Maitland, Edward Maitland 1880 - 1921

English; British

(1880-1921), Air Commodore, airship and parachute developer

Edward Maitland Maitland, (born as Edward Maitland Gee with Maitland as a family name which was acquired by several members of his family) was born at 156 Westbourne Terrace, London, on 21 February 1880. Educated at Haileybury and Trinity College, Cambridge, Maitland volunteered for service in the South African War while he was still an undergraduate. He was commissioned in the Essex regiment and served in South Africa during 1901–2, receiving the Queen's medal with four clasps. Without resuming residence in Cambridge he took a BA (ordinary) in 1906 and obtained a third class.

Whilst in the army, in 1907 Maitland took up ballooning, making a record 1171-mile voyage to Russia with two companions the following year. After service at the Balloon School in Farnborough, he commanded the airship company in the short-lived air battalion of the Royal Engineers (1911–12), and then, on the formation of the Royal Flying Corps, was given command of 1 squadron (airships). In 1913, when all British airships came under naval control, he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). In the same year he made his first parachute jump from an airship.

Early in 1914, he was gazetted Wing-Commander in the R.N.A.S., the Admiralty having taken over the Army airships. Shortly before the outbreak of War, Maitland was in Germany in connection with trials of a Parseval airship, but he managed to get back safely to this country. In November of 1914 he went out to Belgium on work connected with the R.N.A.S., taking with him a kite balloon, and also the small non-rigid airship "Beta." While out there he saw some of the captive balloons in use by the Belgians and French, and so impressed was he by their possibilities that he came home especially to urge the extensive use of kite balloons for observation purposes.

When the kite balloon station was established at Roehampton in 1914 Col. Maitland was appointed to command it, and in this capacity he did excellent work, always being the first to try out any experiments entailing any personal risk. One of his experiments in this way was a journey in a kite balloon slipped from her moorings, undertaken to discover if it was possible to make a safe landing in case of a balloon breaking away. While stationed at Roehampton, Maitland also carried out a series of parachute descents, including one from 10,000 ft. with a view to studying the phenomenon of "swinging." Later he was appointed to command the airship station at Pulham, where he continued his experiments.

In 1917 he was called to the Admiralty to take charge of the Airships Headquarters Staff. It was almost entirely due to his personal effort that a greatly increased programme of airship construction was inaugurated. When the R.A.F. was formed in 1918, Col. Maitland was given acting rank of Brigadier- General, and in 1919 he was awarded the C.M.G. In that year also, it may be remembered, he made the double trip across the Atlantic in the R.34, his log of the trip having since been published.

After the return of "R.34," General Maitland became O.C. of the airship base at Howden, and he made a close study of the commercial possibilities of airships, with the result that he became thoroughly convinced that airships have a brilliant future as civil aircraft. While serving as an observer for the ministry, he was killed in the R38 over the Humber estuary on 24 August 1921.