Contributed by Doug Killick, 6-2-11
|The late Capt. B. C. Hucks, R.A.F., who last week succumbed to pneumonia, following influenza. Capt. Hucks, who was one of the first exhibition flyers and the first Englishman to loop the loop, has for the last four years been engaged as test ;pilot of the latest types of military aeroplanes, and was closely associated with the Aircraft Manufacturing Co., Ltd.|
BY the death of Capt. Bentfield Charles Hucks, which has
occurred from pneumonia following 011 influenza, there passes
from our midst one of the earliest and greatest pilots in the
history of British aviation, and it seems doubly tragic to
think that he died on the very eve of the glorious triumph
of the Allied forces, towards which he had contributed so
splendid a share.
Hucks was born in 1884 at Stanstead, Essex, and was the youngest son of a consulting engineer. He was a first-class motorist, and it was only natural that to one of his tempera-ment the new science of flight should have appealed strongly from the very first. He took his Royal Aero Club certificate on May 30th, 10,11, on a Blackburn monoplane at Filey, but he had been actively associated with flying since 1910, for he was assisting Grahame-White at the Blackpool meeting, and also accompanied him on the famous visit to the United States. In the autumn of 1911 he gave a most successful series of exhibitions in the West of England, and from that date down to the outbreak of war he rendered magnificent service to British aviation by the remarkable demonstrations of the progress of this science which he gave in almost every part of the country. It is probably no exaggeration to say his name will be remembered by hundreds of thousands of people who, through him, saw flying for the first time in their lives, and thus realised it had become an accomplished fact and not a mere dangerous experiment. This educational work has perhaps never been fully appreciated as it deserves. To record all the many fine flights he made during his career would be difficult, but it is worth mentioning that he was certainly one of the first to recognise the commercial possibilities of the aeroplane and to demonstrate them by carrying goods from one town to anotherólong ago, be it remembered. On the eve of the General Election it is also interesting to know that he put an aeroplane to political uses for the first time at the Midlothian election in 1911 by distributing from the air in various parts of that constituency the literature of one of the candidates.
At the outbreak of war he at once volunteered for active service, and did excellent work in France for a time until pleurisy unfitted him for the strenuous conditions of aerial fighting. After his recovery he tt ok up the testing of new
machines, being attached by the R.F.C. to the Aircraft
Manufacturing Company for this purpose. The unique
experience he had gained during his pre-war flying, his skill
in looping and other evolutions, and his knowledge of
active service, stood him in good stead, and when it is possible
to relate in full the valuable work he has done for the Air
Services, as one may devoutly hope may be done at no
distant date by Mr. Holt Thomas, or someone equally in a
position to appraise his merits, Hucks will hold a prominent
place in the list of brave men who have done so much for
their country and for the good of the world in general.
He was essentially a brave pilot, for none knew better than he the risks of research work in the air. His technical knowledge was such, however, that he could study a machine, however new its design or startling its features, on the ground before taking any undue risks. In other words, he could with confidence rely on his brains to reduce to the lowest possible point the dangers of his work, and the fact that lie has now succumbed to an ordinary kind of illness, after flying in the aggregate probably more than any living pilot, shows the brilliance of his work. He was always spoken of by those who knew him well as a really steady pilot. Everyone had confidence in him.
Hucks had a delightful personality when one knew him. He was by nature serious and somewhat retiring, and not given to making friends rapidly, but had an exceptionally keen sense of humour. I shall always treasure the memory of a week in Paris with him a year ago, and the adventures of our flight back to England, interrupted in the middle by a thrilling night of air raids in Calais. Sheltering together under a heavy bombardment for many hours one gets a more intimate insight into the character of a friend than might be possible under other circumstances, and the friendship of Hucks meant far more to me from that night forward.
I would like to suggest that some permanent and visible memorial be erected in due course in the neighbourhood of Hendon, where he accomplished so much of his life's work. Meanwhile the deepest sympathy will be undoubtedly offered by his countless friends to his relatives and to his colleagues at the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, whose loss is severe. There will never be another Hucks. May he rest in peace.