Club History

(Originally compiled by Derek Findlay in 1991, revised 1996 Additional revision by Al Stacey in 2007 and 2011)

Following an inaugural meeting held on 25th January 1960, the Gliding Club was formally established at RAF Colerne, which was at that time operating Hastings transport aircraft. The Club took its name from the ridge of Bannerdown, which extends from that airfield towards the city of Bath.

John Prince was Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) and was joined, amongst others, by civilians Gordon Mealing and Phil Hutchings from the Bristol and Gloucestershire Club, formerly Bristol Gliding Club before its move from Lulsgate to Nympsfield in 1956.

The first gliders were a Slingsby T31 and Cadet MK1, but necessary repairs meant it was August before they flew. An EON Baby, Tutor (183) and Olympia 2b followed and were soon joined by a Slingsby T21B (283) that arrived in February 1961. This latter aircraft became known as “the Barge” and is still flying with the Club some forty-four years later, following a brief period at RAF Cosford.

The new Club rapidly attracted members, 90 in spring 1961 when Kath Fielding (Gildæ) became the first lady member to solo. In August of that year Allan Yates attempted Gold distance to Yarmouth, falling short by just 30 miles!

Launching at first was by autotow using an ex-WD Humber but many changes were run [quote] “… the Austin 7 was broken-up and a motorcycle substituted for retrieves; until this caught fire and was replaced by a Morris Minor, later a Rover and Ford V8 were put into use.

In November 1961 slim Kath had her first flight in the EON Baby “packed out with cushions and pockets filled with spanners”. The following year another try at 300 Km by Ed Meddings, then CFI, in the Oly 2b, ended near Barnsley after 8 hours. That autumn the Club was allocated the only existing Olympia 403 (No.90) a year after Derek Piggott won the National Aerobatics Competition in it. Hardly had it been rigged when Max Bacon flew it to North Denes, the Club’s first gold distance, and Bill Longley was only 40 Km short on the following day after an overnight retrieve. Within weeks Ed Meddings had reached Yarmouth in the 403.

Winch launches were introduced in 1963 and a trailer winch proved useful for visits to ridge sites for 5 hour attempts at Huish and the Club’s present home at Keevil. Later Tug Wilson initiated soaring the nearby ridge at Bath race-course.

Harry Daniels was a very active member during the early years. He built a reverse pulley winching system mounted on the old Humber chassis, making it possible to launch a glider every 3 minutes under ideal conditions. He also gave the Club two cups to be awarded annually for best progress on the ground and in the air, and for the best flight of the year.

In 1963 a mobile flight office came into use, at which time launches cost 2s 6d. and membership numbered almost 200!

A Grunau arrived from Germany in 1964 intended as a replacement for the EON Baby, but repairs were not complete until the following year. 1965 was a good soaring year; in August 1000 launches and 1000 Km cross-country were recorded. The young George Lee completed all three Silver legs in one 5.5 hour flight, in fitting style for a future World Champion. In that year the Oly 403 was sold though the latter did not remain for long. Harry Daniels bought one of the early Blaniks in 1966 in which Tug Wilson and Harry reduced the two-seat World record around 300 Km to 5.5 hours.

In February 1968 the Club took delivery of a new Bocian (393) which combined instruction with good soaring performance. A photograph taken in 1968 during Pete Dawson’s leadership shows how well equipped the Club was both in gliders and ground support. An Oly 419 (No 86) was then lead glider; a Jaguar was occasionally used for autotows. It was during this time that the Hastings left Colerne to be replaced by Hercules.

In the late 60s and early 70s the existing home-grown solo gliders were phased out and replaced with Schleicher K8, K6CR and later a K6E. The CR was taken to Portmoak in 1971 for Gold height and 5-hour duration attempts.

In that autumn this glider was flown by Chris Foot around the Club’s Diamond Goal via Lasham and Gaydon.This triangle and others became more regular events with the arrival of higher performance gliders like Roy Gaunt’s and Tom Bobbin’s SHK. In March 1973 there was an expedition with four gliders to Maesteg from which only the Bocian returned unscathed.


The CR was ‘landed in Christmas trees, while the K8 and T21 both suffered front-end damage while avoiding a deep ditch which crossed the site.

The Club entered four pilots in the 1974 Inter Service competition at Cosford where Ken Hartley (K6E) and Dave Williams (K6CR) both completed 300 Km task. After the following year’s spring competitions the Club K6E was written-off in a Dorset meadow, but 1975/76 saw the arrival of the first glass-fibre Club glider in the shape of a standard Cirrus and an Astir 77, a K18 (318) replaced the K6CR and joined the K8 as early solo conversions from the K13 which had arrived from Mawgan Vale in 1974. The Bocian remained, owned by a syndicate, until 1978 when it was sold to, and remains in use today, with Bath and Wilts Club, initially at Keevil but now at The Park.

