Alec Lumsden:

an appreciation by Richard Riding

DURING THE LATE 1940s my late father, Eddie Riding, worked for DA Russell's Harborough aviation publishing empire, was a regular contributor to Aero Model/er and Air Review and co-authored the final volume of Aircraft of the Fighting Powers.

Hardly surprisingly, our Hendon home was always full of model aeroplanes and bods enthusing about aeroplanes, and though only a child at the time I was fortunate to come into contact with many aviation writers, artists, photographers and pilots. My father's circle of friends included aviation writers AJ. Jackson and Owen Thetford, aviation artists Rupert Moore and Stanley Orton Bradshaw, and pilots

C. Nepean Bishop and Alec Lumsden. Alec Lumsden was one of the youngest of the group and, ultimately, the last survivor. He became a frequent and welcome visitor and such was his sense of fun that my two sisters and I adopted him as an "uncle".
From mid-1946 until 1950 Alec and my father did a great deal of flying together. Alec was a member of the Redhill Flying Club and the two of them flew together all over the country, mostly in Austers, Alec flying, my father invariably taking photographs. If there was room I occasionally occupied the rear seat; I see from my logbook that Alec gave me my second flight, in Auster Autocrat G-AHCK, during the afternoon of April 11, 1948. The circle of friends remained intact until April 1950, when rny father and Stanley Bradshaw were killed in a light aircraft accident.

After my father's death Alec kept in touch with the family but contact was properly renewed on a regular basis from the late Fifties when, as Assistant Secretary of the Royal Aeronautical SOCiety, he had to make frequent visits with AJ. Jackson to Hendon aerodrome where the aircraft of the Nash Collection, later to form the nucleus of the RAF Museum collection, were temporarily housed. I accompanied Alec on several occasions and it was my first opportunity to mix with aeroplanes since my father's death; it undoubtedly reawakened a latent desire to find a career in aviation, and on leaving school I became an aerial photographer.

Alec, knowing of my desire to follow in my father's footsteps and photograph aircraft, showed some of my air-to-ground work to that doyen of all aerial photographers, Charles E. Brown, who offered encouragement and some useful advice. In later years I was to visit Charles many times at his Worcester Park home to borrow pictures for use in Aeroplane Monthly.

When I started Aeroplane Monthly in 1973 I was keen to involve those talented friends of my father who had begun their writing careers during his era. In time authors Owen Thetford, A.J. Jackson and Alec Lumsden became much-valued regular contributors. Alec, in conjunction with Owen Thetford and Terry Heffernan, was responsible for several long-running series.

Regular long-term readers will recall Probe Probare, a series on aircraft that received special attention from the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment, which Alec co-wrote with Terry Heffernan between January 1983 and January 1987.

This was immediately followed in February 1987 with a similar series dealing with aeroplanes tested by the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe. Entitled Per Mare Probare and again written in collaboration with Terry Heffernan, the series ran from March 1987 until July 1989. In April 1990 Alec began a 12-part series entitled Take a Card, based on the Simple and concise Single-page card notes issued to Air Transport Auxiliary ferry pilots during the last war.
E.J. Riding (left) Alec Lumsden (centre) and L. Knight (right)
E.J. Riding (left) and Alec Lumsden (centre) on Southport Sands on August 22,1949, with Miles M.14A Hawk G-AIUA. Having flown in from Elstree, they are about to sample the delights of a free flight in Giro Aviation's joyriding D.H.S3 Fox Moth G-ACCB, flown by L. Knight (right). Alec asked for a copy of this print shortly before his death.
Alec Lumsden is probably best-known to Aeroplane readers through the masterly 20-part series On Silver Wings, co-written with Owen Thetford. Begun in October 1990, it described the classic inter-war RAF biplane fighters, a subject dear to the hearts of both authors, who had thrilled at the sight and sound of Hawker Furies and the like in their youth. Such was the success of this series that Osprey published it in book form in 1993, In addition to these long-running series Alec also contributed many other features and over the period of my editorship we published more than 80 of his articles, His most recent contribution to Aeroplane was his superb Database appraisal of the Vickers Wellington, published in the September 2001 issue, Throughout our professional association his accurate, well­ researched copy was always delivered in good time, despite deteriorating health that would have deterred most people, He had an encyclopedic knowledge of aviation and was an absolute stickler for accuracy,

Perhaps the finest memorial to Alec Lumsden will be his book British Piston Aero-Engines and their Aircraft, published by Airlife in 1994, Of this book, one reviewer wrote, "I have read some [books] that were very good and others which are acceptable; but rarely does one see a book that is an instant classic and which is destined to become the definitive work on the subject", By any standards this book is an important contribution to the annals of British aviation history, all the more remarkable when one considers that it was written during a prolonged and painful period of ill­ health, In fact, it was conceived when the author was confined in a hospital intensive care unit when, in his own words, "the thought occurred to me that composing a book on this pet subject might be a distraction from the immediate horrors, The first words of it were composed there (in hospital), on an early lap-top computer", Had it not been for the nursing and selfless support of his wife Elizabeth, and the skill of consultant neurologist Dr Nicholas F, Lawton MD FRCP, who diagnosed Alec's medical condition, Myasthenia Gravis, this definitive work on the subject may never have seen the light of day, It was typical of Alec that he dedicated his book to the doctor, One offshoot of supplying Alec with many of the photographs for this book was that he expertly catalogued and classified the hundreds of Aeroplane engine archive pictures I ferried down to his home from the editorial office,

After 55 years of friendship, I shall miss Alec, Though unwell in later years he retained his great sense of humour; our telephone conversations invariably began with the greeting, "Goodbye Sahib", I shall never forget his lasting regard for my father and family, Goodbye Sahib,