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Alliott Verdon Roe - His Early Years

Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe, the fourth child of Doctor Edwin Hodgson Roe and Annie Sophia Verdon, was born at The Poplars, Liverpool Road, Patricroft, Manchester, on 26 April 1877.

During his schooldays he was particularly interested in sport, the scholastic side of school having little appeal and, as a result, he was not an outstanding pupil.

At the age of sixteen Alliott entered into a 5 year apprenticeship at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway locomotive works, Horwich, near Manchester. This gave him a thorough mechanical engineering background which aided his later career.

Bicycle racing was his principal hobby at this time and he covered great distances, on one of the first pneumatic tyred cycles. As a keen cyclist, Alliott won many trophies and several hundreds of pounds in prize events that were later used to finance his flying experiments.

Following his apprenticeship he studied marine engineering at
King's College, London, with thoughts of travel and adventure in mind. To this end he joined the British and African Steam Navigation Company, spending four years at sea as a Marine Engineer from 1899 to 1903.

[Colour photograph of a large detached brick building, the Poplars, Liverpool Road, Patricroft, September 2007]

It was during voyages to South Africa his interest in flight was first aroused whilst watching the Giant Albatross soaring with almost motionless wings. He apparently made a model of the bird, but he could not get it to fly.

Alliott also followed the reports of the progress made by the Wright brothers in their flying experiments, which fired his own enthusiasm to create an aeroplane.

The Wright Brothers - The First to Fly

In 1896 the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, of Dayton, Ohio, USA started to take an interest in creating a man carrying flying machine. Fortunately, they owned a prosperous bicycle manufacturing business, which enabled them to support their endeavours, as the invention of the aeroplane was not to be an instant success, but was the result of 6 years of careful experimentation lasting from 1899 to 1905.

Following extensive investigations, they decided to test their full size gliders in the stable on-shore winds of the sandy Atlantic coast at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Their experiments began with an unmanned kite in 1900 followed in 1901 by a piloted glider. Thus, by the end of 1902, they had produced their first successful, fully controllable, aircraft which they then used to gain piloting skills.

During 1903 they designed their own petrol engine and installed it in an enlarged glider. This combination enabled them to make the World's first powered flight on 17 December 1903.

[Monochrome photographs of the 1902 Glider and the original Wright Flyer, December 1903]

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