Sir Leonard Redshaw

Sir Leonard, or Len as he was known in the gliding fraternity died on the 29th April 1989 . Gliding, his family and work had been his lifetime pleasure and fulfillment in an enjoyable 78 years. Len started his interest in gliding in 1930 following his father who was a founder trustee of the original Furness Gliding Propriety Ltd, better known as the Lakes Gliding Club. His brother, son, daughter and son-in-law all became keen gliding enthusiasts. The grandsons however were not enticed to stay in the sport. His family have probably one of the longest relationships with gliding in the UK.

An extract from a letter Len wrote to one of his early gliding colleagues illustrates most clearly his approach to life and his sport.

“I started at Vickers in 1927 with a scholarship taking me to Liverpool University for three years followed by two years on a post graduate scholarship. During the holidays I operated with the local gliding club and obtained my A certificate based on the standard ten second blackout method of training. I attended the 1932 National competition at our site on Kirkby Moors and followed Mungo Buxton on his record breaking cross country flight of some 14 miles in my father’s car.

“War was near, members were disappearing, I became secretary and finally in sole charge of the club. The machines were commandeered by the RAF. I was a junior manager of Vickers which became a very full time job. Nevertheless, I found time on Sundays to act as CO of 188 Gliding School teaching pre-entry RAF cadets.

“Whist I was researching welding on a course in London I spent most Sundays gliding at Dunstable. One day I visited my great aunt in Tolworth, Surrey . This was about 1933 and I met a brunette who lived next door. She seemed to be suitable material for a wife. Unfortunately I only had two weeks to convince her that we should develop a long term friendship. We married in 1939 and when I thought we were winning the war we had a daughter in 1942 and a son in 1944. They turned out to be a first class crew for gliding competitions. Post war every summer holiday for many years was spent entering National and Regional competitions.”  

Len stayed with gliding after the closure of the ATC 188 Gliding School and in 1954 some enthusiasts sought his help to start another club on Tebay Fells. It moved to Walney as the Lakes Gliding Club in 1962. He had gained a local reputation as the only man in Cumbria to have a glider and be able to catapult off the local fells with his family’s assistance. He remained with gliding up to 1982 and was chairman of the Lakes GC for many years.

Probably he would be best remembered in the movement for rescuing Slingsby when he was Chairman of Vickers Shipbuilding in 1968 and bringing the manufacture of glass-fibre gliders to the UK with initially the Kestrel series and later the Vega. Len pioneered the worlds first GRP glider with a carbon fibre main spar which incidentally he then test flew at the age of 62 for about six months.

As an industrialist his achievements were numerous and his recognition became international, being knighted in 1972. As a sportsman he enjoyed rugby, tennis, cricket, fishing, swimming, boating and occasionally golf playing for his school, university and company with great enthusiasm.

However his number one sporting love remained gliding with over 3000hrs flown in amongst others his own aircraft which include an Olympia 2B, Skylark 3, Dart 17, Club Libelle, Kestrel 19, Motor Falke, Auster and Super Cub.           Extracted from S&G 1989      

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