significant part in the life of the City not least by providing charitable giving and networking opportunities to charities, and the strong relationship between the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Navy Wings has been enormously beneficial to the Charity in far reaching ways.

As well as receiving generous support from the fundraising activities on the night of the Banquet, the Company’s Aerospace, Bursaries and Scholarships award scheme has also helped the Charity’s young engineers in the development of their careers. “It was an outstanding evening in all respects” said CEO Jock Alexander “We are enormously grateful to the Company for giving us such a unique opportunity. To have such an influential platform in the City to promote Navy Wings and the Fleet Air Arm and to highlight the importance of the nation’s naval aviation heritage has already opened new doors to us and been a great boost to the Charity.”