Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe

Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe

1877 - 1958

A.V. with his prize-winning model glider

A.V. with the Roe I biplane at Brooklands

A.V. at the controls of the Roe I biplane

A.V. with the Roe I triplane

Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe OBE, Hon. FRAeS, FIAS, was the first British man to fly an all-British aeroplane and founded the aircraft manufacturer A.V. Roe and Company (Avro).

Early Life

Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe (known as Alliott or A.V.) was born on 26th April 1877 in the Patricroft area of Manchester, UK.

Alliott displayed a passion for engineering from an early age and left home for Canada when he was 14 years old to train as a surveyor. His arrival coincided with a recession and A.V. returned to the UK a year later, spending the next 5 years studying an engineering apprenticeship at the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company.

In 1899, A.V. settled on a career in the merchant navy and joined the British & South African Royal Mail Company as an engineer. It was during his voyages with the company that A.V. became interested in the possibility of building a flying machine, having observed the soaring flight of the albatross.

Aviation Career

 

Having returned to England, Alliott Verdon-Roe started to build model gliders and in 1907 he entered these into a competition for model aeroplanes. The competition was held at Alexandra Palace and sponsored by the Daily Mail, with £250 of prize money on offer. The flights made by A.V's most successful glider led to him being awarded a £75 prize.

A.V. used his prize money to set about building his first full-size aeroplane, the Roe I biplane. He tested the aeroplane at Brooklands race track in 1907-08 and made his first successful flight on 8th June 1908. Several of A.V's helpers witnessed the flight but it was later disputed because there were no official observers to verify the record.

In 1909, A.V. moved to Lea Marshes in Walthamstow and built his second aeroplane, the Roe I triplane, using the nearby railway viaduct as a makeshift workshop. He first flew the triplane on 13th June 1909 and became the first British man to fly an all-British aeroplane in the process. There is now a blue plaque on the railway viaduct at Lea Marshes commemorating the achievement.

On 1st January 1910, Alliott founded A.V. Roe & Co. (Avro) with his brother Humphrey at Brownsfield Mill, Ancoats, Manchester. A.V. co-designed the Avro 504 with Roy Chadwick, one of the most advanced aircraft in existence when World War One began. He continued to run the company until 1928 when A.V. sold his shares and moved to Hamble. There he founded Saunders-Roe, a company which specialised in building seaplanes. Alliott Verdon-Roe was knighted in 1929 for his contribution to British aviation.

During the Second World War, two of A.V's sons were killed in action whilst serving with the RAF. They were Squadron Leader Eric Alliott Verdon-Roe who died in 1941 aged 26, and Squadron Leader Lighton Verdon-Roe DFC who died in 1943 aged 22.

Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe died on 4th January 1958 and was buried at the parish church of St. Andrew, Hamble, where there is a commemorative plaque to Roe and his sons inside the church.

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