21st January 1935
Guernsey-built prototype plane crashes
Guernsey once had its own aeroplane manufacturing business when HJ Le Parmentier built a one-off aircraft called Wee Mite on the island. It was first flown by designer Cecil Noel on 15 September 1933, who took off from the sands of Vazon Bay.
The aircraft was registered as G-ACRL in April 1934, but it crashed just eight months later on 21 January 1935. Le Parmentier, at the controls, found himself unable to keep it aloft in inclement weather. Gusts of wind were buffeting the beach as he took off, one of which caught the underside of the aircraft and turned it upside down while in flight.
Fortunately, Wee Mite wasn’t very high when at the time, but its aerodynamic properties were completely thrown out and it fell to earth. The propeller and wings were destroyed and, although the engine remained intact, it was beyond practical or economical repair.
Wee Mite reappears
Its registration was cancelled in spring the following year, but that wasn’t the end of Wee Mite’s story. In her occupation diaries, Ruth Ozanne recounts how, in March 1941, the owner of a garage in St Peter Port found what was apparently the remains of the plane stowed in the loft.
The Bailiff had no choice but to report the discovery to the German forces, who ordered its destruction so it couldn’t be used either against their own men or to escape the island. A post on the Priaulx Library website recounts the same story.
However, the online history of the Guernsey Aero Club tells a different tale. The club had been established by Wee Mite’s designer, Cecil Noel, and in 1935 it bought an Avro 594 Avian IV, which was damaged in a gale. What was left of it was stowed in the loft of a St Peter Port garage and, when discovered during the occupation, shipped off to Germany.
Wee Mite was a two-seater, designed to have a top speed of 92mph (148km/h) and cruise comfortably at 75mph (121km/h). With a 9.4m (31ft) wingspan and a length of 6.1m (20ft), it weighed 295kg when unladen and 440kg when fully loaded.
It was a one-off, originally built using a second-hand 35 horse power engine, later upgraded to 40 horse power, to drive a mahogany propeller. Even 40hp is extremely conservative by modern standards, where pickup trucks have between 150hp and 200hp, and a small family car can easily have between 100hp and 140hp under the bonnet.