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Forum Home > Beliefs and other Oddities. > The Dudley Inventor.

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

I did a short piece on this man some years ago, and since then, a bit more has emerged about his life. His name was Walter ( Wally ) Davies, and he was born in Springmere, Dudley, on 21st April,1891. He atttended Holly Hall School from 1901 to 1907, and from a young age, exhibited a surprisingly quick and agile mind. In 1906, the School sent a 20 strong party down to the south coast, destination, Weymouth. The Royal Navy were there at the time, and Wally, having a disire to see a battleship, sent off some drawings prior to the trip, and to his amazement, got back an invitation for himself and three friends, from no less a person than Rear Admiral A.L.Winsloe. Wally was doubly lucky, for they got guided tours of HMS Sapphire, and HMS Triumph.



His friends possibly thought he was aiming at a Navy career, but no, for he turned his attention to another famous pioneer, Loius Bleriot, and began designing, and building, " flying machines ". Concidering Walter was working as a Draughtsman, for a company that made and erected Iron Bridges, this was a bit of a surprise for his family. it was In May of 1911, while living with his parents at the Golden Cross Inn, King Street, Dudley, that he astounded the people of Dudley, by taking off from Cavalry Field, near the Priory, in a home made contraption, illustrated in the picture. It only flew for a short distance, about 12 feet off the ground, but fly it most certainly did.Wally Davies had made a mark in the World.



His next venture was in Gliders, Engines being an expense he couldn't really afford at the time. He was helped financially by a friend, a Mr Bray, who also had a yen for new inventions, he being the owner of The Electric Picture Palace, in Halesowen, Worcestershire. In September, 1913, Wally Davies had constructed a Glider with a 35 foot wingspan, and, with Mr Bray in attendance, they lauched it, in front of a large crowd, at Lapal, Halesowen. It was a huge success, enjoyed by the crowd, who consumed in large quantities, the food and refreshments laid on by Mr Bray. ( He wasn't daft was Mr Bray ) The intrepid Wally then sort other fields for his talent, and joined the Flying School at Billesley Common, in Birmingham, and then went on to working in the design of Aircraft for World War 1 in Bournemouth. At something of a loose end after the war, he returned to the Midlands, and cast his net over another project, Motor Boats. Once again, Mr Bray was on hand, both with ideas, and of course, the all to important item, Cash.


There were of course many aero-engines about at the time, so between them, they devised a craft that would be driven by Air. Experiment wre made with a design they called " Oak Leak 1 ", which led on to the design which appeared on the River Severn on 30th Otober,1921, " Oak leaf 2 ".



Accompanied by Mr Bray, and his 12 year old son, Wally set off from the bridge at Stourport, and headed upstream. Another astonished crowd watched the scene, some racing up the river bank, trying to keep pace with the boat. The boat slowed after it hit the bottom at Blackstone, the river being quite low, and after passing Bewdley, they almost collided with a flock of Swans. Victoria Bridge at Arley was the turning point, and they began the return journey at speeds reaching 18 miles per hour. A small weir put paid to the adventure, which holed the boat, causing it to flood and to be towed back. It was a great success, for only an air-powered, shallow drafted boat could have made the journey, and the speed was repeated in subsequent trial runs. Wally went on to design several other craft, one of which was his D.22, " Lapwing ", which gained a World record in 1950, returning a speed on the water of 51 m.p.h. The famous Donald Campbell, based the design of his " Bluebird " on Wally's boat, which went conciderably faster in 1955.



When war again broke out in 1939, Wally Davies went back to Aircraft design, turning his attention to the need for a suitable ground training machine. He met up again with Mr Brays son, now a Flying Officer with No 223 ATC Squadron, which was based in Halesowen. Bernard Bray was to prove a valuable friend. From his design, the lads of the Squadron built the machine, which was completed in March,1942. Including, to give it that authentic feel of flying, a 749 cc engine. It impressed many, including the Australian Airforce, who obtained the blueprints, and painted the coat of arms of Halesowen on the first one they constructed. Wally Davies gave his designs away freely, to be used for the good of the war effort, and he was a great teacher as well, many cadets passing through his construction classes.


He inspired many, and sadly, today, his name rarely gets mentioned anywhere. Walter Davies, died in Dudley, in December, 1972, a Blackcountry man with a vision and passion for the future.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 28, 2014 at 3:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now it really never ceases to amaze me, what turns up when you begin a bit of research into an item, just in case something was missed in a first, or even a second time around. Bingo, and I now have a lot more of  Walter ( Wally ) Davies, and his life story. A check reveals, that the backer of Wally's venture at getting air-born, our Mr Bray, was in fact, Sidney James Bray, a well known and respected man in Dudley, for his main occupation was as an Undertaker. Now why would such a sober man, sink a few pounds into what could have become a mere footnote, in a Coroners report, i.e. the towns first death in a flying machine. Part of the answer is the maiden name of Sidney Bray's wife, she was in fact, Florrie Annie Davies, the intrepide flyers sister, whom he married in 1905. There is no doubt that Sidney James Bray was a frustrated engineer at heart, and he kept backing Wally, not out of a family duty, but with a keen interest in the outcome. I don't know how he became interested in the early Cinema, or on what date he got involved with the Electric Picture Palace in nearby Halesowen, but he certainly was a canny businessman, for when he died, in 1940, he left his family almost £40,000 in his Will. His son, Bernard James Bray, the other man who backed Wally in his endevours, took over the Cinema in Halesowen, and as well as supporting Wally, also contributed to the good of the Town. He was very active in the formation of the Air Training Cadets, ( Walter Davies influence no doubt ) and had a pilots licence, becoming one of the units Flying Officers. Thats Bernard, standing behind the pointing Walter in the picture in the post above, with a Mr Watkins, the other Flying Officer, behind him. Now I don't know if Bernard Bray ever had any children, for there's no mention in his Will, ( when he sadly died in 1959 ) only his wife and Solicitor. His last address was 174, Hagley Road, Hayley Green, Halesowen, so if anyone knows a bit more, please get in touch. The Cinema trade must have been slightly better than Undertaking, for he left behind over £41,000, and some good memories for the Cinema goers of Halesowen. Walter Davies must have been devastated to lose such a good friend, and the Town of course lost a kind hearted and true friend, even though he was born in Dudley.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 30, 2014 at 11:34 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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