Percival Gull was an all-wood, low-wing cabin monoplane entered
via a hinged roof and folding side. A Henderson patent cantilever
mainplane was used, made to fold about the rear spar and provided
with a small flap type air brake under the centre section.
prototype, G-ABUR, powered by a Cirrus Hermes IV, was built at
Yate by George Parnall and Company and flown round Britain by
E. W. Percival in the King's Cup Race of July 8-9, 1932, at an
average speed of 142-73 m.p.h.
the following year, re-engined with a Napier javelin III, it had
a top speed superior to many contemporary fighters, becoming well
known at civil aerodromes until written off in Northern Rhodesia
during Man Mohan Singh's 1935 Cape record attempt.
virtue of its four cylinder Hermes IV, the prototype became the
Percival Gull Four P.1. Mk. I, while production aircraft with
improved windscreens and cabin glazing became known as the Gull
Four P.1.A Mk. II.
owners, such as Sir Phillip Sassoon and W. Lindsay Everard, favoured
the Percival Gull Four P.1.B Mk. IIa equipped with a Napier Javelin
engine, like their respective G-ACGR and 'AL 'Leicestershire Fox'
Gipsy Major powered P.1.C Gull Four Mk. IIb as well as a Blackburn
Cirrus major powered P.1.E Gull Four Mk. III were developed later.
Fours satisfied a lively market and were sold as far as Brazil
and Japan, and on December 10, 1933, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
arrived at Darwin, Australia in G-ACJV 'Miss Southern Cross' after
a record-breaking flight from Heston in 7 days 4 hours and 44
unsold Gulls, G-ACHA, 'PA' and 'XY', similarly modified and fitted
with Gipsy Six engines, were in later years allotted the type
was originally ordered by Sir Philip Sassoon, at the time Under-Secretary
of State for Air of the United Kingdom.
Philip had selected a Napier "Javelin 111" engine, air-cooled
6 cylinders in line, delivering a power of 160 bhp at 2.100 rpm
and pulling the "Gull" to a maximum speed of 160 mph.
interior furnishing of that particular aircraft was indeed fitting
to its illustrious owner. Sir Philip had called for a 2 seater
arrangement instead of the standard 3 seater and the gain of space
allowed the installation of a comfortable club armchair. The pilot
seat, the passenger's armchair and the side panels were covered
with deep red leather, embossed with the trademark of Percival
aircraft, a silhouette of a gull.
competed in a number races in the colours of Sassoon: the King's
Cup air race of 1933, at Hatfield, with Flying Officer G.R.A.
Elsmie as pilot (racing number 17) and at the end of August 1933
in the Folkestone Aero Trophy Race (racing number 8) flew by F/Lt
8 May 1934, G-ACGR's ownership was passed to Sir John Kirwan via
Aircraft Exchange and Mart Ltd. of London. In the hands of Sir
Kirwin, G-ACGR participated in the 1934 King's Cup (racing number
26, Pilot-Officer J.D. Kirwan) and in the London to Newcastle-upon-
12 October 1934, G-ACCR took-off for its last trip. Over Belgium,
around 17.30 hours, near the village of Kerkhove the engine lost
some power and the pilot elected to make a precautionary landing.
It overshot on the attempted emergency landing and finished with
its nose in a tributary of the Escaut river.
day after, the aircraft was retrieved and left by road to England,
happened next remains a mystery to this day. On 7 December 1934,
G-ACGR was written off the official British register.
Since the damaged airframe was found in Belgium, it can be assumed
the owners or the insurers elected not to ship it back to England,
only recuperating the engine, propeller and instruments. The airframe
must have been disposed off in some way, either selling it or
giving it away to some interested party.
any case the "Gull' disappeared for more than 35 years until
1973 when Mr. E. De Deurwaerder retrieved the aircraft wreck that
was stored in a barn near Nieuport.
"Gull" remains arrived in the museum in 1975 after being
donated by Mr E. de Deurwaerder.
- Flight: July 8, 15, 29 1932, March
2, 30 1933, July 6 1933, October 19 1933, April 26 1934, November
- The aeroplane: July 27 1932, March 1
1933, May 24 1933, July 5, 12 1933, July 11, 18 1934
- Correspondence with Edgar W. Percival,
John Stroud and Roy Humphreys (Kent aviation historical &
- De Standaard, maandag 15 oktober 1934.
Libre Belgique, 13 octobre 1934.
- Aeroplane monthly, January 1983, June
1994, July 1994
- Flying, August 1933
recovered, the overall condition of the aircraft was found to
be pretty poor.
a start, the Napier Javelin engine and the Fairey-Reed propeller
were missing, and still are, as well as two thirds of the undercarriage.
One of the main beam had been sawn, yet the cockpit, upholstered
with leather survived in a fairly good state. The ribs of the
centre section's leading and trailing edges were almost non-existent
and, to crown it all, the tail surfaces had simply been sawn off.
of the cowling was also missing except the frontal and bottom
elements. Also both wing and tail strearnlining fairings were
wings were still in a fairly good state but were deprived of all
leading edge ribs, all the wing fairings were missing as well
as the upper engine cowlings. The aircraft remained untouched
for a while till 1978 when a small team led by Jean-François Neefs
decided to proceed with its restoration.
far as the woodwork is concerned we first rebuild the centre section,
then repaired the lower left beam of the fuselage. After this
we had to stick together the cockpit floor, which had come loose
and clean the all structure. Reassembling the tailplane which
had been sawn off on both sides of the fuselage was another tedious
left U/C leg was missing, whereas the right one was buckled and
incomplete. We first straightened and completed the left U/C leg
then redrew and tooled the 136 elements composing the right leg.