An Astir CS was bought privately in 1976, but was soon replaced by a new, flapped, Mosquito. It was in the latter that Andy Handcock achieved three Diamonds, his 500 Km being flown in Germany in 1979.

Motor-gliders had been around occasionally in earlier years, the tandem SF 28A of Harry Daniels often flown by Tug Wilson “Juliet Romeo”, now at Nympsfield, and the tandem Falke of John Perquet, which finally followed him to Canada.

In April 1978 the Club moved from Colerne to RAF Hullavington. In 1980 a second K13 arrived and about that time an ASW19 replaced the Cirrus, the latter being syndicated, whilst another group bought-in a K6E (CCU) from Dunstable.

1980 was also notable for Project Megaglide, a visit by six Club members to Bald Eagle Ridge in the Appalachians in north eastern USA. For this expedition the ASW19 was delivered by Hercules to Washington and then towed (by hearse!) to ridge soaring’s site at Julian PA where it flew for 3 months, the pilots arriving in pairs. Tony Clarke and Jerry O’Dell achieved their 500 Km flights, while Den Britton also covered the distance, albeit the wrong way round.

1981 was the year of the Disabled and Nationalglide, the brain-child of Peter Whit. A sport Vega, loaned by Slingsby and an Airedale tug from Bicester toured the country visiting 20 sites ending at Greenham Common for the International Air Tattoo. The final leg to Hullavington was flown by Pete Brown, an early member of the Club, himself disabled. The project established the feasibility of flying for the disabled people and led in 1982 to the purchase by the GSA of a T61G motor-glider to be based at Hullavington. Recognition of Peter’s work in this field came in 1982 with the award of a FAI Silver Diploma.

With the arrival in 1983 of our first K21 (R20) and a second in 1985, thoughts were of an all fibre-glass fleet, particularly as the Club’s first flapped glider appeared in this period, a 15/17mtr Ventus B (16). However, when one K21 was lost in an accident it was replaced with a K13 and this, more economical, balance has been retained to the present.

The spring of 1983 saw the first expedition by the Club to the Black Mountains site at Talgarth, following its approval by the BGA. That summer also saw flying the longest day from 04.40 hours and in the autumn a brief visit to Dishforth for wave flying experience.

Winter 1983/84 was a time of enormous activity preparing gliders and trailers for Club’s overseas expedition to Aosta, masterminded by Pat (Hannibal) Rowney. A trailer was built for the K21 and oxygen equipment put into the Ventus, Astir, K6E and the two-seater. The trip (March 26 – April 15) was an immense success, during which we flew 200 hours in magnificent scenery, though we were unlucky not to have wave conditions for Diamond attempts.

In August 1984 the Club was host to the Inter-Service Competitions, which was enough of a success to be repeated in 1985, though the weather on that occasion was abysmal. The same can be said for much of that soaring season, though three exceptional days went down in the record books and the Club contributed its share to these. The first Club “home” 500 Km Diamond was flown by Jerry O’Dell in his Vega on May 28th and a 300 Km goal flown on July 7th by Colin Masters in the Skylark 2.

With the arrival of ‘JC-G’ in 1985 there were steady improvements in the Club’s bus winches and in the organization of the launches generally, with the adoption of better cable parachutes and weak links. Cable retrieve likewise entered a more comfortable and reliable era with the purchase of vans to replace tractors. The old engine-less launch point bus was replaced by a fully operational bus straight off the Manchester streets and its bottom deck converted to a well-equipped canteen. A 135hp Rallye has been on site for several years and is now operated by a syndicate of tug pilots.

In 1988 hang gliders and paracenders made occasional appearances on the airfield and in 1989 the Air Experience Flight Chipmunks moved in from Filton. Although some changes were necessary in the airfield discipline, relatively small sacrifices had to be made.

In the autumn of 1989 four gliders, including the K21, were taken to Aboyne where a number of Diamond and Silver heights were gained. For 3-4 years the Club participated in the Inter-Club League and won the finals in 1988 and 1989, coming third in 1990.

1991 proved a difficult year with the arrival of the Bristol University Air Squadron and the announcements of Hullavington’s closure. Following a number of red herrings as to our future location, the Club finally moved to RAF Keevil in October 1992 where it took over the premises vacated earlier by the Bath and Wilts Club.

The drastic changes in accommodation and facilities, combined with dreadful weather during our first three months, finally gave way to a period of recovery. A combination of self-help and financial assistance from the RAF greatly improved accommodation in the three Nissen huts and Clubhouse, which were all electrically rewired. The larger Nissen was fitted with new doors and an extensive concrete apron laid in front of them. A large portakabin, donated by RAF Lyneham, was erected adjacent to the existing buildings. In 1994 the one remaining war-time hanger was completely reclad and, though not for our sole use, has become the main housing for gliders, trailers and powered aircraft.

