Balloon Channel Crossing

Balloon Channel Crossing

History was made at historic Rye on Saturday, 4 February, when a Hydrogen balloon, piloted by Malcolm Brighton of Farnham, Surrey, took off from the Salts—its destination was France. Four hours later the balloon with its five occupants made a successful landing at Berck-Plage, 10 miles south of Le Touquet on the French coast.

On arrival on French soil Malcolm Brighton was awarded the first Balloon Pilot’s Licence issued to a civilian in Britain for over thirty years. The other members of the party that undertook this exciting and adventurous trip were Wing-Commander Gerry Turnbull, the Board of Trade’s official examiner on the flight, his pretty 18 year old daughter Christine, Doddy Hay and his wife Jean— reporters of “The People” newspaper, sponsors of the trip. First news of the intended flight came to Rye three weeks before with the arrival at the Fishmarket of a lorry loaded with Hydrogen cylinders.

Balloon 2


Unfavourable winds delayed the flight until 4 February, but on that morning conditions were perfect, the balloon filling began before dawn and by 9.00 am. preparations were nearly complete. As word of the flight got around in Rye a big crowd of interested spectators slowly gathered and heeding the police loud-speaker message that the balloon was filled with a highly inflammable gas and that there should be no smoking within 50 feet of the balloon, kept at a respectful distance.

Wing-Commander Turnbull and Malcolm Brighton went over the flight plan and final checking out procedure. An amusing incident took place as Malcolm was showing Sergeant Crew of the Rye Police, their expected route on a large map, a loud voice from the crowd was heard “he’s asking a Policeman the way.


For Christine Turnbull this was her sixth flight, she hopes to take her balloon test within the next two months and become the fifth Britain to hold a current ballooning licence (Malcolm Brighton is now the 4th). Miss Turnbull was presented with two copies of Rye’s Own to give to the first French dignitary she met on arrival. At 10.00 am. all was ready for “lift off,” all five balloonists balloonists climbed into the balloon basket and began passing out the ballast.

Slowly the balloon left the ground and with pilot Malcolm Brighton tipping out sand it cleared the trees and caught the wind that carried it to France.


Rye is becoming a popular base for Cross-Channel balloonists, three years ago the first successful hot air balloon channel crossing was made from the Salts. Wing Commander Turnbull was the ‘Fox’ in the Balloon Race organised by The B.B.C. two years ago. A film “Balloon over England” was made of this event and has been shown on television twice.

Miss Christine Turnbull with copies of Rye’s Own she took on the flight. Christine will become the only British woman to hold a current Balloon licence if she is success­ful on her test flight in two months time