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British Industrial History

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William Francis Forbes-Sempill

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William Francis Forbes-Sempill, 19th Baron Sempill, 10th Baronet Forbes of Craigievar (24th September 1893 – 30th December 1965) was a British engineer. Before succeeding his father to the titles of Lord Sempill and Baronet Forbes in 1934, he was known by his courtesy title, Master of Sempill.

Forbes-Sempill was involved in the aircraft industry from its early days, both as a flyer and as an engineer. During World War I, he enrolled in the Royal Flying Corps; by the end of the war he held the rank of colonel.

He became a test pilot and transferred into the Royal Naval Air Service.

In 1921 he led a British deputation to Japan, to assist the Japanese navy in setting up its new air base.

1922 The Master of Sempill, b. 1893, Aberdeenshire. Ed. Eton. Trained as Engr. Experience with Eng. firms. Career: August, 1914—Joined R.F.C., Farnborough. Sept. 1914—Central Flying Sch., Upavon; Asst. Flight Instructor; Chief Tech. Officer-in-Charge of Workshops and Experiments. Feb., 1915—Flight-Commander. Jan., 1916—Capt. and Flight-Commander, R.N.A.S.; in charge of Workshops at Cranwell. Jan., 1917—Squadron Commander; in charge of Tech. Section of the R.N.A.S. at Admiralty Air Dept. and Air Board. Jan., 1918—Wing-Commander. April, 1918—Lt.-Col. R.A.F.; promoted to Col.; in charge of The Tech. Directorate of the R.A.F. June-July, 1918—Special Tech. Aviation Mission to U.S.A. (Report published); Asst. Controller, Tech. Dept., Aircraft Production Dept., M.M. Retired from R.A.F., 1919. Representative of the Air Ministry on the Aeronautical Research Cttee., Advisory Council of the Dept. of Scientific and Industrial Research, Civil Aerial Transport Cttee., B.E.S.C., Timber Cttee. of the Conjoint Bd. of Sc. Socs.; Member of Council, R.Ae.S., F.R.Met.S., F.R.S.A., M. J.Inst.E., M.Soc.Psyc. Research, M. Design and Industries Assoc., M. Derby Soc. E. Decorations: Air Force Cross; Officer of the Royal Order of the Crown of Italy; Officially thanked by Govts., France, U.S.A., Norway, for services rendered in connection with aviation.

Flew a glider to Stockholm

Crashed in the jungle while attempting to fly to Australia

1926. Flew a De Havilland Moth to Dublin to prove a light aircraft could survive in heavy weather.

In 1936 he flew a British Aircraft Co Drone - essentially an early ultralight - from Croydon Airport to Berlin and back in 11 hours.

During World War II he served in the Fleet Air Arm.

Lord Sempill was a leading figure in the Royal Aeronautical Society, of which he was president, and advised overseas governments, including that of Australia, on the creation of their air forces.

In 1956 the Swedish government awarded him the Order of the Polar Star. At various times he was president of the British Gliding Association and of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

On his death, his titles were split; his daughter Ann inherited the barony, as this title was able to be passed down the female line, but the baronetcy passed to his younger brother, Ewan.


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