Soon after our arrival at Keevil, RAF Lyneham adopted the Club and provided some welcome enthusiasm in the form of senior committee members, notably Wing Commander David Walker, Chairman until he was posted in 1994. This parenting results in the minor name change to Bannerdown Gliding Club (RAFGSA, Lyneham Regional).

A Janus C (16) joined the club fleet giving members the opportunity to receive cross-country soaring instruction.

In June 1994 the Club Rallye and K13 joined 22 other combinations at Lasham in a fly-past at Portsmouth celebrating the D-Day invasion. The arrival of the Janus in that year greatly extended the Club’s capabilities for cross-country training and competition. A Kittewake aircraft was also acquired by a syndicate of members and is operated as a tug alongside the Rallye.

1997 saw the arrival of the first of two twin drum Tost winches to replace the bus winches. This was welcome both on safety grounds and the improved launches that it provided. The lost art of winch driving had to be re-learned. Launching was further improved when a third tug arrived in the form of a privately owned Piper Cub. The MT fleet was further improved with the retirement of the landrover retrieve vehicles that were replaced by a pair of Ford Cargo’s and a Bedford CL.

During the latter half of 1998 the clubs original Discus (R12) was replaced by a more modern Czech built example (R55). There were expeditions to the Long Mynd, Aboyne and Talgarth. CFI Al Stacey was presented with the Andy Gough Trophy (RAFGSA Member of the year) at the RAFGSA AGM. Steve Ayres came second in his first competition, the ISRGC at our former home Hullavington flying his Ventus A.

At the beginning of 1999 an almost new K13 (R61) which was fitted with a nose wheel rather than the conventional skid replaced K13 R80 as it was more suitable for operating of the tarmac at Keevil. The private glider fleet increased to 26, a club record ranging from a primary to a Discus BT. Jon Arnold and Richie Arnall came second in the French Air Force Championships at Romorantin flying a borrowed Duo-Discus. An expedition to Aboyne in October achieved 5 Diamond and 3 Gold heights and 80 hours flying. The club came second at the National Inter Club League final at Nympsfield.

The start of the new millenium brought with it a Janus CM, the first time the club had operated a self-launching sailplane. A K18 (R32) was acquired from Fulmar club at Kinloss to replace K8 (R44) in February. The Vintage Glider Club week during May produced wave to over ten thousand feet. Steve Ayres flew Diamond Distance in June, a club first from its current site. Four gliders (R20, R55, JA & V17) took part in a successful expedition to Milfield during October.

The early part of 2001 saw operations severely curtailed when the airfield together with much of the country was shut due to foot and mouth disease. The club single seater fleet increased with the addition of an LS8 (R3) from RAF Marham in a multi way deal that also saw Discus R55 depart in exchange for the former RAFGGA example (547). There were minor expeditions to Lleweni Park and Talgarth. During September the club mounted its first overseas expedition for several years taking 6 gliders (Discus 547 & JA, LS8 R3, ASW19 4T, ASW24 V17 & Ventus 840) to Ocana Spain. The year ended on a sad note when K6E (CCU) was broken in two when it spun in on approach to runway 31. The pilot was uninjured!

In May 2002 5 gliders (547, R3, HKB, JBZ, V17) went to Sutton Bank for a week where it was soarable on all but one day. Ken Bryer flew Silver Duration in easterly wave. The K13 (R61) suffered a landing accident on the pilots 2nd solo back at Keevil.

Easter 2003 saw the T21 emerge from the workshops after a complete overhaul which included completely replacing both wing trailing edges. Newly painted in a new blue and white colour scheme the glider adopted the number R83.

In January 2004 Discus 547 went to Poland for a complete re-gel, within four weeks of returning to Keevil it was damaged in a launching accident. Janus 16 suffered a landing accident in April which kept it out of action for most of the summer. Spring saw the arrival of two privately owned ASW20’s JAG and 271 (the latter formerly RAFGSA 27). The SZD12 Mucha belonging to Rick Fretwell made its first flight after a protracted restoration. ASK 21 (R20) was replaced in November by a brand new example (R12), closely followed by a new Rotax powered Falke (G-CDFD) capable of aero towing delivered in December. This is the most expensive glider purchased by the RAFGSA to date.

