Tribute to grandfather whose photos capture life in the flying corps

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A CENTURY AGO Tony Dexter’s grandfather was at the centre of a revolution in warfare.

Sheffield-born Ernest Dexter was an organ builder whose skill with wood was put to use in the Royal Flying Corps where he was a mechanic on wooden warplanes before the birth of the Royal Air Force.

“He was a backroom boy with a vital role to play,” says his grandson, 67, who is semi-retired and lives in Addingham, near Ilkley.

Ernest Dexter was a skilled photographer and left behind 150 glass negatives, some depicting wartime images of aircraft.

Today his thoughts will turn to his grandfather, who survived the war, and the engineers who kept those early flying machines in the air.

“I have thought a lot about him and his skills. He served his country in a different way to those who were in the trenches. I knew him when he was in his eighties but he didn’t talk about the war.

“I did meet him often – he was a Sheffield United fan and so we went to games on a regular basis. I assume his carpentry skills were much in demand bearing in mind planes were made of wood, canvas and wire.”

Mr Dexter cherishes the photographs, along with his camera and a box of carpentry tools, each stamped with his name.

“I’ll be thinking about how my grandfather’s contribution to the war maintained our right to democracy and our right to vote.

“It is perhaps a sad reflection of our time that people do not, in my view, relate their right to vote – or generally perhaps not vote – to a group of people, many of who sacrificed their lives over 100 years ago.”