Wills’s Aviation Card #80–”Short” Biplane.

Wills Aviation 80F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Short” Biplane.

Card #80 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912, Vice Regal Mixture – Black-back issue

  • Horace Leonard Short on July 2, 1872 in Chilton Colliery, Durham, England, Great Britain – April 6, 1917 at Parsonage Farm, Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, Great Britain;
  • Albert Eustace Short on June XX, 1875 in Chilton Colliery, Durham, England, Great Britain – April 8, in 1932 at Medway, Rochester, Kent, England, Great Britain;
  • Hugh Oswald Short in January 16, 1883  in Stanton by Dale, England, Great Britain – in December 4, 1969 at Gillham’s Farm, Lynchmere, West Sussex, England, Great Britain;
  • John Theodore Cuthbert (J.T.C.) Moore-Brabazon, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, born February 8, 1884 in London, England, Great Britain – May 17, 1964 in Longcross, Surrey, Great Britain;
  • Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls, born August 27, 1877 in London, England, Great Britain – July 12, 1910 in Southbourne, Bournemouth, England, Great Britain;
  • Sir Frederick Henry Royce, 1st Baronet of Seaton in the County of Rutland, born March 27, 1863 in Alwalton, Huntingdonshire, England, Great Britain – April 22, 1933 in West Wittering, Sussex, England, Great Britain.

I’m not sure what to do here. I pretty much covered the entire career of the Short Brothers very recently HERE. I even went back and fixed all the errors… a bad habit I sometimes get into when I feel I have to meet a deadline rather than ensuring the material is correct. Sorry.

From what I can tell, this Short Biplane is actually Short No. 2., and therefore the material for this tobacco card may as well relate to pilot J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon… the guy who owned it and flew it.

Moore-Brabazon Short No. 2.jpg

I’ll provide more of a biography of Moore-Brabazon here, however… and  a bit on Henry Royce and Charles Rolls… names which sound familiar for good reason.

Called “Brabs” by his friends, Moore-Brabazon was born in London England on February 8, 1884 to dad Lieutenant-Colonel John Arthur Henry Moore-Brabazon (1828–1908) and mom Emma Sophia Richards (died 1937).

Wills Aviation 80R.jpg

From the Wikipedia notes that I used regarding his mother, not much is known about her… the implications are: she’s not worth a write-up, and the lack of information on her is due to the fact that women were a second-class citizen in that era.

How stupid. I get that it was a man’s world… but still, thank goodness some things have evolved.

Moore-Brabazon was a smart guy – he got into Trinity College at Cambridge, but did not feel the need to graduate at sometime around 1902-1906. I’m guessing he was bored, and wanted to see all of the new technologies being ushered into the world at this time of the early 20th century…. such as the automobile.

While at Cambridge, he enjoyed tinkering with car motors after acquiring a Panhard two-cylinder, seven horsepower motor… as automobiles were becoming the latest big thing.

During the summer vacations while at Cambridge, he gleaned plenty  of knowledge by working as an unpaid mechanic for Charles Rolls.

When he finally dropped out (sorry, rich kids don’t drop out, they leave school to pursue other options), Moore-Brabazon became an apprentice mechanic the Darracq and Company Limited in Paris, a high-class automobile manufacturer at that time.

However, thanks to his summer employment with Charles Rolls, our boy eventually came back to London and worked with him as both mechanic and driver… but Moore-Brabazon soon became a hired driver thanks to his skills.

Rolls, of course, is one half of Rolls-Royce, the famed luxury automobile builder of the day, and today, I suppose.

In 1907 Moore-Brabazon won the Circuit des Ardennes in a Minerva, winning by 27 seconds. The Minerva was a classy Belgian automobile manufactured by Société Anonyme Minerva Motors.

As for the race itself, the Circuit des Ardennes was an auto race held annually at the Circuit de Bastogne, Bastogne, Belgium from 1902 to 1907. It was the first major auto race to run on a closed course instead of from one city to another. The race is basically the precursor to German Grand Prix.

It was around this time… late 1908, actually, that Moore-Brabazon took up flying, learning to do so while in France. He flew solo for the first time in a French Voisin biplane at Issy-les-Montineaux, Paris, France, in November, 1908.

At this time, the Voisin biplane he used was supposed to have been made and sold to Henri Farman… which got Farman ticked off at the Voisin brothers.

That snub caused Farman to go it alone, if you will, now designing and constructing his own planes… something he turned out to be quite good at… better than everyone else mentioned in this article… .

Anyhow, because Moore-Brabazon loved that Voisin, he brought it back with him to England. He named it The Bird of Passage.


The Bird of Passage Voisin biplane in 1909 as flown by Moore-Brabazon.

Moore-Brabazon, he became the first resident Englishman to make an officially recognized aeroplane flight in England on May 2, 1909, at Shellbeach on the Isle of Sheppey with flights of 450 feet, 600 feet, and 1,500 feet.

The key phrase there was “resident” Englishman.

Later in 1909, Moore-Brabazon sold his Bird of Passage Voisin biplane to Arthur Edward George, who had learned to fly in it at the Royal Aero Club‘s flying-ground at Shellbeach.

Needing a plane, Moore-Brabazon purchased a Short Brothers-built biplane based on a design by the Wright Brothers… this was the Short Biplane No. 2.