In the spring of 2005 the club mounted an expedition to the Bowland Forest GC at Chipping which was blessed with soarable weather for the duration. In April the club achieved a UK first with the introduction of plasma rope launching cable on the ‘Merv’ Tost winch. Dave Waller boosted the private owner fleet with the addition of a DG200. Mark Parker won the Junior World Championships flying the LS8 at Husbands Bosworth. Jon Arnold flew just short of 750Km in his Discus ‘JA’, whilst Bob Bromwich turned Mount Snowden in an epic flight of over 600km in his DG-500. The T.21 was sold to a Japanese business man and was shipped to Australia in September. Stewart Renfrew completed the restoration of his M100S.

In January 2006 Andy Hill was appointed by the BGA as the South West region regional safety officer. A large group from Bowland Forest GC were made most welcome during the May soaring week and Glen Turpin became the first club member to complete the BGA Standard Aerobatic Badge. A sizeable contingent represented the club at the Inter Services Competition hosted by the Army at Middle Wallop. A programme to overhaul four RAFGSA K13’s at Keevil commenced with the first aircraft being delivered to the new RAFGSA club at RAF Odiham in September. December saw the number of private gliders on site at Keevil reach 29 with the arrival of Bob Bromwich’s ASG29.

Andy Miller was appointed the Senior Regional Examiner for motor gliders by the BGA in February 2007. March witnessed the return home of one of Bannerdown’s founder gliders when Tutor RAFGSA183 joined Al Stacey’s collection of 15 Slingsby built gliders! Several members joined the RAFGSA spring expedition Lleweni Parc.

Spring 2008 witnessed an expedition to Eden soaring at Skelling Farm. A K13 was overhauled on behalf of the RAFGSA and delivered to Crusaders GC in Cyprus. Pete Desmond ran a NPPL SLMG course. The glider fleet became subject to EASA regulations which required them to be registered with the CAA. Janus 16 went to Poland for a re-gel before being fitted with a self sustainer engine returning in early 2009. A truly amazing new clubhouse and decking was constructed by club members under the guidance of Merv Ridout.

2009 produced some outstanding flights with Oscar Constable flying Diamond distance in the Janus and Jon Arnold achieving the club’s first 750km in his Discus 2a. There was a sizeable expedition to Portmoak during which Aran Armstrong gained Gold Height in his Discus. The Inter Services Regional Gliding Competition was held at Keevil for the first time being won by Jon Arnold. Al Stacey gained his NPPL SLMG in just 102 days. Ken Reid was appointed DCFI.

Easter 2010 saw a repeat expedition to Portmoak which allowed Andy Smith to complete his silver duration and narrowly missing gold height. A successful soaring week was held in May which produced a whole plethora of badge claims including Gold Distances and Diamond Goals for Ian Harris and Steve Tape. The inter Services was held at Keevil for the second year in succession.

A new launch point bus was purchased from local bus company – Bondman’s during early 2011 and converted into the new launch point vehicle. An expedition to Sutton Bank was marred by poor weather. Andy Smith, Arran Armstrong and Gaz Baker qualified as Basic Instructors. Ian Harris took over the mantle of CFI from Oscar Constable. With the forthcoming closure of RAF Lyneham, RAF Brize Norton became the clubs parent unit. During the year 2 different K18’s were loaned to the club whilst our own example underwent a complete overhaul.

In July 2011, with RAF Lyneham closing, RAF Brize Norton become Bannerdown Gliding Clubs parent station.

Recalling some former Club members and their subsequent achievements

In addition to George Lee, already mentioned, Terry Joint took over from Andy Gough at Bicester for a number of years before taking Derek Piggott’s place at Lasham. Tug Wilson, who finished flying with Cathay Pacific in 1989, has maintained his early interest in motor-gliders and has established a gliding business in southern France. John Prince is still in the service as a helicopter pilot. Ed Meddings recently retired from commercial flying and is now checked-out as a qualified cricket umpire. Max Bacon is with Marshall of Cambridge. Roy Gaunt went on to become a regional examiner for the BGA.

Chief Flying Instructors of Bannerdown

1960John Prince
1961-63Ed Meddings
1963-64Mike Laing
1965-66Tug Wilson:
1967-68Peter Dawson
1968-70Al Wiffin
1970-71Bruce Coutts
1972-73Roy Gaunt
1974-75Ed Edwards
1976-77Roger Crouch
1977Jock Wishart
1978-83Tony Clarke
1983-85Pat Rowney
1985-86John Charlett-Green
1986-88Keith Earnden
1988-89Tom Eagles
1989-92Keith Earnden
1992-93Chris Terry
1993-95Mel Dawson
1995Oscar Constable
1995-2001Al Stacey
2001-03Richie Arnall
2003-04Ken Reid
2004-2011Oscar Constable
2011-2017Ian Harris
2017-2022Ken Reid
2022-PresentIan Harris

Ex Member? Were you a member of the club in the dim and distant past? Do you have any old photos or information about the club? If so we would be interested to hear from you. Please contact the webmaster by email at