Henry Alan Marsh    

Henry Alan Marsh was born in Stratton on 29th January 1901. His parents were Henry Tom and (Sarah) Jane Marsh. Henry Tom Marsh was the Miller at Stratton Mill. They had four other children: Mary Elizabeth, Jasper, Violet, & Dorothy.

Henry Alan Marsh was baptized as Harry Alan Marsh at St. Mary’s Church, Stratton by Curate, Harry A Caryl on 21st April 1901.

  Stratton Parish Register 1901  

After completing his education at Weymouth Secondary School, Henry, who was to choose to be known by his middle name, Alan, started work as an engineering apprenticeship in Dorchester in 1917.

In 1918 he joined the RAF as a 3rd Air Mechanic and was posted to the first aircraft apprenticeship course at Halton. He was promoted to Corporal and joined the second course of NCO pilots at No. 2 FTS [Flying Training School] Duxford.

In November 1923 Alan qualified as a Sergeant Pilot with special distinction and was posted to No. 41 Squadron.

In 1924 he joined No. 1 Squadron, flying Sopwith Snipes in Iraq. During his time there, whilst flying between Baghdad and Kirkuk, the engine of his plane completely seized and he successfully negotiated a forced landing in the desert. A second plane was sent to recover the cash that Marsh was carrying but he had to wait with his aircraft for a new engine to arrive and be fitted. On another occasion, another engine failure over Kurdistan meant that he was lost in the desert for two days

  Sopwith Snipe  

In 1926 Alan was posted to No. 111 Squadron, flying Armstrong-Whitworth Siskins.

  Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin  

In 1927 and 1928 he represented No. 111 Squadron in RAF flying displays.

Then in September 1928 he joined an Instructors Course at the Central Flying School at RAF Wittering where he gained an A2 certificate. He became an Instructor at No. 2 FTS at RAF Grantham, flying Siskins and Atlases.

  Armstrong-Whitworth Atlas  

In 1929 Alan was posted to the Central Flying School as a Flight Sergeant Instructor. The following year he left the RAF with an A1 Instructors Certificate. He was retained by the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and took employment as an Instructor at the Hampshire Aero Club. He also worked briefly in a similar position at the Scarborough Aero Club.

Alan had flown a Cierva C.19 autogiro and in 1932 Reggie Brie invited him to join the Cierva Autogiro Company as an Instructor and demonstration pilot. He became Chief Instructor at Cierva Autogiro Flying School at the London Air Park (Hanworth Aerodrome). He taught over eighty autogiro pilots in Cierva C.19 and Cierva C.30 types and took part in the development of direct control autogiros, and autogiros with ‘jump start’ features.

  Cierva C.19  
  Cierva C.30  

In the autumn of 1930 Alan married Ida Emily Jones in Royston, Hertfordshire.

The London Electoral Registers for 1934, 1935 and 1936 show Alan and Ida living at 53 Hanworth Road, Feltham.

In 1936, after Juan de la Cierva was killed in an airline accident, Alan became the Cierva Company’s Chief Test Pilot, also carrying out test flying for G & J Weir Ltd, which was financially backing Cierva and developing its own autogiros.

On 6th October 1936 the London Gazette reported that Class E Reservist, Flight Sergeant Alan Marsh had been granted a commission as a Pilot Officer on 8th September 1936.

The London Electoral Registers for 1937, 1938 and 1939 showed that Alan and Ida Marsh were now living at 55 Hanworth Road, Feltham.

The London Gazette of 5th April 1938 recorded that Henry Alan Marsh had been promoted to the Rank of Flying Officer on 8th March 1938.

On 12th August 1939 Alan sailed from Southampton aboard the RMS Mauretania bound for New York. He gave his address as 53 Hanworth Road, Feltham, and his occupation as Air Pilot.

In late 1939 Alan was called up and in January 1940 took a refresher course at the Central Flying School, after which he was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

In April 1941 he took over as Commanding Officer of 1448 Flight RAF which operated Cierva C.30 Rotas on radar calibration duties.

In 1943, 1443 Flight was renamed 529 Squadron. Alan was with the squadron until it was disbanded in 1945. During the war he was twice mentioned in dispatches and on 1st January 1945 the London Gazette noted that he had been awarded the Air Force Cross.

