Taking off from Hampshire, history was written when Britain’s first official aeroplane flight took place on October 16, 1908.

The home-built biplane crashed after a distance of 1,390 feet.

Upon crawling from the wreckage, daredevil pilot Samuel Cody said: “I will not make that mistake again!’’

Initially a cowboy and actor, the extraordinary and colourful Texan was later referred to as “a natural gentleman, not a member of the gentry”.

Cody’s goatee beard and waxed moustache with a 12-inch span made him a memorable figure.

Record after record was set in aircraft he himself designed and constructed, making him a national hero. He aspired to be the first pilot to cross the Atlantic but he crashed to his death in Hampshire at the age of 52. And yet, Cody is a name little known today.

At various times during his flamboyant, rumbustious life, Cody was a broncobusting cowboy, sharpshooter, circus star, playwright and inventor and intrepid flyer.

Samuel Cody

Somewhere along the line, he bestowed the title “Colonel” on himself and was treated as an officer. King George V addressed Cody as a “Colonel” during his visit to his Hampshire base, seemingly confirming the rank.

Colonel Sam was a friend, but not a relative of the famous “Buffalo Bill’’ Cody, but at the start of his career at the age of 12 he was already a cowboy on the San Antonio trail where he honed his skills with a lariat, bull-whip, six-shooter and a Bowie knife.

He came to England in charge of a herd of ponies and met and married the daughter of the man who had bought the animals.

It was not easy for a person used to the nomadic life to settle to suburban domesticity and soon Cody was off to seek his fortune in the Yukon gold fields.

Durham memories - Samuel Cody at Brandon in 1911. He stayed for breakfast at New Brancepeth.

Meeting with little success he joined a circus as “Colonel Cody, King of the Cowboys.’’ He soon earned enough money to return to England where his wife became his assistant in a sharpshooting act, holding in her mouth a cigarette which Cody shot away with unerring accuracy.

Cody came into money when a play he wrote about the Wild West became a major box-office draw touring the country for five years.

Now he had more opportunity to indulge his love of kite-flying. He built them bigger and better until finally he constructed one powerful enough to lift him into the air.

From here he turned to building prototype aircraft which he flew from Farnborough and from that simple beginning Colonel Cody went on to out-fly some of the best aviators around at the time.

Samuel Cody whatevere

Then on a fateful day in 1913 he entered a coastal circuit race, to begin at Calshot on Southampton Water, then on to Dover, Inverness, Oban, Dublin, Falmouth and back to Southampton.

Just before he was due to leave Farnborough for Southampton he offered to take WHB Evans, the Hampshire county cricket captain, for a brief ride. As the aircraft was coming into land it suddenly broke up in mid-air and both men were killed.

Cody was given a funeral worthy of a national hero and showman and even in death he managed to claim another place in the record book as being the first civilian to be buried in the military cemetery in Aldershot.

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