Author Topic: The passing of an Aviation enthusiast-Ken Woolley,Berkswell Forge  (Read 959 times)

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Balsabasher

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His life story-
                                                                  KEN WOOLLEY  1922-2014
Ken was born in the golden era of aviation when aeroplanes flew ‘on the wind’ and not ‘through the wind’ born of five brothers and sisters named Charlie,Jack,Ann,Barbara & Marjorie he survived his siblings by many years,born to a blacksmith who had the forge at Benton Lane,Balsall Common,England prior to this Kens father had a smithy at Coleshill ,Kens attention soon spread to looking up at the sky noting aeroplanes flying into local fields on their tours with Scott Campbell Blacks flying circus and Sir Alan Cobham,his father was called into repairing the undercarriage of a Short Scion that buckled its undercarriage whilst landing at Westwood Heath a local field used by the air circus operators.
Ken started his extensive collection of aviation artifacts with a propeller from an Hawker Hart biplane purchased through the ‘Exchange & Mart’ magazine for seven shillings and sixpence ( 7/6p),when he heard of its arrival at Berkswell station he immediately sent his brother Jack on his pushbike to bring it back ! alas Jack returned empty handed as it was just too large to carry on his bike so Ken had to make alternative arrangements to bring it home.
Ken served in the RAF in Ceylon from 1939 for a year then made his way on his own through India on the adventure of a lifetime arriving back in the UK to start working with his father at his forge,he became a very good blacksmith showing great skills including designing and fabricating wrought ironwork which was sold all over the place,his aeronautical wind vanes such as the one he made for racing pilot Percy Blamire with a Miles Gemini became cherished,his artistic skills extended to drawing caricatures and also aeroplanes.
In 1948 he became life member number 1 of Air Britain,0001L to be exact as Charles Cain the founder was 0001F,his contributions to Air Britain publications extended for many years.
In 1949 Ken joined the Royal Observer Corps with its headquarters at Berkswell Hall,he would often be seen heading for the rooftop location observing overflying aeroplanes going in and out of local airfields,later that year an invitation arose from the Royal Aero club for him and his friend Ron Bass ( who sadly passed away in 2013) to be observers on the pylons at the post war Kings cup air races held at Elmdon now known as Birmingham international airport.
The forge moved to Spencer lane in Berkswell where Ken took on the responsibilities of his father as the village blacksmith,here Ken made many friends in the local farming community and continued his interests in Aviation by using what was probably the first amateur VHF radio for monitoring aircraft,the huge set came from a BOAC surplus sale and I well remember seeing the glow of the valves as aircraft transmissions hissed groundwards,to supplement this he got hold of two large submarine telescopes which he would gladly show to visitors with you looking on the ‘large’ scope and the ‘smaller’ satellite scope being worked skilfully by Ken,the first time I remember seeing a distant dot transformed into a Dan Air Comet was staggering.
His long garden became the scene of quite a few vintage aircraft types including Watkinson Dingbat G-AFJA,Klemm L.25 G-AAHW,Aronca C.3 G-AEVS and the frame of Auster Agricola VP-GAZ stored for the Midland Aircraft Preservation society,however if there is one aeroplane that Ken will be fondly remembered it would be the Foster Wikner Wicko G-AFJB,in 1962 whilst I was working at Baginton several aircraft were gathered together for an aircraft auction organised by Ray Turner and an auctioneer from Leamington Spa,the company name was Udazones formed specially for these auctions,when I mentioned to Ken that the Wicko was in the auction he asked me to help him acquire it on his behalf,the princely and then grand sum of £200 was gathered and I managed to talk Ray Turner into bypassing the actual auction and get it on his behalf,it worked and on the Saturday of the auction itself the Wicko was soon  dismantled and taken by road to Berkswell forge where it remained until later sold back to the original owner M.J.Dibble in around 2006,now it has been beautifully restored to full flying condition by Ron Souch.
The original plan by Ken was to restore it at the forge in the specially built blister hangar at the bottom of the garden and ply was purchased from Slingsby sailplanes and workbenches built in the hangar in anticipation of this,alas the restoration never happened apart from Ken painting the Wicko in camouflage as DR613 used when it served with the Air Transport Auxiliary during its wartime use as the ‘Warferry’ and flown by famous pilots such as Letice Curtis. 
Ken kept a visitors book for the many pilots and aircraft people who visited him from far and wide,its contents form a very interesting history of the many visitors he entertained over the years,complete with a cup of tea and home made cakes !
We have truly lost not just an enthusiast but a person who had an heart of gold and endeared himself to everyone he met,he will be very missed by the local Berkswell community and his many friends he made over the years.
Tribute by Barry Clay.

cliff strachan

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    • Cliff
Re: The passing of an Aviation enthusiast-Ken Woolley,Berkswell Forge
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2014, 09:56:50 AM »
Thank you, Barry, for the very interesting obituary concerning the death of Ken Woolley. I believe that I have seen an article about this gentleman and his models on this space.

Cliff.

Balsabasher

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Re: The passing of an Aviation enthusiast-Ken Woolley,Berkswell Forge
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2014, 10:59:39 AM »
He did build a few over the years but his brother Jack was a skilled woodworker and craftsmen who made many solid models.
Barry.