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GEORGE E. ROCHESTER
Most popular air adventures author in the 1930s
Page updated 17th January, 2015.
Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia.
Additional input supplied by Jim Mackenzie, Steve Holland, Robert Crewdson,
David Ainsworth, Kim Miles, Hugh Shipman and Nick Lockie. Thank you, all!.
See Jim's page at http://www.philian.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/

George.E.Rochester Facebook page NEW!

SF Encyclopaedia GER page

Bibliography

Despot of the World

The Scarlet Squadron

Porson's Flying Service

Timeline

Additional information

Illustration of the wartime author,
(c) Bob Whiter. (Originally
published in Golden Years.)

Bibliography

Including:
Adventures at Greystones, 1936
The Air Ranger, 1936
The Air Trail, 1936
The Black Bat rides the Sky, 1948
The Black Flag, nd
The Black Hawk, 1936
Originally published in the Boys Friend Library (BFL) #237 (1.5.30) - Kim
The Black Mole, 1936
The Black Octopus, 1954
The Black Pirate, 1934
The Black Squadron, 1935
The Black Wing, 1951
Brood of the Vulture, 1936
Originally published in BFL #282 ( 2.4.31) as The Air - Kim
The Bulldog Breed, 1936
Buzzards Roost, 1955
Captain Robin Hood, Skywayman, 1935
Christine, Air Hostess (as Mary Weston)
Dead Man's Gold, 1936
Derelict of the Air, 1937
Despot of the World, 1936
Drums of War, 1957
Fledgling Wings, 1952
The Flying Beetle, 1935
The Flying Cowboys, 1936
The Flying Fool, nd
The Flying shark, 1947
The Flying Spy, 1935
The Freak of St Freda's, 1936
Grey Shadow - Master Spy, 1936
The Greystones Mystery, 1950
Haunted Hangars, 1950
The Haunted Man, 1951 (as Jeffrey Gaunt)
Jackals of the Clouds, 1936
The Lair of the Vampire, 1948
The Moth Men, 1950
The Mystery of the Flying V Ranch, 1936
The Night Hawks, nd
North Sea Patrol, 1938
Phantom Wings, 1947
Pirates of the Air, 1936
Porson's Flying Service, 1936
The Return of Grey Shadow, 1949
The Scarlet Squadron, 1938
Scotty of the Secret Squadron, 1937
Scourge of the Skies, 1948
Secret Pilot, 1954
The Secret Squadron in Germany, 1938
The Shadow of the Guillotine, 1936
The Sky Bandits, 1938
Sky Pirates of Lost Island, 1937
Sons of the Legion, 1948
The S.O.S. Squadron (as Hamilton Smith)
Sprig Dawson: Pilot, 1952
The Squadron without a Number, 1937
Tiger Hawk, 1949
The Trail of Death, 1936
Traitor's Rock, 1933
Vultures of Death, 1937
The Vultures of Desolate Island, 1938
White wings and Blue Water, 1952
Wings of Doom, 1936
Wings of the Night, 1948
The Worst Squadron in France, 1949

Short stories in the following books
Ace High, 1938
Air Adventures, 1938
Air Stories, 1938
Flying Adventures, 1936
Flying Stories, 1936
Flying Thrills, 1936
Out of the Blue, 1938

Story papers and comics
A Busman's Holiday (Tales of the Air / Master Thriller #14, Sep 1936)
Desert Island Champion (Boys' Fun, Nov/Dec 1954)

Serial stories in KNOCKOUT
Here Comes a Sailor appeared in 367-386
Jack, Jill & Jollikins appeared in 387-422 + 431-449

Pocket libraries (Note I've not yet included full details of 2 of the above; have to find the original scans.)
The Black Raiders, BFL No. 291 (new series), 4.6.31
The Black Squadron, BFL No. 322 (new series), 4.2.32
The Trail of the Flying Bomb (with Edward Holmes as George E. Holmes, Bullseye Library 701, 1940)
Spies of the Western Front BFL No.
Buckaroo Outlaw, BFL No.
The Flying Cowboys, BFL No. 437 (new series), 5.7.34.
Porson's 10 Plane, BFL No, 260 (new series), 2.10.30

   

It's also said that Rochester was the author behind the pen-names John Beresford and George E. Holmes, so these need to be added to the list. See ADDITIONAL INFORMATION at the end of the page.

