Lot Archive


№ 554


27 September 1994

Hammer Price:

A Test Pilot's A.F.C. group of four to Squadron Leader H.J. Payn, Royal Air Force, late Motor Cycle Section, Royal Engineers

AIR FORCE CROSS, G.V.R.; 1914-15 STAR (28221 Cpl., R.E.); BRITISH WAR AND VICTORY MEDALS (Capt., R.F.C.) good very fine (4)

A.F.C., London Gazette, 2 June, 1923. The following details were extracted from Air Ministry records:

'Since 1919, this officer has acted as test pilot for the Directorate of Research, Air Ministry, and his duties include the first flight, by a service pilot, of all experimental aeroplanes, both for service and for civil use. In addition to this airworthiness test, he generally carries out the first cross-country flight of such machines. These duties necessarily involve considerable risk, but he has always performed them with great zeal and ability, and with conspicuous success.’

In 1914 Harold James Payn was a corporal in the Motor Cyclist Section of the Royal Engineers. In 1915, owing to the shortage of officers, he was promoted to Temp. 2nd Lieutenant, and on the 22 November, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, as a Flying Officer (Observer). In 1916 he obtained his Pilot's Licence and later in the year he was promoted to Temp. Captain and Flight Commander. The following year his rank of Second Lieutenant was substantiated. On 15 July 1918 he was promoted to Temporary Major. When the war ended he was a Captain in the Royal Air Force and on 11 November 1919 he was granted a short service commission in his present substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant. On 30 June 1922 he was promoted to Squadron Leader. He was awarded the Air Force Cross on 2 June 1923 and on 1 September 1923 he joined the Reserve of Air Force Officers which had been formed earlier that year. This allowed him to join Vickers Aircraft as a test pilot and act as technical adviser to Rex Pierson, the chief designer. In 1924 he flew the Vickers Vixen in the King's Cup Air Race, finishing fifth. He flew the same aircraft in the King's Cup the following year. He did not compete in the King's Cup in 1926 as he was sent to the Middle East to investigate adverse reports regarding the Vickers Victoria, then in service with Nos. 70 and 216 Sqns. R.A.F. In 1927 he flew the Vickers Vespain in the King's Cup Air Race, but had to retire with propeller trouble after averaging 115.5 mph.