A jig was manufactured and a professional welder spent about 50
hours welding the various components of the right U/C leg.
is worth nothing that this type of undercarriage is very fragile
and required a lot of skill of the pilot during landings. It was
replaced by a much sturdier model on later Gulls.
the original bulkhead had been seriously damaged, we had to build
a new one using the original as a template. The asbestos, which
was still in a very good state, has been reused and placed between
the two new bulkheads.
Napier engine, with which this aircraft was originally equipped,
was missing and as far as we know there are no more of this type
available in the world.
we had checked the inventory of the Museum's engines we discovered
a Gipsy Major 1, serial number 523, contemporary to the Gull.
In 1933, Percival had been selling its "Gull" with a
choice of engine, including, beside the "Javelin", the
Gipsy Major». That led to the decision to install this engine
but new bearers were required as the original where for the Napier
the available documentation, we redrew and manufactured new bearers
for the Gipsy.
propeller, after much searching, had been found in England and
its owner, Mr. Norman Torquill, informed of the restoration project
had kindly donated it. Another missing item was the propeller
spinner that had to be manufactured using the forward cone of
a "Mirage V" underwing container as a base
Wings & tail unit
wing structure, as a tribute to Basil Henderson original design,
was basically intact and free of any distortion. However the leading
edges were damaged, the plywood covering had been ripped off and
many ribs were broken or had rotten away, more especially those
of the mobile flaps giving access to the wing folding mechanism.
was left of a few heads, of ribs and accurate measurements allowed
the construction of templates from which new ribs were built.
Once the outer wings were reconstituted, their wooden structure
was lacquered and subsequently varnished. The ailerons were intact
and only needed cleaning, varnishing and were recovered.
two lifting flaps of the wing folding system had to be built on
the basis of the few remaining struts and ribs. The woodwork terminated,
the control cables were reinstalled and a new pitot tube was built.
steel parts of the wing folding mechanism were missing and pieces
from a Percival "Proctor" wreck were used after being
be modified to fit the "Gull'. The fuel tanks, badly corroded,
had to be treated and welded.
tail unit, the fin and rudder needed very little work but the
tailplane and elevators demanded major reconstruction. The missing
ribs were replaced by new ones after reconstituting the original
profile and making aluminium templates.
Fairing, wheel covers, hood,
missing fairing strips at the wings and tailplane roots were replaced
by fairings from a "Proctor" wreck: although of slightly
different measurements they could be adapted without modification.
the two wheel spats had survived with the wreck except for the
rear part of one, the hind cone. The metal workshop of the Belgian
Air Force's Technical School at Saffraenberg soon turned an exact
frame of the hood was severely corroded and the Plexiglas had
twisted and blackened under the effects of heat and years of neglect.
Made of a welded steel frame on which are screwed dozens of small
aluminium gutters and profiles.
months of stripping-off and polishing, we succeeded in saving
a majority of the components.
the two saved cowling elements, front and ventral cowls, only
the first could be saved from corrosion and re-used. Top and side
cowls were made in-house from aluminium sheets.
lower or ventral cowl, with intricate forms, was manufactured
by the Establishments Alverez of Brussels using the existing but
corroded one as a template.
the instrument panel was still in place, all dials and instruments
had been taken away and replacements had to be found.
of them were found in the museum store and Cdr Desmond St-Cyrien
gave the rest, the well know British collector who also procured
a copy of the registration certificate.
the aircraft wears the colours scheme G-ACGR had during the 1933
King's Cup. The top part of the fuselage and the wings were painted
pale blue while night blue was retained for the lower part of
the fuselage and the wheel fairings. The registration markings
were in reverse colours.
people have raised questions on the exact tones of colours since
only black and white photos are available.
decision has been made mainly because of the quote published in
"Flight" of 31 August 1933 p. 872: " ... the Percival
"Gull" owned and entered by Sir Philip Sassoon ... this
is the same machine, with a magnificent pale blue finish, which
was raced in this year's King's Cup race". Moreover the cover
of the same issue, a Cellon advertisement, illustrates a colour
drawing of G-ACGR . Also, a witness of that era, Mr. John Stroud,
did approve the scheme of the restored aircraft and some sample
colours, retrieved when working on the aircraft, tends to confirm
lengthy restoration came finally to an end in 1992.
celebrate the event, and the Gull was the first of the aircraft
restored by the BAMRS to be so celebrated, we displayed the aircraft
in the park surrounding the museum.
the goodwill, ingenuity and dedication of the members of the team,
all volunteers, this aircraft would still be a pile of wrecks
- Vintage aircraft number 25 and 36
- Air Britain digest, autumn 1990, summer
1991, autumn 1998
- Air Britain archive 1/91, 2/91, 9/91
- ASA newsletter, 1994
- Flypast, Aeroplane monthly, le fana de
l'aviation, Aeronews of Belgium