Ending it all.
The Despot of the World
Reviewed by Jim Mackenzie

[To the right you see issue number 16 of 'The Boy's Wonder Library', no.16, dated 17th February, 1933. This miniature pocket library measured a mere 11 x 16 cm and ran to 64pp plus cover.]

Who could fail to be moved ? The prologue to “The Despot of the World” is no tame introduction to the characters, the places and the events that are about to unfold in the pages that follow. The opening words combine that note of melancholy and wonder that Browning captured in “Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower Came” and that Coleridge used to grip us in “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”.

“Day is almost done, and shades of the coming night are creeping in across the restless sea to swathe in grey shadow the silent dunes of sand. As I sit here by my window I see again in the deepening dusk that strange fantastic company of Castle Grim.”

Is it a group of medieval knights setting off on some sinister but compelling quest ?

“They pass before me, a phantom host, but I can name them all: the cruel and merciless Zanderberg, warped of mind and body, yet brilliant of wit; the gentle Guillaume, scarred by the knout, crippled by the fetters, yet with the hint of gallant laughter in his weary eyes; the brutal Borstorge.”

As the narrator drifts into this dream of the past, he takes the reader with him until all the thoughts of the sad storyteller begin to group around his own “familiar friend” and a quest that was “the most perilous and most tragic of them all.”

And so a giant shadow already hangs over this story of the flying adventurer, Harry Davies, the Flying Beetle. The reader knows that, whatever difficulties are overcome and whatever triumphs are achieved, death awaits the hero. The book’s success lies in its tone – an impenetrable sadness that pervades it from the first. And, at the end, is also a turn of the plot that I dare not give away – a sacrifice that is both wonderfully upsetting and tragically uplifting.

Beverley, the storyteller, has enough horrific adventures of his own to make the reader forget for a while that is the destiny of the Flying Beetle that should be the centre of our concerns. The story opens in Alnmouth in Northumberland (Rochester’s own birth-place) where the message comes to Major Beverley from a ship’s captain who has docked in Amble . He has walked the six miles in a gale of wind and driving rain merely to deliver his urgent message. I have walked the very road he must have struggled along. I have seen the breakers smash up the beach in a storm. I have seen a lonely house that could have been Berverley’s own dwelling. It’s all clear to me.

To Danzig and then to Zilsen is the first lap of our narrator’s pilgrimage to Castle Grim, the particular dark tower of this story. In Zilsen Beverley is forced to wait for the Beetle’s message. It is a staging post in the journey and Rochester suddenly leaves his story behind for a while and takes us on a walk towards a place called Pillau. There he describes “an encampment of long, black huts.”

Beverley inquires of an old bearded man what place it was. It was the “lonely camp to which British officers and men had been sent when the tide of war was turning against Germany on the western front.” A footnote reveals that Rochester was a prisoner-of-war in this particular camp and he gives a chilling reminder of what it was really like “And here had been spent the long weary days, the endless shivering nights, until release had come.” It is clear that autobiography has escaped into fiction.

True, this episode does not develop the action of the story one jot but it does achieve something else. Its genuine feelings counter some of the more artificial aspects of his characterisation of a stereotypical bad German. It also introduces that prevailing environment of bleakness, chill and deadly cold that underline the misery and suffering that is to come.

