The Schneider Trophy

The Schneider Trophy (named after its donor) was presented to the winner of a seaplane race by the Aero Club de France. To be eligible, the aircraft had to remain afloat (moored to a buoy) for a given length of time in order to prove its seaworthiness. The event was to be held every other year, and a team winning it three times in succession would retain the trophy in perpetuity. The trophy was first won in Monaco in 1913, when the victor was French and the winning speed 45.75 mph.

In 1927 the race was won by British competitors so that in 1929 the race came to Britain and was won again by a British team ,led by Squadron Leader A H Orlebar, a member of a well-known Gamlingay family, who lived at Tetworth Hall. When he was on leave Harry Orlebar had his car maintained by Ken. Emily, Ken’s wife, then his fiancée, was employed as a na1my by the Orlebar family, and in 1931 she was deputed to take the official Air Ministry weather forecasts for transmission to the airmen competing in the race.

Ken was invited to visit the Calshot base, near Southampton where the race was held, and was delighted to be given a guided tour of the whole enterprise. He was even allowed to sit in the cramped cockpit of the race aircraft and  handle the controls. On the day of the race Ken and Emily were given a privileged position from which to watch the victorious flight which ensured the permanent presence of the trophy in Britain.

Harry Orlebar had joined the Air Force when it was the Royal Flying Corps and continued to serve with distinction until his death with the rank of Air Vice-Marshal during the Second World War. He is remembered in the reredos in Gamlingay Parish Church.

(Originally published in the booklet: ‘Ken Worboys speaks…’ by Ishbel Beatty & Daphne Pearce)

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