Taking off from Hampshire, history was made when Britain’s first official airplane flight took place on October 16, 1908.
The homebuilt biplane crashed after a distance of 1,390 feet.
Crawling out of the wreckage, daredevil pilot Samuel Cody said, “I won’t make that mistake again!”
Initially a cowboy and actor, the extraordinary and colorful Texan was later referred to as a “natural gentleman, not a member of the gentry”.
Cody’s waxed goatee and mustache with a 12-inch wingspan made him a memorable figure.
Record after record was set in planes he designed and built himself, making him a national hero. He aspired to be the first pilot to cross the Atlantic but crashed in Hampshire aged 52. And yet, Cody is a little-known name today.
At various times in his flamboyant and eventful life, Cody was a broncobusted cowboy, marksman, circus star, playwright, and intrepid inventor and flier.
Somewhere along the line he gave himself the title of “Colonel” and was treated like an officer. King George V addressed Cody as “Colonel” during his visit to his base in Hampshire, seemingly confirming the rank.
Colonel Sam was a friend, but not a relative of the famous “Buffalo Bill” Cody, but early in his career at the age of 12 he was already a cowboy on the San Antonio trail where he honed his skills with a lariat, bull-whip, six-shot and a Bowie knife.
He came to England in charge of a herd of ponies and met and married the daughter of the man who had purchased the animals.
It was not easy for someone accustomed to the nomadic life to settle in the suburbs and soon Cody was off to seek his fortune in the gold fields of the Yukon.
Meeting with little success, he joined a circus as “Colonel Cody, King of the Cowboys”. He quickly earned enough money to return to England where his wife became his assistant in a sniper act, holding a cigarette in her mouth which Cody pulled out. with infallible precision.
Cody made money when a play he wrote about the Wild West became a major box office draw as it toured the country for five years.
Now he had more opportunities to indulge his love of kite flying. He built them bigger and better until finally he built one strong enough to lift him into the air.
From there he moved on to building prototype aircraft which he flew from Farnborough and from this simple beginning Colonel Cody went on to fly some of the best aviators of the day.
Then, on a fateful day in 1913, he took part in a coastal circuit race, starting at Calshot on Southampton Water, then Dover, Inverness, Oban, Dublin, Falmouth and back to Southampton.
Just before leaving Farnborough for Southampton, he offered to take Hampshire County Cricket Captain WHB Evans for a short drive. As the plane came to land, it suddenly broke up in mid-air and both men were killed.
Cody was given a funeral fit for a national hero and showman and even in death managed to claim another place in the record books as the first civilian to be buried in Aldershot War Cemetery .