Flying adventures in the form of aerial combats are here in two strong doses. A journey to the heart of Siberia involves encounters with the Soviet Air Force. Journeys in open cockpits have you shivering and shaking in instinctive sympathy as Beverley ploughs on over frozen rivers, jagged mountains and endless prairies of snow. That hardy annual of boys’ stories - the attack of the starving wolves from out of the forest is given a new twist.

Later a full-scale battle between squadrons of Red Communist fighters and the pirate squadron leaves you uncertain about which side you want to win. Beverley finds a comradeship with the very men that he is meant to be defeating and a champion in the man who earlier he believed wanted to kill him.

Yet all of this is just a prelude to the climax where the only man who can wreck the Flying Beetle’s plans is Beverley himself!

The story holds you to the end – in spite of the exaggerated characters and the “world-domination” plot. You are left with the tragedy of Harry Davies, “one whose gallant soul has gone to meet the greatest Dawn of all.” It was inevitable perhaps that even as Rochester called out like Browning’s Knight Roland that all was “Lost, lost !” the first clamours came in to bring the Beetle back to life.

But that’s another story.

The Scarlet Squadron
(Published by The Ace Publishing Company, London.) Reviewed by your editor.
This is said to be GER's best story. I can well believe the statement as I found it as good as any Biggles tale. The story concerns Major Beverley, an agent sent in search of fellow British Secret Service agent Harry Davies, 'The Flying Beetle' who has disappeared in the region of the Gobi Desert. GER wastes no time in moving his hero across the world; it's done in a few sentences. Davies had been despatched to China to investigate reports of a foreign power stirring up the locals to act against the Empire. This may read a touch too dramatic for the story itself is told in a matter of fact style for the greater part. There is little dated slang and events move along nicely with plenty of often underplayed action. One memorable event is an interrogation which GER points out was based on his own experience during the Great War. There isn't as much aerial action as one would expect which is a pity. These scenes are so beautifully written that you will feel as though you are up there in the Blue. A timeless story which should appeal to anyone who can find a copy.


Porson’s Flying Service
(Published by the Popular Library, London.) Reviewed by Jim Mackenzine.

This 1935 book seems to catch the essence of an even earlier age. It is essentially a collection of short stories strung together around the concept of a young man determined to make his way in the world and eventually found his own airline. The odds against him seem formidable – he has started his great enterprise with just a Maurice Farman biplane.

“Remember it had been built in the dark ages of flying, but by a great pioneer. It was a cumbersome-looking machine, yet its bamboo framework body gave to it a certain air of frailty. It was practically a glider, fitted with a 35 horse-power Green engine driven by a pusher propeller.”

It cost George Porson just 10. This price would seem to indicate that this book is a re-working or even a reprinting of “Porson’s 10 Plane” that was published in 1930.

George’s father is off big-game hunting in Africa but his Aunt Elizabeth is there to ensure that the seventeen year old doesn’t waste his time on an impossible venture. She has arranged for him to join a bank run by Messrs. Grubbins and Grime (That sounds a promising career !) and, peering at him severely through her lorgnette, tries to make him bow to her will. He will not get a penny from her when his business goes bust.

“’I shall not fail !’ replied Porson, with sublime confidence.” His first attempt to win some money to keep going occurs at Tuttleberry-cum-Hacklehurst when he enters a competition run by the local flying club. Up against a “frightfully posh sort of crowd”, who fly up to date Avro Avians and Blackburn Bluebirds, he succeeds in winning the game of flying golf by dropping his sand-bomb within a yard of the target. His slow flying machine actually gave him an advantage. One of the snobby “toffs” had called him a “flying pauper” but has to pay off a bet he made by becoming Porson’s mechanic and helper for a week.

The adventures that follow are suitably diverse and include catching a country-house thief who uses a balloon as a means of getaway, chasing a runaway tiger with a mad aristocrat on board, catching poachers, and making sure that a prize hen gets safely to a poultry show !

Porson’s companions include his little dog, Bill, who always jumps on board the Farman just before take-off. He is also on good terms with Gaffer, a local member of the working classes, who proves to be the “salt of the earth”.

