Air Commodore Edward Maitland Maitland CMG, DSO, AFC

The double Maitland in Edwards name  is easily explained in that he was born as Edward Maitland Gee with Maitland as a family name which was acquired by several members of his family.

Edward was born on 21 February 1880 at Westminster although the family were living at Shelford, Cambridgeshire as the child of Barrister, Albert and Margaretta Gee.

By 1891 the family had moved in with their grandparents at Great Chesterford, Essex.

He was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College which was a public school with connections to the East India Company and has a tradition of boys joining foreign service as soldiers or diplomats.

He then attended Trinity College, Cambridge where he interrupted his studies in 1900 to take a commission as Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Essex Regiment. It seems very likely that this decision was brought about by the onset of the Boer Way.

Edward joined his Regiment in South Africa and in 1901 and 1902 took part in their campaign on the Orange River. He obviously performed well as in June 1902 he was promoted to Lieutenant. The service was not very exciting as the Regiment occupied about 20 miles of the blockhouse line, of barbed wire and blockhouses,  between Frankfort and Vrede. Monotony was enlivened by periods of excitement when the Boers made an attack. This duty did give him and early chance of independent command well away from more senior officers.

He briefly returned to University where he took his final exams to gain his degree before continuing with his career as an army officer.

On16 October 1902 the 2nd Essex returned to the barracks at Warley after a 20 year stint in foreign service.

In 1903 his wealthy grandmother died. In the same year the family including Edward changed their name from Gee to Maitland. Whether this was fro reasons of inheritance or grief is not clear.

This coincided with a transfer from the 2nd Essex to the 3rd Essex Reserve who were also based at Warley.

Edward developed in interest in flying especially that of hot air balloons and he soon earned a reputation and a aeronaut and was a familiar sight flying from Warley.

He first came to national notice in 1908 when he was part of a group which established a world record length flight of over 1,100 miles in 36 hours.

By 1909 he had purchased his own 35,000 ft balloon which he named au revoir and used storage facilities at Warley.

Edward entertained several ladies to flights in the balloon and while most had happy landings at Hempstead Heath some landed in trees and in 1910 his balloon landed on a house in Islington, damaging the roof and chimney pot before making a safe landing in the garden. Fortunately neither Maitland or his passenger Lady Gibbons was hurt.

He also bough a plane which he flew in several raced before crashing an breaking both ankles which kept him on the grounds for a very short period!

By the end of 1910 Maitland was experimenting with the use of balloons in warfare , perfecting methods of carrying loads, dropping dummy bombs, photographic reconnaissance and flying low enough to converse with men on the ground.

A new larger balloon called Pompadour was in use  by 1911 and the flight continued as did the bumpy landings which included a night in the gandalier stuck on several trees. Maitalnd now began investigation the use of radio to contact planes and balloons from the ground.

Maitland was then seconded to the new Balloon division of the Royal Engineers which quickly became the No 1 Squadron of RFC , then the airships moved to the RNAS  and in 1918 to the RAF where he was made a Brigadier General and eventually Air Commodore.

Maitland continued to innovate and in 1913 made one of the first descents by parachute. He championed work on parachutes and usually tested new designs personally. he is one of the men most responsible for the decision to fit RAF planes with parachutes

In 1919 he once again come to the fore in the National press when he made a double journey across the Atlantic in the R34 Airship and published his diary as a book which became a bestseller and received the AFC.

On 21 August 1921 he was flying on the R38 Airship over the River Humber when it broke up in the air killing most of the crew including Air Commodore Maitland,

The inquest concluded that Air Commodore Maitland had been at the controls of the airship in its last moments operating the water ballast controls in an attempt to minimise the impact. The coroner remarked that the last efforts of this experienced and gallant officer was directed to doping what he could to save the vessel and the crew.