Martinsyde Nimbus, G-EBOL (K1002) 'Gugnunc':

Crash-landing on Epsom Downs, 7 October 1927.

The Aircraft Disposal Company (ADC), also known as Airdisco, was established in March 1920 to take advantage of the large number of World War I surplus military aircraft coming on to the market. ADC bought the entire available stock of surplus aircraft engines and spares, converted them to various civil roles before selling them. One of the founders had been Frederick Handley Page.

During 1924 Major Frank Bernard Halford was employed to re-model wartime engines for resale. An 80 h.p. Renault vee was given a redesigned cylinder head and valve gear to produce 140 h.p. and named 'Airdisco'. Another engine to receive Halford's attention was the Siddeley-Deasy 'Puma', up-rated to become the 'Nimbus'.

An ADC Nimbus Engine.
An ADC Liquid-cooled inline piston Nimbus Engine.
Image Source Flight Magazine

A prototype Martinsyde Buzzard F4 aircraft, produced as a private venture had not been test flown until June 1918 and came into service too late for deployment in the Great War. Martinsyde went into liquidation during February 1924, and its assets were also bought by the Aircraft Disposal Company. ADC then became interested in designing their own aircraft and was re-named ADC Aircraft Ltd. ADC's chief aircraft designer, John Kenworthy, created the ADC 1 as a combination of the F.4's airframe with the Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar air-cooled 14-cylinder two-row radial engine rated at 380 h.p. In 1926, Kenworthy developed a further single seat fighter based on the F.4 Buzzard, but utilising the 330hp ADC Nimbus six-in-line water-cooled engine. Its airframe was similar to that of the Buzzard, but featured modified vertical tail surfaces with a horn-balanced rudder and revised aft upper fuselage decking. Armament was proposed to have been two synchronised 7.7mm Vickers machine guns but never installed. Only two examples were completed of what came to be called the Martinsyde Nimbus (or Nimbus Martinsyde).

Both participated in the King's Cup Air Race of 9-10 July 1926, G-EBOL (K1002) registered 9 June 1926, 'Gugnunc', being flown by Capt. Frank Thomas Courtney. [Frank Courtney (1894-1982), born in London, started his career with an apprenticeship at the Grahame-White Aircraft Company in 1913 and attained his pilot's certificate during August 1914 flying primitive box-kite aircraft. He entered the Royal Flying Corps during 1915 as a lowly Air Mechanic 2 because he wore spectacles, but became an NCO instructor, test pilot at the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, served with 20 & 45 Squadrons (with a week in 70 Squadron) RFC, and rose to the rank of Captain. It has been claimed that he had been the only Great War pilot wearing glasses! After the war he continued as a test pilot and flew in air races attaining victories in the 1920 London Aerial Derby and 1923 Kings Cup.]

The two Nimbus Martinsydes.
'THE HEAVENLY TWINS':The two Nimbus Martinsydes,
piloted by Capt. F. T. Courtney (G-EBOL) and H. H. Perry (G-EBOJ)
start off together on the first lap of the King's Cup Race at Hendon on Friday.
Image Source Flight Magazine

Courtney experienced trouble with a valve guide and withdrew on the first day. Perry's engine 'which up to the end of the second circuit on the second day had been running splendidly' subsequently failed. 'AND THEN THERE WAS NONE': Much disappointment was felt generally at the bad luck experienced by the two Nimbus Martinsydes in the King's Cup Race.

Although no orders were obtained for the Nimbus-powered aircraft one prototype appears to have been leased to Air Taxis Ltd of Stag Lane Airport, Edgware, Middlesex.

The Martinsyde Nimbus, G-EBOL, operated by Air Taxis Ltd force landed on Epsom Downs inbound from France in fog on 7 October 1927. Damaged beyond repair, remains of the crashed aircraft were recovered to be stored at Croydon.


Mishap on Epsom Race Course.
     Two ladies walking across Epsom racecourse by the grand stand on Friday afternoon had a thrilling escape from injury owing to a mishap to an airplane.
     Owing to the fog a machine flying from France to Hendon had to come down and the pilot decided that the best landing place would be the home straight of the racing course.
     Unfortunately he did not notice the slope of the ground and as soon as the machine touch earth it swerved to the left and crashed into the iron railings opposite the grand stand and demolished the fence.
     The pilot and the two men accompanying him alighted no worse for the experience and an examination of the machine showed that the wings and under carriage were badly damaged.
     The ladies referred to just managed to reach safety as the accident happened.
     The airplane, which is the property of Air Taxis Ltd., was taken away in a lorry on Saturday afternoon.

The Advertiser, 13 October 1927

The ADC Aircraft Company Ltd's name was changed to The Imperial & Foreign Corporation Ltd before finally being wound up in 1930. Scrapped air-frames, including that of the Martinsyde G-EBOL, were then burnt.

Brian Bouchard © April, 2017
With thanks to Bert Barnhurst for The Advertiser cutting.