Amongst the most amusing incidents is the one concerning the test parachute where it appears one of George’s fattish passengers is hell-bent on suicide. At the other extreme Rochester suddenly achieves a remarkable change of tone in the chapter “Taking it out of Cuthbert” where Cuthbert Crawford-Carter who had sneered at WW1 pilots is suddenly confronted by his own failure to fly the Farman properly. George’s friend, Woolerton, then tackles Cuthbert with an even more unpleasant accusation:

“Did you know, you beast, with your sneering talk of the old War pilots, that Porson’s brother was a War pilot – that he died in France ? And did you know how he died ?”

It turns out that that Porson’s elder brother had stuck with a riddled and blazing machine in order to save his observer who was wounded in the rear cockpit. And the name of the observer who survived was that of Cuthbert’s own brother. Woolerton finishes with, “And Porson never told you – although he knew.”

Elsewhere in the stories there are accounts of snobs and toffs getting their come-uppance, though some of George’s friends also prove to be first-class chaps even though they have titles. At times it is rather like P.G.Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster had bought an aeroplane and the entire Drones Club had taken up
flying.

However, there are also plenty of flying sequences with the Farman constantly on the brink of disaster and some very good birds-eye view descriptions of countryside. There are also four illustrations by Stanley Orton Bradshaw. Each one is black and white and the best is the frontispiece which shows the Maurice Farman in a steep dive just above the metals of a railway line with a train thundering towards the point of impact. To find out what happens you must read the book.

It must be admitted that the plotting and characterisation are superficial but the aeroplane details and the liveliness of the writing give the promise of something better to come.

G.E.R. Timeline
Here's a concise timeline for GER, gleaned from a lengthy article in the December 1972 issue of Antique Book Monthly. There is a good article in THIS ENGLAND but I've missing the issue date. This was penned by the authority on GER, Bob Whiter, of the London OB Book Club, now residing in Los Angeles. Further updated information has kindly been supplied by
Robert. Thanks, Robert.

17 Dec 1898 - Born Alnmouth, Northumbria, UK, to George Rochester and Christina Jane Robinson.
29 Jan 1918
- Enlisted as a Cadet, Royal Flying Corps.
18 May 1918 - Granted a Commission as Temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, 18th May, 1918. (Service number 10901). Later: Posted to 97 Squadron: observer, rank of Flight Lieutenant, 12 shillings a day plus flying pay of 8 shillings a day. 7 pounds a week, quite a tidy sum back then.
3 Aug 1918
- 97 moved to Xaffervillers, France.
18 Aug 1918 - George's Handley Page 0/400 was shot down by anti-aircraft guns, 13 ks behind the German lines. Number 97 squadron lost 2 planes on this night; all 4 airmen were captured and made prisoners of war. George was interned in various camps, the seventh being Landshut, Bavaria. Where W E Johns was interned.
15 Apr 1919
- Transferred to the unemployed list.
31 Aug 1921 - Relinquished Commission and permitted to retain the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
1924 - Married at Morpeth, Northumberland, to Dorcas Shotton. Dorcas was born in 1903.

