Jenny Gradidge May 19, 2019 16:30:28 GMT
Post by Admin on May 19, 2019 16:30:28 GMT
Jenny Gradidge, the lead author on our series of DC-3 publications, died recently. Our chairman was invited to bring an eulogy at her funeral and this is what he had to say.
In 1983, the late Stephen Piercey, in his quarterly magazine Propliner, published an article in his series ‘Shutter Kings’ which he opened with the words “I wish I had £1 for each time an aircraft photograph had been captioned – ‘Photo JMG Gradidge’ – perhaps I would have been a millionaire by now!”. The article outlined the background and experience of Mike Gradidge, as he then was, identifying his father’s influence - he had served in the RAF immediately after the First War - and remarking on his pre-war visits to Croydon Aerodrome. His passion for aviation seemingly developed throughout the war as he grew up.
Jenny in fact joined Air-Britain in 1948 as member number 553 and, I can only assume, while still at school. Stephen Piercey’s article recorded that she attended the first Farnborough air show in that same year with her Box Brownie camera, the start of a massive photographic archive. The cameras were obviously upgraded in later years – indeed Paul Jackson recalls her continuing to use her large-negative format camera when everyone else had progressed to 35mm !
In the early days of Air-Britain, we published a variety of roneo’d publications recording aviation data and updates and, amongst the first, was one called Overseas Fleet Lists. From Issue number 2 onwards in July 1950, they are shown as having been compiled and edited by JMG Gradidge. This little publication transmogrified into Overseas Airline News in 1953 and became a byword in accuracy and detail and indeed are consulted to this day.
Mike/Jenny played a huge role in the development of Air-Britain throughout the 50s and 60s and is known to have served on our Council for a number of years. One of her passions was the focus on a single type of aircraft, recording the detail of its design, development and more particularly each aircraft’s individual history. That aircraft was the Douglas DC-3 or Dakota or C-47 – call it what you will. Her detailed research, a massive task, finally came to fruition in 1984 with our publication of the first edition of our hardback Douglas DC-3 book.
Of course, publishing any book inevitably flushes out new information and in due course update booklets were published and then in 2006, the original book was supplanted by a massive two-volume set and which itself was followed in 2011 with volume 3 to include what she couldn’t find space for in the first two volumes plus the inevitable detailed updates.
And one should not ignore the fact that in 1998 she took time out to produce for us a similarly detailed history of the Convair Liners – one of the post war intended successors to the DC-3 and which itself had a fascinating development history – all faithfully documented by Jenny.
In her other life, Stephen Piercey records that, in 1956, Jenny left university to join the then Ministry of Agriculture as an entomologist – i.e. one who studies insects in all their various forms. It is understood that she had a particular interest in butterflies and moths – and hence it is perhaps axiomatic that she became a keen and active supporter of the de Havilland Moth Club.
It was in 1995, a couple of years after the tragic loss of his wife, the opera singer Morag Noble, that a small announcement was made in Air-Britain Digest referring to the preparation of a second edition of the DC-3 book. It asked for contributions to be sent to the author who “over the past year or so, has undergone a gender reassignment programme and is now known as Jennifer Mary Gradidge”. Bob Parmerter, our Beechcraft 18 specialist and a close friend, albeit living in New York State, recalls Jenny writing to him in June 1995 with the letter starting “Now, I’m probably going to embarrass you, but I’d rather tell you about a personal situation, than for you to hear it second-hand…”.
I would just like to read what Jenny wrote subsequently to Bob. “Thank you for your marvellous letter. I’ve had so many now, that my initial fears of losing friends is no longer a worry. Indeed, I can’t help feeling that there’s a deal of admiration for having attempted what I had to do. What is even better is that I have brought it off to a degree that I never thought possible. I now find I can do anything I want to – and so have been to just as many shows as I used to and visited the approach to Heathrow even more often. I even have lots of new friends – the main thing is happiness that I’ve never experienced before”.
Jenny made a huge impact on the recording of aviation history and her photographic archive (which she has generously left to Air-Britain) will be a long-term legacy and remembrance of all she did. On behalf of the membership of Air-Britain, many of us have been proud to have known her over all the years and we offer thanks for her life.