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Stock No. 6603

Price = n/a


Royal Flying Corps Mk I Bigsworth Board by Blériot - Click for the bigger picture

Royal Flying Corps Mk I Bigsworth Board by Blériot

In 20 years trading this is only the third example of one of these early boards we have been fortunate enough to source and offer for sale. Both the others were manufactured by 'The General Instrument and Engineering Co. Ltd', London whilst this one is stamped on the reverse 'Bleriot London', with the manufacturers details again being confirmed on the spares envelope as 'Bleriot Ltd, 4, Catesby St, Walworth, S. E.17'. On line research indicates BLERIOT traded as Bleriot-Odkent, London and was stablished 1905 making head, side and tail lamps, dynamos, lighting sets and it seems aviation map boards! In September 1910 Blériot opened a flying school at the newly established Hendon aerodrome near London and another in July 1914 at Brooklands in Surrey and also established a small factory there, becoming known as the Air Navigation and Engineering Company; ANEC survived until 1926. Blériot also built a large aircraft factory on Station Road, Addlestone in 1917; aircraft constructed were taken by road to Brooklands for final assembly and test flying.

We have no idea how many of these map boards Blériot's company made but our guess is not many and this is a rare survivor. It comes in it's original card box, that is now showing significant age wear, but is amazing it has survived at all. The instrument, known in service as ' a Bigsworth' board' was issued to aircraft navigators and observers in the RFC and RNAS so that they had a convenient way to plot their aircraft's course in flight, of course in an open cockpit. The inventor was Air Commodore Arthur Wellesley Bigsworth CMG, DSO & Bar, AFC, who was a pioneer aviator who had a distinguished military career and the man Captain W. E. Johns named his famous character "Biggles" after! The board features and acetate retaining cover (now showing some age wear) and beneath is an equally scarce original RFC chart, sheet 32, dated April 1916 showing the Melun area of Northern France where the first Battle of the Marne was fought in 1914. These charts were specifically made for the board and the acetate prevents it being blown away in the slipstream.

The board is fitted with a moveable protractor arm that carries a combined protractor/parallel rule acetate and the spares envelope contains an alternative protractor featuring a different scale (now showing some age damage). The reverse of the board is in close to mint condition, carrying the embossed makers details as mentioned, together with a Ministry arrow property mark and another in a square that may be an AID inspectors stamp. We understand these chart boards continued to be used by the RAF during the 1930's and looking at the design it clearly influenced the far more common larger WWII map board stores reference 6B/137. This is a museum quality item that rarely appears on the collectors market and with the added bonus of carrying the Blériot name, one of the most famous to be associated with the very early days of aviation. Measures 14"x 14" (36 cm x 36 cm)

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