Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sir Frederick Tymms: the flying civil servant

Frederick Tymms (on the left), with Rod Doucla [sic]
whilst working on the Cape to Cairo Air Route in 1929
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/9/30

Frederick Tymms (2nd from left), camera in hand,
with Wolley Dod, Lindup, and Francis, whilst planning the Cape to Cairo Air Route, 1929
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/9/10

Frederick Tymms (2nd from left) in Allahabad in 1934
with T. Campbell Black and C.W. Scott for the England-Australia Race
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/15/1

'Imperial Airways - Delhi Flying Club - handing over',  January 1932
Cambridge University Library RCMS 20/2/10/139

The Royal Commonwealth Society collections in Cambridge University Library hold the archives of Sir Frederick Tymms,  RCMS 20, one of the most significant figures in the development of civil aviation, referred to by his biographer, E.A. Johnston, as the 'Flying Civil Servant'.

Tymms served as an Observer in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1, then joined the civil aviation department of the Air Ministry 1920-1927 where he became involved in the development of air routes across Africa and India in the 1920s and 30s.  His archives document the difficulties of locating suitable landing strips at regular distances across each continent and the excitement at the opening of new aerodromes. 

During the 1930s and much of the 1940s Tymms was in India where he was appointed Director of Civil Aviation 1931-1942. For a brief period in 1942-1943 he became Managing Director of Tata Aircraft Ltd, Bombay, and from 1945-1947 was Director General of Civil Aviation in India.  The Tymms archive is rich in photographs from this period - see: RCMS 20/2/ 10-19.  There are views of the grand Secretariat buildings in New Delhi, in which Tymms had an office, of the Delhi Flying Club which he joined, and of his travels all over South Asia looking for viable air routes and opening aerodromes.  Early air races are documented, such as the MacRobertson England-Australia Race in 1934, as are numerous air stations and aeroplanes.  Tymms took photographs in Burma and the collection has fine aerial photography of the Arakan Coast. He also  took many photographs in Simla, the hill station to which the government moved for relief from the searing heat of Delhi, as well as in Kashmir where he holidayed with his wife. 

Tymms, a keen photographer , also captured on cinefilm some events associated with his work in civil aviation, as well as social occasions and holidays he enjoyed with family and friends.  His earliest film dates from 1925 and records the First African [aviation] Survey (Film 12).  There are three short black and white silent films made in South Asia in the early to mid-1930s - Films 16, 17 and 19.

Film 16 (the film can is labelled: Hyderabad. Jaipur. Simla. Delhi) includes busy street scenes, farming scenes, elephant rides, coastal scenes and a view of the Himalayas. There are several scenes of Qutub Minar, Delhi, of road trips, street vendors, shikar and fly fishing. 

Film 17 (the film can is labelled: North West Frontier Province. Kashmir. Palampur.  Simla) opens with views of the Khyber Pass and then moves to Dal Lake and Srinagar in Kashmir, and onto hill stations in  Himachal Pradesh.  It focuses on travel and landscape scenes, as well as local crafts.

Film 19 (the film can is labelled: Bombay. Ceylon. Burma. Singapore. Karachi) includes fishing boats, street vendors, temples, shoreline, a flower market, ball games, traditional Burmese dance, aircraft and airport buildings. It includes shots of the Shwedagon Pagoda and Buddhist monks in Rangoon, a paddle-steamer transporting railway wagons, sea-planes, Kallang airport in Singapore, and Karachi airport.

Tymms and his wife Millie had become great friends with J.R.D.(Jeh) Tata and his wife Thelly during their time in India, and they returned in October1962 to participate in Air India celebrations in Bombay on the occasion of J.R.D. Tata's reenactment of the first Karachi-Bombay flight, via Ahmedabad in 1932. Sir Frederick filmed some of the celebrations in colour.   Film 8  opens on 15th October 1962 in an Air India marquee at Bombay airport and includes footage of a Burmah-Shell Aviation Service bullock cart, a De Havilland Leopard Moth dating from the 1930s and a Boeing 707. The film also includes hugely contrasting scenes of Indian women carrying heavy stone on a building site, busy street scenes, and grand buildings in Delhi.

Tymms went on to represent the UK on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (I.C.A.O.), led missions to New Zealand and the West Indies as a trouble-shooter to promote civil aviation, and was a founding member of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. He was elected Master of the Guild in 1957.    His wide interests embraced communication technologies, satellites and space travel, and the sovereignty of space.

The Tymms collection on civil aviation was donated to Cambridge University Library by Group Captain E.A. Johnston in 1994.  Johnston's biography of Tymms, To organise the air: the evolution of civil aviation and the role of Sir Frederick Tymms, the Flying Civil Servant, was published  by Cranfield University Press in 1995, ISBN 1871315468.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Cambridge seminar on teaching history using film archives on February 11th 2014

As part of the Centre for Commonwealth Education seminar series, Education in India: a Multidisciplinary Exploration, Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes will present 'New Visual Methodologies in Teaching Modern South Asian History'
Time: Tuesday, 11 February 2014 from 12:30 to 13:30
Donald McIntyre Building
Room GS1 
Centre for Commonwealth Education
Faculty of Education
University of Cambridge<
01223 767 680 
ALL WELCOME; Refreshments available
Dr Motrescu-Mayes writes:
In the context of a steadily growing interest in investigating modern history with the help of visual research methods a number of historians, anthropologists and artists (Pinney 2004, Pushpamala N. 2004, Tan 2005, Spencer 2011, Kahlon 2011) have recently employed theories of visual rhetoric in the study and representation of South Asian identities. Moreover, the use of visual records as primary research sources is not anymore the prerogative of cultural historians but a pedagogical tool recurrently used by teachers and students of South Asian history. In this talk I will present several teaching and learning platforms which I have developed since 2011 in collaboration with British and South Asian historians. 
The talk will also include a selection of visual essays produced by thirty history teachers during a one-week workshop which I co-organised with the Azim Premji University, Bangalore, in September 2013. This workshop was a pedagogical exercise that highlighted the ways in which Indian history teachers could successfully use colonial amateur footage as a valid primary research source able to complement the Indian history curriculum for classes VIII-XII. The talk will conclude with a discussion on the urgency of interdisciplinary research and pedagogical methodologies pertinent to reliable and long term knowledge- transfer programs within modern South Asian studies.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

SAALG 90th Conference - Friday 21st February - University of Cambridge Library

Join us for the 90th SAALG Conference which will take place on Friday 21st February at the University of Cambridge Library. The theme for the day will be 'Archives' and we will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of collections and projects - there will also be a chance to visit the new Centre of South Asian Studies building in Cambridge.  

Image: Cambridge University Library Faoch via Flickr
The full programme is as follows: 

Image: Cambridge University Library - RCS QM 8/123 - From the Royal Commonwealth Society Library, Queen Mary Collection.  A view showing crowds of people watching the arrival of the Royal Party at a palatial building, Calcutta.

The fee for the day is £20 including lunch, full directions to the Library will be sent out before the day. Please email Helen Porter, SAALG Chair or telephone 020 78984153 to make a booking or for more information. The final day for registering is Wednesday 12th February.