‘One of the last great pioneers’

RECORD The Fairey Delta 2
RECORD The Fairey Delta 2

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He was a man who lived for speed and went down in history as a record-breaker.

Now the collection of the late Peter Twiss, decorated wartime pilot and the first man to fly at more than 1,000mph, is being auctioned off by his family – giving collectors and aviation museums the chance to acquire some unique items.

FLYING ACE Peter Twiss after his record-breaking flight in 1956

FLYING ACE Peter Twiss after his record-breaking flight in 1956

They include his flying goggles, helmet, log books and medals, plus various trophies and awards, hundreds of photographs, slides, letters, newspaper cuttings and official records.

Consultant John Cameron, who is bringing the collection to auction in association with Jacobs & Hunt Auctioneers in Petersfield, says:

‘In our job as auctioneers, we get to meet some truly remarkable people, but the sad thing is we normally only get to meet them posthumously.

‘Peter Twiss was one of the last truly great British pioneers who risked their lives in passionate pursuit of adventure and immortality. He can be added to a list that includes Donald Campbell, Sir Edmund Hillary and Captain Scott, all names instantly associated with British history in various fields of endeavour.’

Southsea-based John, a familiar face on TV’s Cash in the Attic and Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, adds: ‘Whilst many thousands of pilots have since flown over 1,000mph, Peter Twiss will go down in the annals of aviation history as the first.

‘This is probably the most important aviation collection to come on to the market for many years, the likes of which we may never see again.’

Of particular historic importance are eight volumes of Peter’s hand-written pilot’s log books, detailing every flight he made, from his first in a de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane in 1940, through various wartime sorties and his celebrated speed record in Fairey Delta 2 on March 10, 1956 to a flight aboard Concorde.

Peter, who lived in Titchfield until his death at the age of 90 last year, entered the history books when he set a new air speed record, averaging 1,132mph and smashing by more than 300mph the previous record set by American air force pilot Horace ‘Dude’ Hanes.

Peter had already served during the Second World War as a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot.

He went on to work as a commercial test pilot, flying a variety of aircraft and clocking up thousands of air hours before switching to water, from Fairey Aviation to Fairey Marine, racing powerboats and working as a marine consultant.

But it was his piloting of Fairey Delta 2, a supersonic delta-winged research plane, over West Sussex 56 years ago that made him a nationally-known figure.

He went on to make two movie appearances, first in 1960 flying a Fairey Swordfish torpedo aircraft in Sink The Bismarck and then firing a machine gun at Sean Connery from a Fairey Marine speedboat in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia With Love.

In his later years, Peter joined Lasham Gliding Society, near Alton, where he taught on a voluntary basis and remained active until well into his 80s.

He also wrote Faster Than the Sun, detailing his exploits and that record-breaking flight.

· The auction is on June 22, with viewings on June 16, 20 and 21. Go to jacobsandhunt.com jacobsandhunt.com

· To contact John Cameron, call (023) 9273 3080 or e-mail info@johncameron.co.uk.

FLYING GOGGLES

Included in the auction are a pair of Peter Twiss’s wartime flying goggles.

He distinguished himself during the Second World War as a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot, seeing action during Operation Harpoon, supporting the Malta convoys and earning the Distinguished Service Order.

He was involved in Operation Torch, the landings of the North Africa campaign where he added a Bar to his DSO.

Peter was also in action over France in the weeks following D-Day.

An entry in his pilot’s log book records with spine-tingling succinctness how he spotted and pursued a Junkers 88 bomber, making several contacts and watching as the stricken aircraft plunged down from the sky with smoke billowing from the engines before crashing into the ground.

The goggles are being sold as part of larger lot including other goggles and the flying helmet featured below. Estimate is £300-£400.

MEDALS

Also included in the auction is Peter’s medal collection. It features (from left to right):

· OBE (Order of the British Empire)

· Distinguished Service Cross and Bar. The bar was effectively issued as a second award of the medal for a separate gallant action. Fewer than 100 DSCs have been awarded since 1945.

· WWII 1939-45 Star. The red, sky blue and navy blue stripes represent the army, air force and navy.

· WWII Atlantic Star. The ribbon is ‘watered silk’, signifying the sea.

· WWII Africa Star. This was awarded for Peter’s involvement in Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa ahead of the campaign against Rommel. The ribbon features the thin stripes of navy, red and sky blue, signifying the three services, set against a beige background for the sand of the desert.

· War Medal 1939-45

The large medals would normally be worn on parade, the miniatures for formal dinner occasions and the ribbons on a uniform. The fact that these larger medals have not been formally mounted on a uniform. But no bar mounting suggests Peter never wore them on his uniform, though he probably wore the miniatures for dinner occasions.

His family said he ‘did not stand on ceremony’ and remained humble about his wartime exploits.

Auction estimate is £5,000-£7,000 for the medal group and eight volumes of pilot’s log books.

FLYING HELMET

This is the flying helmet worn by Peter when he set a new air speed record by averaging 1,132mph in Fairey Delta 2 on March 10, 1956.

Before then he made more than 110 flights in FD 2, with 50 faster than the speed of sound (about 761mph at sea level).

But the aim was to officially reach the magical four-figure mark and the team involved realised this was possible in November 1955 when cockpit instruments suggested FD 2 had reached Mach 1.56 (almost 1,200mph).

In February 1956 a US pilot set a new air speed record of 822mph in an F-100 Supersabre.

The challenge was on and a course was laid out along the coast south of Chichester for runs at 38,000ft.

On his final two runs, Peter achieved speeds of 1,117mph and 1,147mph, giving a mean of 1,132mph.

He had claimed the record for Britain and underlined our aeronautical superiority at the time.

· The flying helmet is being sold as part of larger lot including several pairs of goggles. Estimate is £300-£400.