If there is one thing that studying the history of Mexborough and its surrounding district has taught me over the past fifteen years it is, that it never fails to surprise me.
In October 1992 I interviewed a lady who had been born, educated and brought up in the Highwoods area of Mexborough between the wars. She astounded me with amazing tales of visits to Mexborough by Sir Allan Cobham and his flying Circus. This in itself was a revelation as I had never heard reference to aeroplanes in Mexborough, and scenes from 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines' immediately sprang to mind, accompanied by visions of old bi-planes attempting to land in local farmer's field. But in reality, this couldn't have been further from the truth.
In 1909 the first air display in Britain was held, this was at Doncaster. By 1920 it was discovered that Britain was falling behind other countries with regard to civil air transport and the decision was taken to encourage local authorities to help with the construction of a chain of aerodromes and Sir Alan Cobham K.B.E. A.F.C., the famous aviator, who had been knighted in October 1926, became personally involved. In 1926 aerial photographs were taken of the area. then in 1931 Doncaster obtained Parliamentary approval for a municipal airport and on 16th March 1932 their first aerodrome was opened at Armthorpe where, at the opening Sir Alan gave a six hour air display.
Within the annals of The South Yorkshire Times it was discovered that following this, Sir Alan toured South Yorkshire. His first visit being at the 'Temporary Aerodrome Highwood Farm, Mexborough from 12th - 18th May 1932.
As I have previously stated I envisaged primitive, small bi-planes, almost held together by paper and string. But Sir Alan arrived in a new, passenger-carrying airliner. This surely must have been one of the first airliners in existence, and for a fee of two shillings and six pence (12p) he would take these` pioneers of passenger transport on an aerial tour of Mexborough. Other planes must have been present too, as Exhibition Flying by the famous pilots 'Red' Mackay and 'Fruity' Yates could also be seen accomplishing upside-down flying, crazy flying, loops, and slow rolls. The sky Hawks, who could have been a parachute team, could also be seen giving displays. As could a demonstration of wing-walking by Frank Kemp.
To promote this event the South Yorkshire Times ran a small competition and gave away twelve free flight tickets to the winners. It was following the flight that one successful winner wrote to the South Yorkshire times thanking them and saying how thoroughly enjoyable the experience was.
This area of Mexborough seems to have been popular with flyers as the lady I interviewed informed me that this was not an isolated occurrence and that aviators made a number of visits. This was followed in 1938 by the construction and opening of the Drill Hall whose first occupants was the Air Cadets.