HINCHLIFFE, Walter George Raymond  [1893-1928]

Elsie Mackay was in many ways a remarkable woman. Daughter of the chairman of P&O shipping line, she eloped with an actor, was cut off by the family, appeared in films under the name Poppy Wyndham, was the first woman jockey in England, had a flourishing career as an interior designer and in 1923 took up flying. She was determined to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and on 13th March 1928 she took off from RAF Cranwell in a Stinson Detroiter monoplane with an ex-RAF DFC winner as her co-pilot. The two were never seen again and eight months later an identifiable piece of the fuselage was washed up on the western coast of Ireland.

Her co-pilot was Capt. Walter George Raymond Hinchliffe; ‘Hinch’ to his friends, Raymond to his family. Born in Munich, Germany on 10th June 1893 while his artist father, Richard, was studying abroad, he was brought up in Liverpool at 119 Bedford Street L8. He attended Liverpool College and then studied dentistry, joining the Territorial Army as a Second Lieutenant on in March 1912. 

Promoted to Lieutenant on the outbreak of the First World War he first served in the Royal Artillery to 1916 when he joined the Royal Naval Air Service. His active service began in January 1918,flying a Sopwith camel with the RNAs and downing two enemy aircraft. Joining the RAF on its formation on 1st April 1918 he proceeded to shoot down five more enemy aircraft in three months. During one of his dogfights he was shot through the forehead and crashed. This resulted in severe facial injuries and the loss of sight in his right eye, over which he wore a patch for the rest of his life. His successful combat record led to his being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war he flew commercially with KLM and Imperial Airways, being KLM’s chief pilot from 1922-23. During these years he notched up a number of aviation firsts and gained experience in over 40 different types of aircraft. In 1927 Charles Levine became the first passenger to make a transatlantic flight and Hinchliffe was the pilot for his return flight to the USA.

His exceptional flying record and wide experience made him a natural choice for Elsie Mackay’s venture though sadly it was to be his last.

There are few sources available on Hinchliffe’s life but I did come up with one fact which seems absent from all the accounts I have come across. In May 1919, Walter George Raymond Hinchliffe, an Army Officer was found guilty of the charge of “stealing a motor-bicycle and sidecar the property of Frank Devonport Davison”. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment.


The Wikipedia entry is as comprehensive as anything else I have found.