R F L Gosling in 1911 with his 'No 5'
Apart from pictures of R F L Gosling as a baby (!) this is one of the very earliest photographs of him.
Robert Frederick Landor Gosling 1898 - 1979
Firstly, my thanks to all those who provided information about this “Gentleman” aeromodeller whose first known model was built in 1909 – possibly inspired by Bleriot’s cross-channel flight – and who continued to design, construct and document his activities for 70 years. In particular, much material is derived from his obituary which was written by Alwyn Greenhalgh who was fortunate enough to know Bob Gosling quite well.
Robert Frederick L (Landor/Luthor?) Gosling was born in June of 1898 to Bernhard and Gretchen Gosling. He died on 29th July 1979. But who was he and what happened in between those dates to ‘Bob’ Gosling, his family and his relations?
The 1901 England Census shows Bernhard Gosling (32) and his wife Gretchen (25) living in Walmer Villas, Bradford, Yorkshire with three sons Robert (3), Bernhard (2) and Ulrich (7 months) and three servants (cook, housemaid and nurse). So they certainly weren’t on the bread line!
Robert Friedrich L. Gosling
Birth certificate: GRO Jun 1898, Bradford.
Bernhard Carl H. U. Gosling
Birth: GRO Mar 1899, Bradford
Ulrich Julius F. Gosling
Birth: GRO Dec 1900, Bradford.
The 1941, 50, 59, and 67 Bradford Phone Directories all list Gosling U.J.F. at 40 Nearcliffe Road, an address which no longer appears to exist. Was there a Sister?
Charlotte Auguste L. Gosling was born in 1904, GRO Dec 1904, Bradford. The name style and date and location of birth all seem compatible with a fourth child of Bernhard and Gretchen. The “L” could possibly be for Loth, after an unknown female of that name whose picture exists amongst some of the family photos.
Bernhard and his wife are recorded as born in Germany but as being British subjects. The German form of the name Gosling is indicated on a preserved business envelope, where “Gösling” appears with the umlaut. His occupation is listed as “Merchant Stuff”. Some other heads of households in Walmer Villas were also of German or Austrian origin, and described variously as “Stuff” or “Wool” (or both) merchants. The 1927 Bradford Phone Directory lists Bernhard as a “Spinner” at Rhine Mills, Rhine Street, Bradford. The road adjoining Rhine Street is Barnard Road – was it named after Bernhard? It is known that Bob Gosling owned a combined wool/model shop at one point in time.
In 1923 Robert married Florence Carlisle Swithenbank (also born in Bradford). Their only known child was a son Frederick Keith Gosling, born in 1924. (Now that’s something practically nobody seems to have known – that Bob Gosling had a son!)
A WW2 story leading up to a tragedy is told movingly by Sam Brookes, a fellow RAF trainee wireless operator with “Keith Gosling”. Sam describes Keith as being from Frizinghall, Bradford, and as a grammar school boy from a stable home. But see later!
Sam’s story tells of how he and Keith reported to join up for induction and training to the ACRC (Air Crew Reception Centre) on August Bank Holiday at Lords Cricket Ground in 1943. Keith died less than a year later on 21st July 1944, aged 19, on his seventh mission in a Lancaster bomber that broke up above France during a WW2 mission. Six of the occupants were killed but two survived. There is a memorial to Keith Gosling at Cambrai at a site containing about 40 RAF graves. This crew were not the ones with whom Keith normally flew but he was a German-speaking specialist who, as far as I can ascertain, was there to monitor (and jam) the radio traffic between the German night fighter controllers and the night fighter aircraft.
Sam describes how he corresponded with Keith’s mother “Florence” over a period of time after Keith’s death.
The RAF database of those killed in WW2 has the entry: Frederick K. Gosling, P/O, 176529, 101 squadron, 1944, 6, 163. In fact Keith was not a pilot officer.
Sadly, there is evidence that Bob Gosling and Florence separated in 1941 under acrimonious circumstances. Bob Gosling was meticulous in the recording of all his modelling activities and I have the notebook in which he placed scale drawings of many of his models. His “Number 47” was named Blue Tit and it is obvious that somebody – probably Keith or his mother – has added the words ‘built by Keith’ in the upper right hand corner at a later date. This page also has, in barely discernible writing due to the use of some form of Ink eradicator, the words “Don’t forget your Son who built this aeroplane and whom you greatly wronged”.
Following Keith’s sad death, Florence wrote to the mother of the mid-upper gunner in Canada five weeks post crash and told her that “since 1941, Keith is all I have”. She also asked that none of Keith’s belongings should be sent to his father. Keith's entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists only Flora as his next of kin.
R F L G Number 5 1911/1912
Here is the model that Gosling is holding in the heading photograph. I expect that it was made in 1911 and the scale drawing produced in 1912.
Gosling - The Model Aircraft Constructor
While at school Bob Gosling designed simple model flying machines that his contemporaries could enjoy. Even at this early age he carefully documented his aeronautical designs - As well as recording his ideas for other mechanical machines such as motorcycles and cars.
In 1912 Bob Gosling designed and built a successful T-frame pusher and in 1914 produced his first A-frame pusher. This model remains in existence and is the earliest example of his modelling prowess that remains in existence. I consider that it is too fragile now to be subjected to a powered flight. In 1930 he joined the Harrogate Model Aircraft Club and subsequently was a founder member of the Bradford Club in 1931. It was not until 1934 that he first made use of balsa wood as a construction material and indeed, he continued to use hardwoods in the more vital areas of his models throughout his life.
The Ivory Gull
Although remembered mostly for his model gliders, and in particular his Ivory Gull, Bob Gosling’s interests were wide ranging. He wrote articles on the construction of scale models and one of his own scale models, that of a Miles Hawk Major, remains carefully preserved in its own storage case.
The Miles Hawk Major
The Miles Hawk Major. Still in perfect condition.
Quite a number of Bob Gosling’s other aircraft remain with me and although many of them appear superficially to be of quite straight forward construction they are often very intricate and not for the faint hearted builder – Just ask Peter Michel (who has made a model or two) and who has described the building of Gosling’s apparently simple “Judy” glider as one of the most difficult exercises he has undertaken!
Bob Gosling designed and built some of the most elegant aircraft in existence. A fine example is his 'Flamingo' of 1934 - A model conforming to the Wakefield Class designation of that time. Here it is for you to enjoy. If you listen very carefully you can just hear the 'whirr' made by the twin gear nose section that was used to allow the use of twin skein rubber motor!
RFL's Wider Activities
In 1944 Bob Gosling was elected to the council of the SMAE and in 1946 he became Vice Chairman. He was appointed a Fellow in 1948 and as FAI delegate he was involved with the establishment of the World Championships and influential in establishing the International Sporting Code. Gosling’s name – and photograph – is often linked to important modelling events. He served as a team member, and more often as team manager/organiser to many overseas British teams. He was also involved with the early days of full-size aviation as is demonstrated by his appearance in pictures of various flying events such as The Kings Cup Air Race - That he also learnt to fly gliders is similarly recorded and there are many pictures taken by him of famous early gliding experts – including Kronfeld and Magersuppe. It has been suggested that the latter gentleman was an adviser to the German authorities during the Second World War!
Perhaps it is fitting to end with a picture of RFLG that, if the writing on the reverse side is to be believed, was taken at Woodvale in August 1978 – less than a year before he passed on.
You can find more of RFLG's models in the 'MODELS' section
'Skyhook'. A rarity for Gosling, a power model!