Historic memorabilia from the home of a pioneer aviator, who lived in Bodfari, has been donated to the island of Anglesey where he lived for the last 30 years of his life.
And detective work by the Isle of Anglesey Council’s Archives Department has revealed that while some of the material belonged to Captain Vivian Hewitt, the first man to fly across the Irish Sea in 1912, much of it had been owned by another North Wales flying hero.
Captain Hewitt, who died in 1965, was dubbed the Welsh Bleriot after his epic flight in 1912,which actually began from Kinmel Bay. He was the heir to a Grimsby brewing fortune and then lived in Bodfari, near Denbigh.
Eighteen years later he returned to Anglesey to buy Bryn Aber, near Cemlyn Bay, where he lived a reclusive life until his death in 1965 and which was recently sold for just over £300,000.
Now leading North Wales law firm Swayne Johnson have handed over what was believed to be Captain Hewitt’s leather flying helmet, cartridge cases, service-issue water bottle and cooking pan as well as a portrait of him, to the Isle of Anglesey archives and the museum at Oriel Mon.
But research by the archives team has discovered that the painting is of Pilot Officer Vivian Parry, the son of Captain Hewitt’s housekeeper, Nellie and her husband, Jack, who came from Rhyl, and the flying helmet is also likely to be his.
He served with 150 Squadron, which flew Wellington bombers on night raids into Europe from RAF Snaith in Yorkshire. He lost his life on September 4, 1942, aged 28, just months after being presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.
Vivian Parry, who is buried at Cemlyn Bay, had joined the RAF on the outbreak of the war and was a rear gunner - one of the most dangerous wartime roles with a life expectancy of just five missions, less than a fortnight.
Before joining up Vivian Parry, who was educated at Sywell House School, in Rhyl, had been a member of the Rhyl ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Service. Other items including diaries, some of the many photographs and the plans of Bryn Aber, belonged to Captain Hewitt.
Shaun Hughes, the Swayne Johnson solicitor who dealt with the administration of the Bryn Aber estate, said: “We were pleased to hand over these historic items to the island of Anglesey and would like to pay tribute to the detective work of the council’s archives department for finding that the memorabilia belonged to not one but two of the island’s air aces. Captain Hewitt was clearly a remarkable man. He was one of the early pioneers of manned flight and his journey across the Irish Sea was longer than any previous flight over water, three times further than Louis Bleriot’s flight across the Channel three years earlier.
“He was clearly fond of the family as he left his home at Bryn Aber and a property in the Bahamas to Nellie’s two surviving sons, Jack and Ken.”
Ian Jones, Oriel Mon Collections Manager, said: “Captain Hewitt actually set off from Kinmel Bay but landed at Llanerchymedd before setting off again for Ireland. The helmet and artefacts are all Vivian Parry’s and date to the Second World War. Some have Air Ministry markings and serial numbers.”
Captain Hewitt was the son of a wealthy Grimsby brewing family who sold his share in the business to fund his interest in flying and later when he moved to Anglesey in 1930 from Bodfari, near Denbigh, in cars and ornithology.
A book, Modest Millionaire: The Biography of Captain Vivian Hewitt was written by William Hywel and published by then Denbigh-based printers Gwasg Gee in 1973 and although out of print it is available in local libraries.
See full story in the Free Press