British Deperdussin

British Deperdussin Aeroplane Syndicate.
British Deperdussin Aeroplane Co., Ltd.


The British Deperdussin Aeroplane Synd. Ltd., was formed in mid-1911 by D.L. Santoni and J.C. Porte as a subsidiary of General Aircraft Contractors, to produce aircraft in England designed by the French Société Provisoire des Aéroplanes Deperdussin. Sales offices were at 30, Regent Street, S.W., co-located with G.A.C. In July of that year the Syndicate also opened a school at Brooklands offering “thorough instruction in flying by competent staff; thorough tuition £75”. Initially Charles Bell (1) was appointed to take charge of the school, quickly followed by Eardley Billing in January 1912 and Henry Petre in February.

Initial activities revolved around demonstrating French built single and two seat machines but in November of 1911 the Syndicate opened its first works in North London at Mildmay Avenue, Newington Green.

In April 1912, a new public company, the British Deperdussin Aeroplane Co., Ltd, with a capital of £6o,ooo, was formed to take over the assets of the Syndicate, including the aviation school. Monsieur M. Bechereau, the technical director of the Paris Deperdussin Works, and the designer of the Deperdussin monoplane, became technical adviser to the Company, whilst the directors comprised Admiral the Hon. Sir Edmund Fremantle, G.C.B., C.M.G. (Chairman), Col. Wykeham Corry Dickenson and M. Armand Deperdussin (head of the French firm) in addition to the Joint Managing Directors, Lieut. J. C. Porte and Lawrence Santoni. Works were by now located at Holloway Road, London, N., the building originally being a tram depot, and later concerned with motor-body building. Following this, the original Syndicate was liquidated on 30 May.

The week before, on 13 April, Santoni, along with French aviator Maurice Prévost, put up a record by being the first pair to fly from Paris to England in the day, to deliver a 70 h.p. Gnome powered Deperdussin to the Admiralty, where it initially received serial number M1, by August becoming 7 in the revised Admiralty system. The machine was the first foreign machine ordered by the Admiralty, and Santoni had determined that it should be delivered by air.

May saw delivery of the first British built two seater to the Deperdussin School. Earlier that month, Petre left the School, his place being taken by Clement Hugh Greswell (2), formerly of the Grahame-White Company. This arrangement didn’t last long, for later that month a N.J. Gill (3 , an ex-pupil of the Deperdussin School, took charge at Brooklands, while a new school was formed at Hendon under Signor Giovanni Sabelli (4). By the middle of the year the School at Brooklands had closed, all tuition having moved to the new Hendon facility. The position of manager at Hendon changed a several times during 1912, Signor Sabelli being followed by Santoni, with Gill now as chief pilot and instructor, H. Hurlin, of Weston Hurlin and Co, Walter Brock (5) and finally in January 1913 Captain J. C. Halahan (6), with a Mr. Spratt as Chief Pilot.

In the summer of 1912, Frederick Willem Koolhoven (b. January 11, 1886; d. July 1, 1946), who was at that time working for Deperdussin in Paris, moved to England and became works manager of the British Deperdussin Company Ltd. As such, his first job would have been preparing aircraft for the British Military Trials, held in August. Both French and British Deperdussin entered two machines each, the British machines differing from their French counterparts in the design of the cabane struts and dispensing with fwd undercarriage skids. One machine was powered by a 100 h.p. Anzani and given the competition number 20, while the other, number 21, was fitted with a 100 h.p. Gnome. Number 20 did not distinguish itself well, but the Gnome powered machine received a prize of £500 and was taken over by the RFC Military Wing after the trials, becoming 259.

In October 1912 British Deperdussin, expecting business to grow, moved their company offices to new premises at 39, Victoria Street, Westminster, S.W. However, very few British Deperdussin machines were to be delivered to the Military; one, an 80 h.p. Anzani powered machine was delivered to the Admiralty in March, 1913, with serial number 22. Another machine, serial number 280 of the RFC Military Wing may have also been British built. Unfortunately, several crashes of Military Wing monoplanes during 1912 eventually led to War Office ban on the type, dashing any hope British Deperdussin had of further orders.

In February of 1913, the company produced a machine of original design, the Seagull seaplane. This featured a fuselage of monocoque construction and the wings were supported by an external tubular steel bracing structure with no overhead bracing wires. The Admiralty placed an order for two, but poor performance led to the orders cancellation.

The War Office ban on monoplanes and the failure of the Seagull dealt a fatal blow to the Company. On 24 July, at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the British Deperdussin Aeroplane Co., it was resolved that “the Company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue its business, that it is advisable to wind up voluntarily, and that the Company be wound up accordingly”. Accordingly the company was placed in the hands of a receiver. In France on 5 August Armand Deperdussin was arrested on a charge of having by fraud obtained £1,280,000 from the Comptoir Industriel et Colonia and this proved the final blow for the British concern. On 23 August the Flying School closed its doors and by October the Deperdussin Aeroplane Company had removed its offices from Victoria Street, Westminster, to Clun House, Surrey Street, Strand, W.C. In July 1926 the company was finally struck from the register.

  1. See Early British Aviators No.100
  2. See Early British Aviators No.26
  3. See Early British Aviators No.174
  4. See Early British Aviators No.178
  5. See Early British Aviators No.285
  6. See Early British Aviators No.354
Company References
  1. Flight, various issues 1912-13
  2. Aeroplane, various issues 1912-13

Project Data top

Project No
Type No
Alternative Name(s)
 1S, 1E monoplane
 2S, 1E monoplane
 3S, 1E monoplane
 2S, 1E monoplane seaplane

  1. Production at least 12 (6 single seat and 6 two or three seaters) as observed by CG Grey from Aeroplane 25 July 1912

Project References
  1. Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps, The, J.M. Bruce (Putnam, 1982
  2. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  3. Flight Magazine 7 September 1912
  4. Flight Magazine 10 May 1913
  5. Air Pictorial Feb 1984
  6. Air Pictorial April 1984

Production Data

Complete production details are unknown for British Deperdussin, but the following have been verified to some degree:

Two two seat machines for the 1912 Military trials, trials numbers 20 (100 h.p. Gnome powerplant) and 21 (100 h.p. Anzani powerplant); No. 21 went to the RFC as 259.
Three two seat machines deilivered to the RFC in 1912(?), serial number 421,436 and 437.
One single seater delivered to the RNAS in January 1913, serial no. 22.

Two Seagull hydroplanes were ordered by the Admiralty, but cancelled due to poor performance. Only one was built, with 100 h.p. Anzani powerplant. This may have been the machine impressed under contract 57016/14, numbered 885.

   Total British Deperdussin Production     13+ 

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