White Sheet History – Peter Fell – February 2021
Memories of White Sheet RFC 1966 -1976
Following my initial visit in 2019 and on my return to flying at White Sheet in 2020 after 30 years absence I was encouraged by the warm welcome I received from the Chairman David Bradfield and members present. It also was apparent that the club was thriving with an active membership and a busy calendar of events.
In conversation I was asked by David if I could write a few words on the history of the club to which I readily agreed and said would get in touch with Keith Thomas the founder of White Sheet RFC.
Well here goes with some happy memories of flying at White Sheet.
Good slope soaring locations like Crooks Peak, Win Green and the White Sheet downs have been the preferred local flying sites for many years and for those modellers who can recall the 1960’s and 70’s will remember the likes of Eric Poole, David Bond, Pete Slater, Brian Cooper, Slim Sear, Pete Fell, Robin and Chris Saunders, Rowland Hackett, Dave Pederick, George Chambers and Alan Brocklehurst from the Westland Aero modellers club based at Yeovil.
However, more importantly the local group of modellers namely Keith Thomas, Bill Gibbs, Derek Stone, Pat Haxell ,Mike Cooper, Ken Herridge, Pat Suter, Harold Lidbitter, Chris Wynn, Chris Williams, Vic Grist, Tony Doman, Chris Morton and Jess Nicholls to name a few were also regular flyers at White Sheet during the 1970’s.
Current and past members who were active the 1970’s will recall the days of 27 MHz Radio, CB Radio and sharing the flying sites with the new sport and potential hazardous hobby of Hang Gliding!
The inherent risks of flying model aircraft using the same airspace as Hang gliders was a great concern to the model flyers which resulted in the formation of the White Sheet RFC in 1975 lead by Keith Thomas who gave the club an identity and created the acclaimed Ghost club logo.
Having established an identity and a working relationship with the National Trust and local farmers the club steadily gained recognition and popularity with modellers in the surrounding area and beyond.
Initially Slope Soaring was the primary activity of the club however there was a need to provide some structure and encouragement to fly safely and members were encouraged to take part in the friendly competitions that had been developed by the Westland club to provide a personal challenge, discipline and achievement for members who wished to advance their flying skills.
The local Red Lion Pub Kilmington was also a welcome retreat from the wet and windy slopes and provided the perfect base for Club meetings and post flying sessions chat with Beer and refreshments on tap.
Social events for members and family were also an important part of the club activities with Bungee flying, Bonfires and BBQs hosted by Brian and Wendy Cooper (Proprietor of the Digi Hangar Model Shop, Yeovil.) at their home near Blandford Forum.
Jess had his own flying patch on his farm where members could either fly motor gliders or aero tow using the J3 Piper Cub built by Cliff and hosted the annual club aero tow and BBQ event.
The annual Christmas Dinner and prize giving at the Butt of Sherry in Mere or the Grange at Oborne was the norm for many years.
As previously mentioned friendly competitions were a regular occurrence on the slope which included Loops and Spot, Pylon racing, Nominated Manoeuvres, Slalom, Somerset Trophy (Loops and spot), Time and spot and latterly the Woodstock Flying Wing challenge.
For those windless summer day’s members and their families retreated to Lower Barn Farm to enjoy some relaxing flat field Thermal and Multi Task flying.
Participating member’s achievements from each of the many varied competitions were accumulated towards the prize of winning the prestigious Keith Thomas “Tallis” trophy presented at the annual club dinner with family and friends.
Building and flying Scale Gliders was also a keen interest to members and the White Sheet club has attracted the skills of some of the best Scale modellers in the UK namely Pat Teakle, Chris Williams, and Cliff Charlesworth who have all been an inspiration to many members.
Initially, the Scale Competitions were limited to club Members however in 1980 the event became an open event and attracted many visitors and I am pleased to say it still continues today under the leadership of the prolific Scale Glider enthusiast Chris Williams.
How many members remember Sean Walbank the very keen and competitive member who being a talented School teacher at Sherborne School had the skill and dedication to produce the famous White Sheet Magazine which was produced solely by him and attracted a worldwide circulation!
To conclude, I would like to thank Keith and Rowland for their memories and contribution and hope members present and past members have enjoyed these vintage ramblings of the early years at White Sheet. However, if you feel there are any inaccuracies or omissions please don’t hesitate to contact me.