  Air Force Cross  

In early 1946 he retired from the RAF and re-joined the Cierva Autogiro Company, now as General Manager and Chief Test Pilot. He undertook first flights and initial development of various autogiros and helicopter types including Weir WE3, Westland CL.20, Cierva C.40, Cierva W.9, Cierva W.11 Air Horse, Cierva W.14 Skeeter, and Bristol 171 Sycamore types.

He was instrumental in the formation of the Helicopter Association of Great Britain and became its first Chairman.

By June 1950 Alan had logged 6,500 flying hours, of which 3,000 were on 70 types of fixed-wing aircraft, and 3,500 on rotorcraft that included 22 types of autogiro and 5 types of helicopter.

His qualifications included Pilot’s A and B licences, 2nd Class Navigators licence, the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (GAPAN) Master Instructors Diploma. He was the rotating-wing representative on the GAPAN Panel of Examiners.

On 13th June 1950 Alan was piloting the prototype Cierva W.11 Air Horse (VZ724) helicopter when a transmission failure resulted in the aircraft crashing near Eastleigh, Hampshire. All three crew, Alan Marsh, John ‘Jeep’ Cable and Joseph K Unsworth were killed.

  Cierva W.11 Air Horse  

The Portsmouth Evening News of that day reported “AIR HORSE CRASHES: THREE KILLED – The Cierva Air Horse, the world’s largest helicopter, crashed near Southampton to-day. All three occupants were killed. The helicopter caught fire as soon as it hit the ground and is a complete wreck. Among the dead was the firm’s chief test pilot and manager, Squadron Leader Alan Marsh, A.F.C. of Mead Mill Cottage, Romsey. The helicopter crashed two miles north of the perimeter of Eastleigh, Southampton’s Airport. It was on a test flight round about the airport. Other dead were Squadron Leader F J Cable, A.F.C., a Ministry of Supply pilot attached to the RAF at Beaulieu and Mr. H J Unsworth, flight engineer, employed by the Cierva Autogiro Company whose home was at Twyford (Hants). Squadron Leader Marsh was in command, and he was giving tuition to Squadron Leader Cable, who was due to fly the Air Horse at the R.A.F. display at Farnborough in July. Squadron Leader Cable lived at ‘Under the Rails’, East Boldre (Hants). The machine became a blazing mass, and Southampton firemen were unable to rescue the occupants. The Air Horse, designed to carry 24 passengers, was still in the experimental stage. It was completed only a few months ago, and was to have been used either on one of Britain’s ‘air bus’ lines, or for agricultural operations. It was not flying very high when it crashed. A spokesman of the Ministry of Civil Aviation told a reporter, “The Air Horse was doing trials on our behalf.” It had been ordered by them for developing the helicopter service.”

The Nottingham Journal of Thursday 29th June 1950 reported “PIECES FLEW OFF THE AIR HORSE – Two tree fellers who saw the Cierva Air Horse crash with the loss of three lives at Westend, Southampton, on 13 June, said at the resumed inquest at Eastleigh (Hampshire) yesterday that pieces came flying from the helicopter as it passed and “it looked as if black paper was being thrown from the aircraft.” The Coroner, Mr. P. B. Ingoldby, recorded verdicts of misadventure on Sqdn-Ldr. Alan Marsh A.F.C., of Romsey (Hampshire), Sqdn-Ldr. F. J. Cable, of East Boldre (Hampshire) and Mr. W. J. Unsworth, of Twyford (Hampshire). He said the accident was due to an unpredictable mechanical failure.”

The 1950 England & Wales National Probate Calendar records that “MARSH Harry Allen otherwise Harry Alan otherwise Henry Allen otherwise Henry Alan of Mead Mill Cottage Romsey Hampshire died 13 June 1950 at Pragnells Farm West End Hampshire Probate London 1 September to Lloyds Bank Limited Effects £2318 5s 5d”.

In 1956 the Helicopter Association of Great Britain, headed by Reggie Brie, formed the Alan Marsh Memorial Trust Fund to support technical training in the rotary wing field, and to award an annual medal to a member of a flight test crew in recognition of outstanding achievements in the test, development, and operational evaluation of rotorcraft.

Ida Marsh received a Memorial Trust Medal that was inscribed “Replica of the Alan Marsh Medal presented to Ida Marsh in affectionate memory of her husband, a great pioneer pilot and founder of this association 1956”.

  Alan Marsh Memorial Trust Medal