The personal correspondence of C G Grey

Scope and Content

The files are arranged in approximately chronological order but many spread over several years and there is considerable overlapping. The recognisable names are filed alphabetically within each file and the unidentified ones at the end. The files are substantially in the same order as received from the donor and presumably as filed by Grey.

The content of the files changes after 1939 when Grey left the editor's chair at The Aeroplane and concurrently World War II began. Up to this time only incoming letters have been retained by Grey but many contain vivid accounts of World War I experiences of his friends. Sir Winston Churchill seems to have ensured that Grey himself was not called up. Later Grey has a secretary and the files contain the corrected draft of his own letters. He used a dictating machine and his letters are long, rambling and conversational but gratefully received and many of the replies are equally extensive.

Many of the official letters from people in high places are acknowledgements of congratulations on decoration or promotion or the receipt of some special publication. Grey missed no opportunity to keep open his lines of communication and some of the replies are diplomatically phrased. On the other hand there are many unsolicited expressions of friendship and gratitude. He responded energetically to problems offered to him for action such as the living conditions of the WAAFs during the war. The condemnations are very loud and clear and maybe Grey would not have wished them to be retained for posterity as he did offend many people.

Grey was essentially a journalist and not a historian and the post 1939 files illustrate his own personality rather than the historical events of the time.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Grey Grey studied at the Crystal Palace School of Engineering before joining the Swift Cycle Company in Coventry. By 1905 Grey had become a journalist, first on the Cycle & Motor Trades Review , and then The Autocar. He was 'pitchforked into aviation' when he covered the first Paris aero show in December 1908 and soon after was asked to co-edit a new The Aero . In June 1911, he began his own journal, The Aeroplane , and the new magazine swiftly joined Flight as one of the key voices in British aviation journalism; a post he kept until June 1939. He also edited Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1916 to 1940 and the author of numerous books.

Grey was "far and away the most remarkable, controversial, and oft-quoted aviation writer of his day." He was a caustic critic of the establishment, whether politician, civil servants or the Royal Aircraft Establishment, though his correspondence shows relationships with the key aeronautical figures of the first half of the twentieth figures including Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Trenchard, Sir Frederick Handley Page, Sir Samuel Hoare, Sir T. O. M. Sopwith, Oswald Short, Lord Tedder and Lord Londonderry.

Access Information

Open to consultation

Other Finding Aids

Partial catalogue available via the Royal Aeronautical Society website .