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Name: TWIST, Thomas Kenyon (Capt.)

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Birth Date: 17 Jan 1895 Glasgow

Death Date: 3 May 1986 West Wickham, Kent

First Date: 1925

Profession: Coffee planter; aviation

Area: Kituamba, Kiambu

Married: In Ormskirk 1924 Elsie Hardiman b. 8 Feb 1891 Ormskirk, d. 1971 Southport

Children: Sylvia (Dawes) (15 Aug 1925 Ormskirk-1990 Sefton North); Jean (9 Feb 1931 Lancashire-2006 Sefton North)

Book Reference: Golf, Red 31, Hut, Bur, Kiambu Scrapbook, Aero, Foster, Air

General Information:

Bur - Kiambu - Cicely Wilding Twist - 14 Jan 1953 aged 63 ?
Kiambu Scrapbook - On the 28th November 1924 Captain Tony Gladstone AFC (ex RNAS) set out from London accompanied by Captain T.K. Twist, MC (ex RFC) on an adventurous safari from Cairo to Kisumu, arriving in Kenya in March 1925. They followed the Nile, as far as it was possible to do so with the object of surveying a route for a flying boat service (or sea plane as it was then called) from Khartoum to Lake Victoria with supply dumps spaced at the necessary distances. The proposal was to carry airmail from East Africa and the Sudan and gold from the Congo, eventually extending the service North and South to Cairo and the Cape. After taking part in this expedition which was to have such far reaching effects, Captain Twist bought a coffee farm in Kiambu and has lived on it ever since; and although he is extremely diffident about his own share in this pioneering work for civil aviation in Kenya, it is such an interesting piece of history and so little known that we feel it should be included in our Scrap Book.
Moreover, it was a Ruiru coffee planter, Mr Kenneth Archer, at that time Chairman of the Convention of Associations, who helped to press for the Scheme, as the following account will show, thus giving both districts an interest in it. The whole project was the brainchild of Captain Gladstone and he arranged to have interviews on the way with Lord Allenby in Cairo, Sir Geoffrey Archer, the Governor of the Sudan in Khartoum, Mr Sturrock the Acting Governor of Uganda in Entebbe, and Mr Denham, Acting Governor of Kenya in Nairobi, to try to persuade them to give their support and each country to put up £2,000. They had an eventful journey, partly by river steamer and partly by bicycle, the section from Rejaf-Nimule (100 miles) was covered on two second-hand bicycles bought in Khartoum; these were always breaking down and were eventually laft in the ditch and this section completed on foot.
Captain Gladstone was plagued by ill-health throughout this safari and had to spend several weeks in hospital in Kampala. They received very little encouragement for the scheme until Kenya was reached, in fact Sir Geoffrey Archer in the Sudan told them to pack up their kit and return to England, adding that he was more interested in building roads. In spite of this discouragement they decided to carry on and it wasn't until they reached Kenya that the outlook began to improve, though even here it was a hard struggle to persuade the Government of the day that the scheme was worth sponsoring, and had it not been for the strong support of the unofficial element in Kenya, Lord Delamere in particular, nothing would have been done. However, as a result of this support, in October 1925 a sum of £2,000 was voted by the Kenya Legislative Council to test the possibilities of the eventual establishment of air communication between Khartoum and Kisumu.
Captain Twist's own summary of the result of the expedition is as follows:- "I always understood from Tony (Captain Gladstone) that had not Lord Delamere been a really strong man the scheme would never have gone through in Kenya - it was to a very large extent thanks to him that it did go through ably assisted by Kenneth Archer, the Chairman of the Convention of Associations, and also by the Chamber of Commerce. These men had more foresight, vision and imagination than all the "Big Noises" we had had talks with from Cairo to Nairobi. We had received no definite support the whole way until we met Lord Delamere, in fact we definitely had discouragement from the Governor of the Sudan (Sir Geoffrey Archer) and the Acting Governor of Uganda (Mr Sturrock). Lord Allenby in Egypt certainly didn't discourage us, on the other hand one could hardly say he offered much encouragement. Mr Denham, the Acting Governor of Kenya, was lukewarm ….
And I am sure if there had been no Lord Delamere to push him on, nothing would have come of Tony's Scheme, not only in Kenya but also in Uganda and the Sudan". Captain Gladstone then in November 1926 brought out a seaplane fitted up by the Blackburn Aeroplane Company with a Jupiter Engine which he named the "PELICAN", but unfortunately it hit a submerged object in the Nile at Khartoum and was so badly damaged that it had to be sent to the Greek Naval Aircraft Factory in Athens which was being run by the Blackburn Aeroplane Company and had to be rebuilt. The Air Ministry in London now came to his rescue and lent him a Fairey Seaplane; in this machine he made a number of return flights between Kisumu and Khartoum but once again he met with bad luck - when taking off at Kisumu the pilot (not Captain Gladstone) not being accustomed to taking off from fresh water at several thousand feet altitude, crashed.
