Belfast Telegraph

Short brother Oswald, history's 'forgotten hero of flight', honoured

By Allan Preston

The aviation pioneer Oswald Short has been commemorated with a plaque in his home village with help from aerospace firm Bombardier.

The Short brothers - Oswald, Eustace and Horace - made history by founding the world's first aircraft manufacturing company in 1908.

It moved from its main base in Rochester, Kent, to Belfast in 1948.

The firm was bought over in 1989 by Canada's Bombardier, which is now Northern Ireland's largest manufacturer.

Oswald, who lived from 1883 to 1969, was honoured yesterday with a memorial plaque and newly restored headstone at his grave in the village of Lynchmere, West Sussex.

The dedication and a memorial service was attended by his great-great-niece Liz Walker.

Bombardier (Shorts) of Belfast was among those who donated funding for the project.

Rev Nick Haigh led the re-dedication service, which was also attended by Horace Short's great-granddaughter Susan Koh.

Mrs Walker explained why she felt moved to honour her pioneering uncle.

"I found Oswald's headstone here, but it was covered in moss and I couldn't read it," she said.

"He retired here with his wife Violet and has been long forgotten.

"Now, thanks to all those who donated to the society's appeal, Oswald's amazing achievements are recorded on this plaque."

She added: "The society is still fundraising to restore the graves of Horace and Eustace in Hampstead Cemetery and to erect information plaques, as we have now managed to do in Lynchmere."

John Lankester Parker, a close friend of Oswald, served as chief test pilot and was later company director of Shorts and Harland Ltd in Belfast.

Quoted on the Short Brothers pioneers website, he said: "The contribution made by Oswald to the technical side of aviation is, I think, far greater than is generally realised and in my view he has never received the rightful tribute for his imaginative and practical work."

Gordon Bruce, a company secretary of Shorts, commented: "Oswald was an unassuming, courteous man whose physical courage was proven as an aeronaut, pilot and observer on test flights.

"He was a lover of music and animal life; his labour relations were paternalistic, with a Victorian sense of fair play."

Bombardier currently employs around 4,500 workers across Northern Ireland. Most are based in Belfast, producing wings and fuselage parts for its C Series passenger planes.

Last year the company slashed more than 1,000 jobs here due to cost cutting measures. There are also concerns that up to 140 jobs could be affected by plans to outsource its IT operations.

The Canadian aerospace giant recently announced a six-year deal worth $700 million with IBM, thought to be part of a cost saving plan to reduce its global IT infrastructure.

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