The story of the de Havilland Moth aircraft with room for your golf clubs

PUBLISHED: 19:07 14 June 2020 | UPDATED: 19:37 14 June 2020

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Hornet Moth in its old location before being moved to the new hangar at the London Colney site. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Hornet Moth in its old location before being moved to the new hangar at the London Colney site. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

de Havilland Aircraft Museum

We have already heard about two of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum’s three Mosquitos. Now it’s the turn of a Moth.

A rare photo of the Hornet Moth with its wings spread, on its way to its new home in the new hangar. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft MuseumA rare photo of the Hornet Moth with its wings spread, on its way to its new home in the new hangar. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

In his latest Curator’s Corner, Alistair Hodgson shares more of the London Colney aviation museum’s special attractions and hidden secrets.

This week we’re looking at one of our older aircraft – a pre-war DH.87 Hornet Moth.

In 1928, Geoffrey de Havilland teamed up with engine designer Frank Halford to produce a range of aircraft using Halford’s lightweight range of ‘Gypsy’ engines.

The first such aircraft was the Gypsy Moth in 1928, and the Hornet Moth came along in 1934.

Small but perfectly formed: the Hornet Moth's cockpit. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft MuseumSmall but perfectly formed: the Hornet Moth's cockpit. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Geoffrey named his aircraft after moths because he was a keen naturalist and collected moths in his spare time.

The Hornet Moth was one of the first aircraft designed along the same lines as a ‘Coupe’ car, with the pilot and passengers sitting together in an enclosed cockpit.

It became a huge success as a touring aeroplane.

READ MORE: The story of the Mosquito bomber at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

With room for two people and a good luggage compartment, it was the ideal ‘weekend getaway’ for the well-heeled of the 1930s.

It even had a stowage compartment for a set of golf clubs. Mr de Havilland thought of everything!

My favourite Hornet Moth story is a wartime tale of two Danish pilots in occupied Denmark who wanted to escape to Britain.

One of them knew a farmer who kept an old Hornet Moth in a barn: he was keen to help the young flyers and gave them the aircraft.

Working in great secrecy, they prepared it for flight and flew it out of the barn one night, right under the noses of the Germans.

To get across the North Sea they had to carry extra cans of petrol with them, and over the sea one of them had to open the cabin door, undo the fuel filler cap and pour in the petrol with the aid of a funnel and a hose pipe.

READ MORE: The story behind the de Havilland Aircraft Museum’s Mosquito fighter-bomber

They made it to Northern England and handed themselves in to the police.

They had also brought out important films of German radar installations which they passed to the Secret Service.

Our Hornet Moth has the distinction that it was first flown by Geoffrey de Havilland himself.

It saw some wartime service but has been restored in its pre-war colours as a touring aircraft.

Come and see it when we’re open, and see if you can spot where the golf clubs were carried!

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum is situated off the M25 at Junction 22 for London Colney.

The museum at Salisbury Hall is currently closed to visitors until further notice.

For the latest de Havilland Aircraft Museum opening times, visit www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Related articles

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Welwyn Hatfield Times