It seems likely that the Worcester Model Aero Club is the oldest model flying club in the world. It was formed in 1909; the same year that Louis Bleriot made his historic 40-minute flight across the channel from Baraques near Calais to Dover in his monoplane powered by a 25-hp engine.
According to the magazine ‘Aero Modeller’, a local Worcester man, Mr S Pollard, built his first non-flying model around 1908 and considered that this ‘showpiece’ was the starting point for the club a year later..
In 1912 the club members were photographed with their various models which were powered by rubber bands. A few seconds of flight was a great achievement. By 1913 they were building models which could fly for over 30 seconds. They also started to hold club meetings and their President was Earl Beauchamp.
World War II stopped them flying but once that was over the club got going again. Now the planes had engines but were flown attached to hand held wires. Radio controlled models did not arrive until later. The great leaps in aircraft design, which the war brought about, were now reflected in the scale models that the club members built.
In 1993, Worcester City Council made the club aware of their intention to extend the municipal golf course and gave them immediate notice to quit. The club obtained a stay of execution, during which time efforts were made to re-locate. Unfortunately, the Council were unable to offer a suitable alternative site. Despite appeals to local MP Peter Luff, who was unable to sway the Local Authority to allow the oldest model flying club in the world to stay on Perdiswell, on the 31 December 1995 Worcester Model Aero Club ceased flying in Worcester. Membership fell with the loss of Perdiswell from around 300 to 50, but the club managed to continue to exist, having used fields at Upton Snodsbury, Oddingley and Tibberton in the years since the eviction from Perdiswell.
We then got ourselves two flying sites, Hanbury and Rushwick, around the year 2000 and launched our first website to bring the club into the online world. Rushwick brought the club back into Worcester (albeit on the southern outskirts), and Hanbury expanded us to the Droitwich and Redditch area. Winter evening meetings, such as the AGM and social events which were once held in a Nissan hut on Perdiswell, are now held at the Barbourne Ex-Servicemen’s Club.
In 2009 we celebrated our 100th anniversary with a BBQ and a fly in of a massive amount of WMAC members and their families. We had a special cake made for our Centenary, and celebrated in the September of that year at Hanbury. In 2019 for our 110th anniversary we held a BBQ and a fun fly, again at Hanbury, inviting other local clubs to join us.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, and we had to halt all flying activities for months during lockdown for the first time since World War II. We were then allowed to have 6 people visit per site per time slot if we used NHS Test & Trace, before finally the restrictions being fully and permanently removed in 2022. We miraculously didn’t lose members in this period, with members remaining in the club even when they couldn’t use the facilities. Also in 2020, the club underwent an extreme IT modernisation to keep in with the times and to appeal to a younger audience in an aging membership. A new website launched with a booking system, along with social media channels which has attracted new members. The logo was also refreshed for it’s fourth iteration for a digital age. We went cashless with the purchase of a chip and PIN machine, and moved to online AGM voting. Now, our membership numbers are up to around 65-70; a number we feel is about right now. We also moved our meetings after the pandemic in 2022 from the Ex Serviceman’s Club to the Young People’s Leisure Centre in Perdiswell – on the land we used to fly on before 1995.
After over 20 years at both of our Hanbury and Rushwick sites, at the end of 2023 we had to leave our Hanbury site after many fantastic years with excellent landlords. The site was required for agricultural land, so we found another field nearby. This is now called Goosehill Green site, in reference to the name the farmer gave to the field prior to our arrival. We now fly here, and continue to use Rushwick after the site being improved during 2022 and 2023 with a new layout and improvement works being carried out.