1925?
Wrote a short WW1 tale, THE FUNK, and sent it off to the BOP (Boy's Own Paper). Editor G R Polklington published it early in 1926 and requested a full-length story. THE FLYING BEETLE used the same character as THE FUNK: Harry Davies.
1926
- George began writing for D C Thompson's VANGUARD but the stories were published anonymously. All records have since been destroyed.
1927-8
- George started work on THE SCARLET SQUADRON. This opened vol.50 of the BOP. He was voted the Most Popular Contributor to the BOP by the proverbial mile.
1928
- George began writing for THE POPULAR and NELSON LEE and of course CHUMS. THE MODERN BOY from issue 12 became George's 'home' until the very end of that famous paper.
1928-9
- THE VULTURES OF DESOLATE ISLAND opened vol.51 of BOP. George also began writing for THE MAGNET in 1929, anonymously at first. These stories would reappear, sometimes abridged, in BOY'S FRIEND LIBRARY.
1929
- Moved to Broadstairs, Kent, UK, home of John Buchan and, somewhat earlier, Charles Dickens. His home, 'Jutland' was in Lindenthorpe Road. After a year he moved to 58 St George's Rd.
1929-30
- THE DESPOT OF THE WORLD opened vol.52 of the BOP. He tried to write Harry Davies off but like Sherlock Holmes, public opinion would eventually see this hero reappear.
1930s
- Wrote for RANGER, PILOT, THE GEM, ADVENTURE, WIZARD, etc. Four years after Harry Davies' apparent death, THE RETURN OF THE FLYING BEETLE brought him back. BOP vol.56. This never appeared in book form - in Britain, at least.
1932
- Daughter Anne born.
1933 - First hardback novel, TRAITOR'S ROCK published by Eldon Press. The Times Lit. Sup of June 29: "The story of the war is original in both plot and setting; also, it is written with literary ability."
1934
- Began writing SEXTON BLAKE stories under the pseudonym of Jeffrey Gaunt for DETECTIVE WEEKLY.
1935
- Came to the attention of John Hamilton, who published 16 titles of his in 1936. It was announced that he was the most popular writer of flying stories.
July 1936
- THE BULLDOG BREED was semi-autobiographical, the hero, Eric Milvain being a member of 97 Squadron. THE SHADOW OF THE GUILLOTINE was George's one historical novel.
1939
- Back in uniform in the RAF Regiment for airfield defence. He was still writing for DETECTVE WEEKLY but the blitz destroyed his own collection of this paper.
22 May 1941
- Re-enlisted as 1500878 Aircraftman 2nd Class Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve.
1941 - John Hamilton's offices were destroyed in a bombing raid, finishing that publisher forever.
9 Oct 1941
- Discharged on appointment to Commission.
10 Oct 1941 - Granted an Emergency Commission as Acting Pilot Officer on probation in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch, Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve.
10 Dec 1941 - Graded as Pilot Officer on probation.
1 Aug 1942 - Acting Flight Lieutenant.
1 Oct 1942 - War Substansive Flying Officer on probation. Confirmed in appointment on same day.
15 Mar 1944 - Relinquished Commission in Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve on account of ill-health, and permitted to retain rank of Flight Lieutenant.
1946 - Demobbed and moved to 27 Berkely Drive, West Molesey, Surrey, UK. Signed a 5-book contract with Lutterworth Press. PHANTOM WINGS appeared in the BOP and in book form in 1947.
1947
- Signed with Lutterworth for another book and one per year option. THE FLYING SHARK was published in Norway as well as the local 10,026 first, and a first reprint run. George's three 1948 books came from Charles Daniels of Bovey Tracey. Daniels had been an editor of WINGS. The same year he signed another 5-book contract, this time with Hutchinson. These were, however, for girls and were written under the name of Mary Weston. Only one title, CHRISTINE-AIR HOSTESS, appeared, probably as very few copies were sold. This is his scarcest book. His only other girls' book, WHITE WINGS AND BLUE WATER, from Warne, 1952, fared much better. A Canadian edition was published by S J R Saunders of Toronto.
1951
- Eldon Press published THE HAUNTED MAN, ex-DW as Jeffrey Gaunt.
1952
- Lutterworth published SPRIG DAWSON-PILOT, and did not take up their option. This was their last GER book.
1953
- George wrote two stories for WESTERN LIBRARY MONTHLY.
1954
- Epworth published SECRET PILOT, a sequel to BLACK WING, 1951.
1950s
- He wrote for DANDY, BEANO, COMET and SUN but refused commissions to write for comic strips.
1952
- George Rochester's wife, Dorcas, died in 1952 at Canterbury, Kent, aged 49.
1955 - Sadly, George was discovered living in poor circumstances in a basement flat behind Victoria Station.
1950s
- He continued to write as Elizabeth Kent, Hester Roche and Allison Frazer for women's publications such as MIRACLE.
1957
- Warne published his last known book, DRUMS OF WAR, set at the end of the American Civil War.
1962
- George suffered a stroke which left him partly paralysed. After his stroke he went to live with his daughter Christina, in Georga, USA. He was never settled there, and was brought back to England and placed in a nursing home for officers of World War 1, where he met his old Captain..
23 March 1966
- George Ernest Rochester died of a stroke, aged 68, having returned to Portsmouth Rd, Putney, UK with his daughter. Even the local paper ignored his death.