In this connection there is a good story that when Gladstone saw the plane crash, fearing that the pilot might be attacked by crocodiles, rushed for his rifle but was unable to get hold of it; later on when he was leaving by train for Nairobi the Stationmaster is reported to have said to him. "It was a damned good thing for that pilot of your's that you couldn't find your rifle - he would have been a gonner if you had!" He thought Gladstone was so angry at having another machine crashed that he was going to have a shot at the pilot! He had never thought of the crocodiles - a good story, true or not true. This was in March 1927, but this time he had proved that the scheme was a feasible proposition. A year later in February 1928 fresh proposals were made by the Blackburn Aeroplane Company and Sir Alan Cobham's Aviation Company Limited, to the three East African and Sudan Governments and subsequently the interests of this new Cobham-Blackburn Company were acquired by Imperial Airways Limited, who saw the great possibilities of Gladstone's Scheme and before long they started a Flying Boat Service between Cairo and Kisumu; later on Lake Naivasha with its calm water took the place of Kisumu.
Not long after this the flying boats were discarded in favour of land planes, and thus began the Air Services between the UK, Europe and Africa which have grown to what they are today - Imperial Airways now being known today as BOAC.
Captain Gladstone was recognised as the real pioneer of Civil Aviation in East Africa; when he arrived in March 1925 there were no aircraft or landing grounds whatsoever. He was the first man to bring an aeroplane to this part of the world though in the First World War the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) flew up the Rufiji River in Tanganyika to spot for the shelling of the German Cruiser Konigsberg. It was a tragedy he was killed in a flying accident in South Africa together with Lt. Cdr. Glen Kidston in May 1931 and so never saw the results of all his pioneering work, and it is a sad reflection that there is still, more than forty years later, no memorial to his name in Kenya. Attempts were made to have his photograph and a plaque suitably inscribed hung in the Nairobi Airport but this was not met with favour and so today Gladstone's name is almost forgotten except by the few who knew him personally in those far-off days.
Aero - When Kenya Led the Way - Tony Gladstone - ……On his first 'survey' of the Nile, Gladstone was accompanied by Captain T.K. Twist, now in his 82nd year [1977], and only very recently retired to the UK after over 50 years in Kenya. …………….. Tom Twist was with the BEF in France with the 14th Durham Light Infantry in the First World War, then in the Royal Flying Corps first as an observer and later as a pilot. He was taught to fly by Raymond-Barker, his Flight Commander in France. They had flown a lot together. Raymond-Barker's name went down in history as the 79th victim of the famous German Air Ace, Manfred von Richthofen "The Red Knight of Germany" whose 80th and last victim, unlike Raymond-Barker, survived to tell the tale and was taken prisoner-of-war.
From April 1918 to February 1919, Twist was a Flying Instructor at Catterick, in Yorkshire. Restless, like so many of the First World War's flying men whose lives had been keyed to action, both men found life in depressed, post-war England something of an anti-climax. Twist had four and a half years in the Argentine, but was back in the UK in November 1923, and at the end of 1924 was about to set off and try his luck at citrus growing in the Transvaal. Meeting up with Gladstone again ………. he advised Twist that he was interested in the tremendous possibilities of a Khartoum/Kisumu air link in Africa. He had been promised backing from the North Sea Aerial Transport Company if his project should prove feasible. The Air Ministry also wanted assurance that no obstacles would be put up by the Governments along the route if an air-service were inaugurated. Gladstone counter-offered that Twist should join him on the Nile survey, if only as a means of crossing Africa. The two men decided to join forces, each paying his own expenses. Gladstone's hope was, through personal negotiation, to get support to the tune of £2,000 each from the Sudan, Uganda and Kenya Governments for the start of the Khartoum/Kisumu air service, the initial costs of which would be around £9,000. ……….
When Gladstone and Twist left England, they agreed that if the sea-plane route project went through, Twist would join Gladstone in the air scheme. But when they reached Nairobi, and it looked as if it would be at least another two years before there would be any job at all, Twist went into coffee planting at Kiambu, in which he remained for half a century. He also tried his hand at gold prospecting at Kakamega and Lolgorien. For many years he was interested in the oil potential of both Uganda and Kenya even to the extent of endeavouring to interest the famous diviner Miss Evelyn Penrose in an exploration scheme ……. Serious ill health and advancing years was all that inhibited her from joining in the search for oil in Kenya. Yet the coffee itself gave Twist what he describes as "50 years of a grand outdoor life." "In 1934," he says, "we got only £34 per ton for our coffee, and how coffee planters managed to survive, I just don't know. Last year (1976) the top price has been £1,600 per ton, and now I believe the average price is just under £1,500. The first coffee I sold on the London market fetched £150 - a record price for that sale.
Foster - 1946 Church Warden, St Paul's Church, Kiambu
Gazette 6 Dec 1938 Kiambu Voters List with Miss Cicely Wilding Twist
Men's Champion Kiambu GC 1928, 1931. Played in the EA Amateur Golf Championship in 1931.
?Cicely Wilding Twist d. Nairobi 14 Jan 1953 (Gazette 29 Dec 53 for probate)
1939 England and Wales Register living in Southport with wife, as 'centre lathe metal turner'

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