Sir Francis Chichester

Essay by chitters June 2004

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Francis Charles Chichester was born on the 17th September 1901in Shirwell, the son of a Devon rector. He had a bleak and lonely childhood he once said that his father was rather a tormented man, who seemed to be disapproving of everything Francis did, and waiting to squash any enthusiasm that he had. For instance, when Francis was bitten by a viper at the age of 11 his father sent him off to bicycle all alone to an infirmary four and a half miles away. It may be that in his adventures later on in life he was still trying to win the approval and self-respect he was denied as a child. However, he quickly developed the habit of making his own life and accustoming himself to hardship.

His schooling was also grim--a story of beatings and deprivations. Marlborough seemed to him like a prison, with its appallingly food and constant rough treatment.

It was also very cold, and since only the senior boys were allowed near the fire, Chichester typically decided to train himself to conquer the problem by wearing only a cotton shirt under his coat and sleeping under a sheet at night.

He specialized in mathematics, which much helped his navigation when he flew and sailed. But he eventually decided that real life was flowing past and simply informed his housemaster that he was leaving at the end of term.

In 1919, at the age of 18, he left school and emigrated to New Zealand where he worked on a sheep farm, as a miner, a salesman, and later a highly successful land agent. He was very successful and by the age of 26 he was earning about £10,000 a year. A friend, Geoffrey Goodwin, persuaded him to go into partnership in the aviation business and after...