LOCAL woman Hilda Findlay recently paid a visit to the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre to re-visit her father’s role as a pilot in World War One.
Mrs Findlay viewed the centre’s most recent exhibit, a Sopworth Camel, which is the type of plane that her father flew many years ago.
She decided to pay a visit to the centre to see if she could find out any more information about her father’s past.
Hilda said: “He never spoke about his flying during the war so when my friend, who is very enthusiastic about aviation, suggested I should come along with him to the museum I was keen to do so.”
Staff at the centre provided Mrs Findlay with a tour of the exhibits and tried to help her fill in some of the gaps in her father’s flying history and to tell her more about wartime flying in Angus and the Mearns.
Maxwell Hutcheon Findlay was born at Glasslaw farm in 1898 and at the age of 16. He lied so that he could enlist in the Black Watch. While in the Black Watch he worked as a dispatch rider and it was from this that he originally got into flying.
He first flew with the Royal Navy and then transferred to the Royal Air Force when it was formed. While flying with the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917 Lieutenant Findlay flew Sopworth Camels and gained two notable victories.
In April of 1918, Lieutenant Findlay was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and later the Distinguished Flying Cross after he was instrumental in victory during an aerial battle. He shot down seven enemy aircraft and was also involved in a dogfight with another seven who were also defeated.
After receiving his awards Lieutenant Findlay attained the rank of Acting-Captain and from then on he was always known as Captain by his family, friends and colleagues.
Once the war was over, Captain Findlay flew with the RAF in Afghanistan before returning to Scotland to complete a degree in agriculture at Aberdeen University. He then settled back into farming life where he married and had one daughter, Hilda.
Mrs Findlay said that this was not the end of his flying career, as within the decade he was back in the cockpit. In the early 1930s he became sales manager and chief instructor at Brooklands School of Flying in Surrey. There he taught many of the young women who became transport pilots during the Second World War including the famous Amy Johnstone. He also had the aim of teaching his only daughter to fly with the hope that she would someday become the youngest B-Pilot in the world. Sadly this was not to be.
In October, 1936, Captain Findlay and three of his crew took part in the Johannesburg Air Race flying a twin-engined Airspeed Envoy. Unfortunately a decision to fly in inclement weather was to cost him his life and he died when the plane crashed taking off from an airfield in northern Rhodesia.
Despite the tragic end to her father’s life, flying has remained a large part of family life for Mrs Findlay. She said: “I think that once people have been flying it is in their blood and will stay with them for their lifetime.”
In her family, Mrs Findlay has a one-time fighter pilot who now flies for the airline Cathay Pacific, a cousin who flew with the Red Arrows and a second cousin who is learning how to pilot helicopters in the Royal Navy.
What’s more, Mrs Findlay’s daughter, Helen, has also learned to fly and has even managed to take her mother with her on some of her trips to the air.