Additional Information kindly supplied by Robert.
Note from your page editor. The following hasn't been put into any type of clear order yet, as it seemed more important to list it immediately for further discussion and investigation.

A letter from Bill Lofts dated 6th May,1988, says....."I imagined he (Rochester) moved around a lot to dodge creditors, and from what I gather owed money everywhere and was possibly bancrupt. I do know that he probably only got a few pounds a week from his writings, as most was seized by liquidator. He had fled from Broadstairs, and I was really most fortunate in ever contacting him"

A letter from Bill Bradford of 3rd February,1995, says...."Bill Lofts told me Rochester was living in poverty stricken conditions. I tackled, discreetly, Christina when she came here, but she denied this and just said he just did not bother after his wife died. Her sister, who came a year later indicated that he loved gambling and had heavy drinking sessions when funds were available"

On a different note. According to his daughter Christina Whitehead, he wrote straight onto a typewriter and if he made a mistake, he would retype the whole thing. At one time he had two secretaries, one of these was the sister-in-law of the British band leader Harry Roy. Christina also says that his comic strip Mickey Pal the Wizard, which ran in the Knockout, put her and her sister through school.

That is all I have on George Rochester; now for some items not recorded by Bill Bradford.

Boy's Own Paper vol 69. 1946-47. Serialisation of Phantom Wings. A Flying Beetle story.
Boys Wonder Library.
No.1. The Squadron of Death.
No.16. The Despot of the World. (a Flying Beetle story).
No.24. The Air Patrol.
No.25. The Vultures of Desolate Island (a Flying Beetle Story).
No.26. The Shadow of the Guillotine (as Frank Chaltam)

Chums volume 37.
issue 1875. The Abbot of Scrale. (as Frank Chaltam)
issue 1876. The House of Shadows. (as Barton Furze)
issue 1876 Keepers of the Convents. (as Frank Chaltam)
issue 1878. Derelicts of the Air. (as Frank Chaltam)
issue 1881. Gallows Inn (as Frank Chaltam)

The Thriller.
The Drifter. Serial in issues 485-488. 1938.

Every Boy's Annual. Published by Juvenile Productions. Circa 1950.
Contains 'That Cad Cardew' by G.E.R.
As above circa 1951. Contains 'Hobson's Hobby' by G.E.R.

Rochester also wrote in the Sun comic. I have one issue. I know they have been indexed, is this is available on the Net.

A poem by Rochester entitled 'The Breed of the Lion' appears in Modern Boy, issue 12, dated April 28th, 1928.

I have searched vols 1-5 of Popular Flying in the hope of finding something by Rochester, but so far no luck. The long running series Thrilling Flights continued after Johns published his book of the same title.

Modern Boy was incorporated into Boys Cinema; did Rochester's stories carry over into this paper?.

Aero Digest From: danny@ynnad66.freeserve.co.uk (David)
I have seen a cutout article from a US magazine called Aero Digest. Volume 42, no. 4 dated April 1943 pages 212 and 265 has an article "British propeller development" by Flight Lieutenant George E Rochester.

Steve's Story Paper Index

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