On October 30, 1909, he flew that biplane in a circular mile, and being the first ever to do so, won a 1,000 pound prize offered by the British Daily Mail newspaper.

A few days later on November 4, 1909, Moore-Brabazon in a joke, decided to prove that pigs could indeed fly.

He placed a piglet in a wasterpaper basket, and then tied the basket to a wing strut of the Short biplane No. 2, and then took it up for a flight.

This, it is believed to have been the very first heavier-than-air live cargo flight.


It seems to me that Moore-Brabazon should have a grin on his face for makin’ bacon fly. I have no idea what happened to the piglet after the flight, but surely it should have a name… gone on tour and made some farmer a very rich man.

On March 8, 1910, Moore-Brabazon became the first person to qualify as a pilot in the United Kingdom and was awarded Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate No. 1.


Wanna guess who was No. 2? Why his buddy Charles Rolls, who did it the same day as Morre-Brabzon.

Moore-Brabazon may have had the first vanity license plate, FLY 1.

As for Rolls… I can hardly say that his fame at being No. 2 was fleeting.

In 1903, Rolls helped create the (British) Royal Aero Club, and that same year he won the Gordon Bennett Gold Medal for carrying out the longest single flight in a balloon.

In May of 1904 Rolls met Henry Royce. Rolls was importing and selling Peugeot and Minerva cars via his C. S. Rolls & Co.

Royce and his company Royce Ltd. was making two-cylinder vehicles… and while Rolls preferred the bigger three- and four-cylinder cars, he really liked Royce’s car, and by December of 1904 the two agreed to a partnership called Rolls-Royce.

However, before the production of Rolls-Royce auto was even properly started, Rolls became increasingly interested in aviation and tried to persuade Royce to develop a design for an aeroplane engine – but Royce refused.

Rolls purchased a Wright Flyer in 1909, making over 200 flights.

In 1910, Rolls became the first person to make a non-stop double flight across the English Channel (and back again) for which he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club.

Unfortunately, Rolls died in an air crash at Bornemouth’s Hengistbury Airfield on July 12, 1912 – just four months after becoming certified.

The accident occurred during a flying display when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off in flight – he died on impact.

He was the first Briton to die in an aircraft accident.

After the death of his friend Rolls, Moore-Brabazon’s wife persuaded him to give up flying.

However, when the Great War broke out in 1914, Moore-Brabazon returned to flying, joining the Royal Flying Corps receiving a special-reserve commission as a second lieutenant (on probation) in the RFC.

Promoted to lieutenant on February 19, 191, he was appointed equipment officer on March 31, with the temporary rank of captain. On September 1, 1915 he was promoted to captain and then given a special temporary promotion to major on May 18, 1916.

Moore-Brabazon served on the Western Front (Belgium/France/Germany) where he played a key role in the development of aerial photography and reconnaissance.

On April 1, 1918, when the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force, Moore-Brabazon was appointed as a staff officer (first class) and made a temporary lieutenant-colonel, promoted to the rank on January 1, 1919 in recognition of his wartime services, relinquishing his commission that year.

Moore-Brabazon finished the war with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

He was decorated with the Military Cross on January 1, 1917, and decorated as a Knight of the Légion d’honneur (National Order of the Legion of Honor) from France in February 1916. It is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits.

No more flying for Moore-Brabazon, so… he became a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Chatham (1918–1929) and Wallasey (1931–1942) and served as a junior minister in the 1920s. In 1931 and 1932 he served as a member of the London County Council.

Since he couldn’t aviate any longer, and one can only politic for so long, Moore-Brabazon took up yachting. I had no idea that was a verb.

He was strongly opposed to war with Nazi Germany… and wanted Britain to avoid war.

Still, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew a smart man when he saw one, and appointed Moore-Brabzaon as Minister of Transport in October 1940. He then joined the Privy Council, becoming Minister of Aircraft Production in May 1941.

As the Minister of Transport he proposed the use of Airgraphs to reduce the weight and bulk of mails travelling between troops fighting in the Middle East and their families in the UK. The airgraph was invented in the 1930s by the Eastman Kodak Company in conjunction with Imperial Airways (now British Airways) and Pan-American Airways as a means of reducing the weight and bulk of mail carried by air. The airgraph forms, upon which the letter was written, were photographed and then sent as negatives on rolls of microfilm.

Moore-Brabzaon was forced to resign his wartime positions in early 1942 after stating he hoped that Germany and British ally USSR would destroy each other during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Now out of a job, Moore-Brabazon was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Brabazon of Tara, of Sandwich in the County of Kent, in April 1942.

In 1943 he chaired the Brabazon Committee which planned to develop the post-war British aircraft industry.

NPG x165436; John Moore-Brabazon, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara by Walter Stoneman

Lord Brabazon of Tara in 1944.

He was involved in the production of the Bristol Brabazon, a giant airliner that first flew on September 4, 1949. It was then and still is the largest aeroplane built entirely in Britain.

A keen golfer, Moore-Brabazon was captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the governing body of golf, from 1952 to 1953.

Moore-Brabazon was president of the Royal Aero Club, president of the Royal Institution, chairman of the Air Registration Board, as well as the president of the Middlesex County Automobile Club from 1946 until his death in 1964. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1953.

Despite his limited aviation career as a pilot, Moore-Brabazon had quite the aviation career.

Moore-Brabazon is buried in Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.


About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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