‘Magnificent men in their flying machines’ - piece of wartime history donated to aviation museum
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
He was among the many brave pilots who took to the skies knowing they may never touch ground again.
And now a First World War hero’s military contributions can be hailed for generations to come after his flying certificate and trusty helmet were donated to the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum in Flixton.
Born in West Yorkshire in 1898, Reginald Stanley Pickles enlisted with the army at the age of 18 and transferred to the Royal Air Force upon its inception in April 1918.
Piloting an RE8 biplane, Sergeant Pickles served as an instructor until the end of the war before returning to civilian life as a clerk and later a registrar. He was also a methodist preacher and eventually retired to Norwich, where he died aged 77.
With the certificate and helmet gathering dust in his attic, David Brook - Mr Pickles’ grandson - decided it was time to bestow the aviation museum with an invaluable piece of military history.
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“The flying helmet and certificate have been passed down the family from generation to generation, but I thought it would be nice to give it to a museum for everybody to see,” said Mr Brook, 59 from Pakefield.
“For a relatively small place, there’s so much interesting memorabilia at the aviation museum and it’s great to see the history of it all being passed down to schoolchildren.
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“It’s so important to celebrate the heroes of years gone by and lovely to know that a member of your family was involved in such an auspicious organisation like the RAF. The fact it’s the 100th anniversary of the RAF and 100 years since my grandfather joined makes this occasion that little bit more special.”
Accompanying Mr Brook at the museum was friend and former RAF group captain, Victor Kendrick, who assisted with the donation process.
“These pilots were the magnificent men in their flying machines,” said Mr Kendrick. “There had never been a war before where air power affected events or the eventual outcome.
“The RE8 which Sergeant Pickles flew isn’t much to talk about in comparison to today’s aircraft, but in those days it was really something.”
The donation was gratefully received by museum chairman Steven Bell, who added: “We have a lot of Second World War helmets in much worse condition than this.
“Sergeant Pickles was probably one of the very first people who qualified in the RAF and, with the force reaching its 100th anniversary, the donation is incredibly special to us.”