Having lived the first thirty or so years of my life in Belstead Road - the third generation in my family to do so - any mention of the area raises my interest. I recently learned that an acquaintance lived in the road opposite Salmet Close. She sadly commented that she did not know where the road name came from. So I told her -at least what I knew at the time.
Hemi Salmet was a French aviator. He flew Bleriot aeroplanes, designed, if not built, by Louis Bleriot who made fame by his English Channel crossing on 25 July 1909. It was, however, Salmet who first flew non-stop from London to Paris. Working as a mechanic at the newly established Bleriot Hendon School of Flying in 1911 he quickly gained his flying 'ticket' having been recorded as flying a Bleriot 50 hp craft on a 50 mile trip. Within months he was Chief Flying Instructor at the School. After reports of several first time flights and landings along England's Channel coast, in 1912 he was sponsored by the Daily Mail to undertake an aeroplane tour of the country. By the summer of that year he was working his way up the east coast, certainly dropping in on Southend, Colchester, Frinton and Walton.
A newspaper report at the time said, "Hemi Salmet, one of the 'Daily Mail Airmen', arrived at Ipswich during the evening of Saturday, 10 August 1912. Large crowds watched as he landed in one of the meadows belonging to Gippeswyk Hall Farm, situated between Stone Lodge Lane and Gwydyr Road, having flown from Clacton via Felixstowe. At seven minutes to eight, he took off again and demonstrated his Bleriot aeroplane to the assembled multitude until it was almost dark. The Bleriot was then bedded down for the weekend but M Salmet did not stay in Ipswich." Having 'parked' his machine for the weekend, he gave over its security to the Stoke Police Constable (who incidentally was the grandfather of one of our Society members). Photographs are in existence of the constable with M Salmet and his aeroplane. On Monday 12 August, he returned to the town by train and left for Gravesend in his monoplane at about five minutes past six that evening.
It appears that Salmet's Daily Mail epic flights continued with tours of Wales, N W England and Ireland as well as London to Manchester flights and numerous further 'firsts' where his craft was adapted with floats to land on water. He went on working for the Daily Mail by delivering their Riviera Supplement to resorts on the Mediterranean coast - often dropping bundles by parachute. Throughout the First World War he flew for the French Army in early aerial combat, bombing and reconnaissance missions, earning himself the Military Medal.
I have been assured that this was the first landing in Ipswich of an heavier-than-air machine. Is the forthcoming centenary of this event an opportunity (or an excuse) for the residents of Salmet Close - or perhaps the people of Ipswich - to have a celebration?