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Ken Wallis 1916-2013


Mike Meakin

Wing Commander Ken Wallis, James Bond stunt man, autogyro pioneer, inventor - a local hero and a national treasure, died recently aged 97. Alan and I were fortunate enough to have spent a long afternoon in his company in 2012, when he personally gave us a conducted tour of the house, workshops and hangar, complete with 16 airworthy autogyros. Even at the age of 97, he still flew these regularly.

Old Buckenham Airfield - an ex RAF Station - frequently saw Ken in one of his many aircraft and held a Commemorative Day yesterday 29th September. Alan and I went along in the two Brooklands. A fine, slightly breezy day, motoring through the lanes to Old Buckenham was delightful. We were not prepared for such a HUGE gathering, but were quickly directed to the "display area", already hosting literally hundreds of Classic and vintage cars, motorbikes, military vehicles and modern evolutions of the autgyro. On the airside apron were dozens of small aircraft: 1920s Bi-planes, small "stunt" craft, an American Mustang, RAF Jet trainer and the Police "Eye in the Sky".

Parked up, we were immediately besieged by interested spectators, the raw aluminium cars seeming a magnet for cameras. We could have sold a dozen Pembletons, or more! In order to see everything else that was there, we just had to lock anything valuable in the glovebox and "take a comfort break" (having seen the line of Portaloo cabins some distance away).

There was a sizeable display of vintage Austin Sevens of every type, an Edwardian Humber on wooden artillery wheels, 1930s speedboats (Austin Seven "AQUAPLANE" driven). In the main hanger Ken's "Little Nellie" Autogyro had pride of place, with video-casts of Ken's exploits.

Back at the Pembletons, there always seemed ten or twenty people keen to inspect the cars. Several of the light aircraft pilots were particularly interested to the point where that "Pembleton seed", once planted would likely result in building a car. Some of the incentive for that was mention that the BMW Boxer is often used as an aero engine - my engine IS actually aero/microlite spec, but in a car.

We met one chap, Dave Tyler who lives locally, but who is building a Grasshopper. He hadn't come across the Forum and admitted to be "struggling" on his own. As a bonus, it turns out he also build motorbike tricycles, which interested Alan no end as he is just finishing a Moto Guzzi (small block) trike.

At the end of a very full day, we climbed in to the cars to set off for home. NO volts! One of the motorbike exhibitors came to the rescue with his diesel Transit (HUGE battery) and jump leads. "Bolide" sprang in to life - it was just a question of making sure the engine didn't stall on the way home. That gremlin is now exorcised (details on the Forum).

A great day out - Ken Wallis would have enjoyed it immensely.

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