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Letter from Catherine Evans

Harriet's and Gustav's Relationship:  Following up Michael's lead, I contacted Catherine Evans, and her correspondence is copied below (be prepared for a few surprises):

 

Hello Mr. Young

Miss Davies (Tree) did own two Bleriots, and likely purchased a third - the one which was donated at the beginning of the war to the RNAS, but I would prefer to put you in touch with Tree's own researcher about this, as he is more up-to-date with her aviation purchases etc.  I looked into her family background more, and certainly into her friendship with Gustav, because they did have an almost 3-year association.

Tree's first Bleriot was smashed up in the crash she had with Otto Astley in 1912.  Her second Bleriot Gustav was sometimes using during 1913 and early 1914, but from reports I think she had sold it to Richard Crawshay, whom she last flew across to France with in May 1914.  She was in Paris at the time Gustav was killed, though whether they met up that weekend, I haven't been able to find out, and likely won't ever do now.  But we know she was in France when he was killed, and remained in France until the middle of July (she did not attend his memorial service).  Tree's researcher probably has more on this (to hand) than I do at this moment.

Tree lived only 18 months longer than Gustav.  She died at home on 22nd November 1915, aged 35.  As for the two of them being romantically involved, I must admit at first I thought they probably were, but the more research has been done, the more evidence has come to light that it's most likely they were only ever good friends.  Tree was 9 years older than Gustav, and I know now that he was definitely involved elsewhere at the time of his death, and for a good year or so before it.  I did make contact with living relatives of his actual girlfriend but when I did so they admitted I had more information than them anyway.  It was only a matter of about six months between finding the identity of this girlfriend and then discovering (with the help of her remaining relatives) that she died aged 90, in 1985.  From what I've found, she never spoke of him, or never made anything public, and took whatever secrets she had to the grave.

Are you absolutely sure Gustav was bringing back a single-seater Morane from Paris when he was killed?  His looping Morane was a modified single-seater so that he could loop with passengers, quite a big money-spinner during early 1914.  I know his new Morane (in May 1914) was the bigger-engined model he intended to race in 1914 Aerial Derby, but whether he would have still wanted to use it as a looping machine with room for passengers, I don't know.  His plans by the end of May 1914 are rather hazy, with the exception of his proposed transatlantic flight attempt that summer - which did not happen because of his death in May, and with war breaking out in August no one else made the attempt either until after war ended.

Gustav's looping Morane was taken over by Frank Goodden, who flew it the remainder of that summer of 1914.

There are two books you may know about regarding Harriet Quimby, which I've read - "One Brief Moment" and "Aviatrix" - both of which do not give an accurate account of Gustav at all, in fact I remember them as largely fictional and only loosely based on the real people involved.  Both books strongly suggested a romantic involvement which I think was incredibly far-fetched considering the facts.

My impression of Gustav's so-called 'friendship' with Miss Quimby, was that it was not actually a friendship at all, merely a brief professional association, with Gustav recruited to her team of helpers by the newspapermen involved.  Whatever friendship there may have been always came across as 'strained' to me, and Gustav certainly did not pay her any compliments when he wrote his 'Flying' book in 1914.  Personally, on all the evidence I have, I don't think they liked one another, but for publicity's sake it had to look as though they did.  Gustav's friendship with Tree, however, was genuine, and she was a great help to him during his short career.  As for romance, I now think there was none, but what a lovely story it would have made had it been the opposite, but evidence disproves it now I think, unfortunately.

A close friendship, undoubtedly, but more a brother-sister sort of situation, most likely - Tree was almost a decade his senior.

Would you like me to pass on your email address to Tree's researcher?  He may be able to help a little too, and would probably be keen for a new road named Trehawke in her memory!

Your email to Michael mentions roads being "named after early aviators" - I think Gustav, Tree and perhaps Henri Salmet are those very closely associated to flying to and from Dover.

When Gustav did the nonstop Dover-Cologne flight in April 1913, his passenger was a London Standard reporter, Frank Dupree.

The clip of the beginning of that flight is here -

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/gustav-hamel-pilot/query/gustav+hamel

I corrected the rather hit-and-miss information they had about it on the website - mine is the final comment!

It shows Gustav with Frank Dupree, a London-based American journalist; Gustav even nods to him and guides him towards looking at the camera.  When practicing for this flight, Tree was in Dover doing taking part in some of the practice flights with Gustav.  Two flights were done with Frank Dupree, one attempt (where they had to return prematurely) and the actual flight all the way to Cologne.  They did not return by air.

So, hopefully, regarding new road names, there is Hamel, Trehawke (or Trehawke Davies), Salmet and Dupree to consider.

Also Charles Rolls flew from Dover in 1910, and Louis Noel was the final pilot Tree flew with when returning to England in 1914.

Hope this is information will be useful to you, and let me know if you'd like to make contact with Tree's researcher.

With all good wishes: Catherine

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