The Jubilee of Penny Postage
South Kensington Interesting Uses

Gustav Hamel
"Daily Mail Airman"

Gustav Hamel was the first man to fly for U.K postal service carrying mail from Hendon & Windsor. While based at Hendon airport, Colindale, London, one of his jobs was carrying mail for the Royal family from Windsor Castle. Saturday, 9th September 1911, flying his Bleriot XI monoplane, Hamel left Hendon at 4.58pm. He carried one bag of mail with 300-400 letters, about 800 postcards and a few newspapers weighing 23Ib and arrived safely at Windsor around 5.13pm. This was the first official airmail carried in Great Britain.

Special obliterators were made for cancelling the Souvenir items to be flown on this first flight. Six 'numbers' have been seen on the LONDON version, 1 through 4 were 'posted in advance' while numbers 5 & 6 were cancelled at Hendon Field just before the flights. The return flight had "WINDSOR", using but two obliterators. The experiment owes its place in history to Commander Sir Walter Windham, a British aviation pioneer.

The first return mail flight from Windsor to Hendon was piloted by Clement Greswell on 16th September. The final flight carrying mail was flown from Hendon to Windsor by Gustav Hamel on 26th September. The planned cessation of 15th September was extended to the 26th due to missed flights caused by bad weather and the need to 'catch up' on the mail backlog.

Postcards in four colours were produced and charged at 6 1/2d. These had to be deposited at specific locations in order to be accepted for the flight. Posting locations included: Army & Navy Stores, Arding & Hobbs, London Aerodrome and Selfridges. Envelopes, in six colours, were available containing specially made 'Notes' at a cost of 1s 1d. Postage was, of course, aditional.

Gustav was the son of Dr Gustav Hugo Hamel (Royal Physician to King Edward VII) and his wife, Caroline Magdalena Elise. Although he was born in Hamburg, Germany, the family emigrated to England about 1899 and was Naturalized as a Citizen about 1910.

Learning to fly at the Blériot school at Pau, France in 1910, Louis Blériot commented that he had never seen a pilot with such natural ability. He held Aéro-Club de France's Flight Certificate #358 and would receive the Royal Aero Club's Aviator's Certificate #64 on 14th February 1911.
Gustav was one of the pilots who took part in a demonstration of flying to various members of the government, by carrying dispatches to Aldershot and returning with a reply. The 64 mi (103 km) round trip took two hours, including time lost restarting his engine for the return flight.
Gustav disappeared over the English Channel on 23rd May 1914. He was returning from Villacoublay with a new 80 hp Gnome Monosoupape engined Morane-Saulnier monoplane and intending to race that plane in the Aerial Derby the same day.

Gustav was a showman, giving exhibitions of flying, taking interested people for rides and carrying 'Favour Mail'. The above example is one carried, not part of the Official Mail, as it is neither addressed, nor put through the post for 'official' cancellation.

Gustav Hamel loops the loop
over the George IV Gateway,
Windsor Castle.
From the book, 'Flying',
by Gustav Hamel & Charles Turner. 1914




26th March, 2017