Foundation of club

The inaugural meeting of the “Cambridge Gliding Club” was held on February 12th1935, the Club’s formation having been sanctioned by the Proctors of theUniversity on he previous day. It was founded by a group of undergraduates whichincluded John, Duke of Grafton, John Paget, Oliver Fitzwilliam, Ralph Slazenger,Don Maclement, Keith Turner and John Pringle, who had been gliding at the LondonGliding Club at Dunstable. Paget was President, Pringle Treasurer and TurnerSecretary.

The Cambridge Gliding Club’s first machine being taken off Dunstable Downs bythe Duke of Grafton. From Sailplane and Gliding (S&G) April 1935.
The Cambridge Gliding Club’s first machine being taken off Dunstable Downs bythe Duke of Grafton. From Sailplane and Gliding (S&G) April 1935.
The Cambridge Gliding Club’s first machine being taken off Dunstable Downs bythe Duke of Grafton. From Sailplane and Gliding (S&G) April 1935.

The Club was originally founded by and for the members of the University, and onMay 16th 1935 changed its name to the Cambridge University Gliding Club.Slazenger provided a Zogling and a B.A.C. VII two-seater, and the first winchlaunch took place at Caxton Gibbet on the following day. Before the outbreak ofthe Second World War in 1939, the club had pioneered soaring from winchlaunches, and had made a name for itself by running camps at hill sites inDorset. Aerotowing had been undertaken from both Marshall’s Airport, Cambridge,and R.A.F. Duxford, where the first soaring took place on March 6th 1939.

After the war

After the war the Club extended its membership outside the University, and to anever-increasing extent became the local gliding club. Flying recommenced inFebruary 1946, initially at Caxton Gibbet and at Marshall’s but then from Bournairfield. Training was by the solo method until 1950, when the Slingsby T21bBluebell was bought. Ted Warner joined the club as Ground Engineer in 1946 - andstayed as the sole employee until his retirement in 1985, having taughtgenerations of pilots (especially undergraduates) to fly. He was succeeded bySandy Torrance.

From 1951, after a brief spell at Gransden Lodge, all the club’s operations wereconcentrated at Marshall’s, aerotows being provided by a Marshall’s Tiger Mothwhen required. The Club fleet grew to include a second two-seater, and the firstprivate glider was ‘admitted’ in 1960. For many years regular camps at the LongMynd, home of the Midland Gliding Club, were a popular part of the Club’sactivities.

By 1968 the pressure of air traffic at Marshall’s had made it necessary to seekan alternative site for winching, and the lease of the by-then disused Duxfordairfield was negotiated. After a period of some years the restriction ofaerotowing at Duxford was lifted and the Club was able to unite its operationsthere. The number of gliders, especially those belonging to private syndicates,grew steadily.

In the mid-70s, however, Cambridgeshire County Council bought the airfield andentered into an arrangement for its shared use by the Imperial War Museum.Unfortunately the Museum’s presence eventually led to unacceptable curtailmentsof the Club’s weekend flying, and in 1991 it had to move once again to itspresence site at Gransden Lodge. In 1990 the Club’s first 600km flights weremade, a fitting conclusion to the Duxford years.

The Club’s influence on British gliding has been considerable. In the early daysmany undergraduates whom it trained went on to positions of responsibility inother clubs, taking Cambridge’s training methods with them. It was well-knownfor its camps and expeditions flying, and for its contributions to glidingtheory and to test-flying. Year after year it produced about a tenth of allBritish Silver C’s, and has always been one of the principal clubs in terms ofcross-country flying.

In 1985 the Club celebrated its Silver Jubilee, and has by now fully assumed therole unwittingly foreshadowed by the founding members when they christened itthe “Cambridge Gliding Club”.

Splitting into CGC and CUGC

In 1996 the club split into the Cambridge Gliding Club and the CambridgeUniversity Gliding Club. CGC was now an ordinary gliding club and CUGC a trueuniversity club. The two continue to operate side-by-side from the sameairfield. Indeed CUGC is affiliated to CGC and uses its airfield, aircraft andclubhouse.

However in a similar way to CGC, CUGC had to start again from scratch. From itsfirst year with just a few members, it grew to a thriving club of around fortymembers. In 1998 CUGC was the beneficiary of a legacy which enabled it to buyits first glider, a newly refurbished and immaculate Schleicher Ka8b “CU”,imported from Germany. The glider continues to provide the early solo facilityfor club members and can often be seen on expeditions around the country. In1998 CU flew in the Inter-University Task Week held at Sutton Bank, hosted byDurham UGC, coming away with the silverware for wood class. The following yearthe IUTW was hosted by CUGC at Gransden Lodge. In 2000 another legacy enabledCUGC to buy an enclosed trailer for CU and it flew its first Silver Distanceflight in this country in June of that year.

Since this time, the club has continued to grow, and now numbers about 40members in any given year. We regularly run trips to other sites (such asvisiting Oxford and Edinburgh universities) and have hadclub members entering the UK Junior National Gliding Championships.

Into the mid 2000’s the club has continued to prosper, the original CU has beensold and replaced by new CU an ASW-19b with significantly improved performance.The Club still runs regular expeditions as well as taking part in the Varsitymatch with Oxford and the Inter-University Comp. In 2013 a formal gliding teamwas established the “Sky Lions” who were to represent the university incompetitions.