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Great excitement greeted the news that the Aero Club von Deutschland had entered two B.F.W. 180s in the 1937 series. The aircraft, designed by William Messerschmitt, later became known as the Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun and was the forerunner of the more famous Bf 109. The Bf 108 was designed as a 4-seater sports aircraft and was powered by a 240 h.p. Argus engine. It had a retractable undercarriage and its maximum speed was 186 m.p.h. The two entries were to be flown by Major Seidemann and Herr Ernst Gerbrecht who were to put German's prowess in civil and military aviation to the test in their first race in Great Britain. The details of the events were the same as last year with Captain Howard Piston and members of the R.A.F. Comrades' Association as judges with Mr. William Cunningham as Chief Marshall. The winner would win a magnificent Air Race Challenge Cup and, as for all the series, prize money was donated by local brewery boss, Mr. J. M. Cubbon, a much travelled air enthusiast.

For the London - I.o.M. race there were 23 entries received, 20 of which actually started. The handicappers placed the Taylor 'Cub' of A. J. Walter in the front, starting at 10.50 a.m. and it was nearly two hours before 'scratch' man Alex Henshaw, would be able to give chase. He was flying a new Percival P.6 Mew Gull powered by a 205 h.p. D.H. Gipsy Six Srs. 11 engine which gave the sleek monoplane a maximum speed of 235 m.p.h. Tommy Rose was in a B.A. Eagle 2 and was fresh from capturing the England - South African return record. As the turn of the faster machines approached tragedy struck the scene at Hanworth when a Vega Gull swung low into a house and crashed, killing the pilot S. W. Sparkes and his passenger C. W. Fry. A lady occupant of the house was also killed. Competitors found conditions much better than last year and, after the compulsory stop at Speke, Captain Higgins had moved up to 6th place at Blackpool. He was racing one of West Coast's new Rapides entered by Cunningham's Holiday Camp. Behind him Alex Henshaw had moved from 20th to 12th place. Captain Higgins was then reported near the front at St. Bee's Head as he headed across the sea to Maughold Head. It was then that thick mist descended over the Maughold area, reducing visibility to between 300 and 400 yards. It was to cause complete chaos as competitors anxiously searched for check points. Tommy Rose and Herr Gerbrecht both gave up and returned to Blackpool. One of the Aeroncas put down at Maughold and others landed in the clear at Ramsey. Alex Henshaw was not going to risk the Mew Gull and flew down the west coast of the Island.

The crowds at Douglas, waiting for the first arrivals timed for 3 p.m., were to be disappointed and they only saw five machines across the finishing line.). A. M. Henderson (Monospar) was in front closely followed by Captain Higgins, A. V. Harvey (Comper Swift), H. J. Wilson (BA Eagle) and R. C. Hockley (Aeronca). But, amazingly, Major Seidemann was the first to arrive at Ronaldsway, landing at 3.22 p.m. As he had missed the finish line in Douglas Bay he was excluded. He immediately took off again and flew to Douglas. This resulted in a protest being lodged with the Stewards who held three meetings over the weekend to sort things out. It was not until Monday morning that they announced the final placings, declaring Major Seidemann the winner as he had been the only competitor to be recorded at Maughold Head. He was of course delighted to be taking the Challenge Cup back to Germany, claiming it was ‘better to race in peace than in war’.

Whit Monday afternoon's Manx Air Derby was joined by a new race, The Tynwald Air Race, which was for aircraft of less than 60 h.p. But the Air Derby was the spectacle everyone was waiting for. Could one of the dark blue B.F.W. 108’s sporting the Swastika pull off another win. They would be away in front of Alex Henshaw's Mew Gull which was giving 50 minutes start to the early starters over the three laps. The crowds at Ronaldsway were then treated to another hair raising chase as they followed the machines round the turning point on the aerodrome. Lap 3 had starred with the little red Comper Swift of S. T. Lowe doing well and he was able to hold off the challenge of the catching Messerschmitts, finishing just in front of Seidemann who was followed by Gerbrecht. The first six placings were:

  • 1st S. T. Lowe (Comper Swift) 70 min. 15 secs. (138.3 m.p.h.)
  • 2nd Major Seidematin (B.F.W. 108) 54m. 31s. (178.25 m.p.h.)
  • 3rd Herr Gerbrecht (B.F.W. 108) 56m. 27s. (172.25 m.p.h.)
  • 4th Alex Henshaw (Mew Gull) 45m. 38s. (213 m.p.h.)
  • 5th F/O A. E. Clouston (Hawk Major) 65m. 17s. (149 m.p.h.)
  • 6th Miss Mabel Glass (DH Moth) 95m. 36s. (101 m.p.h.)

Mixed up in the big race were three competitors in the Tynwald Air Race which was won by R. C. Hockley (Aeronca) with a time of 124m. 43s. - 78 m.p.h. Second was J. Shoesmith in a Hillson Praga and James Rush in another Aeronca was third.

Excerpts from

Manx Aviation in War and Peace published by kind permission of: The Manx Experience