2 March 1917 – Loop of death

Commander Charles Rumney Sampson’s dictum from March 1915 holds now as it did then:

“Don’t try to do what is termed by some people as ‘ Stunt Flying’. This is not wanted for war and is not conduct required of an officer.”

Unfortunately another two RNAS pilots were killed today when they ignored this. Flight Sub–Lieutenant John Eric Northrop flew to Burgh Castle delivering another airman for duty.

Edward Laston Pulling

Edward Laston Pulling

On landing Northrop asked his friend Flight Lieutenant Edward Laston Pulling DSO if he would “loop him”. Pulling agreed without a second thought and they took off in BE2c 8626. At 2000 ft Pulling put the aircraft into a dive to achieve sufficient speed for the loop. He pulled back on the stick and as the aircraft reached the top of the manoeuvre the internal drift wire in the starboard lower wing broke. The wing gave way causing the plane to fall in a spin and crash in the middle of Denes aerodrome. Both Pulling and Northrop were killed.

Both men had qualified as RNAS pilots in October 1915. Pulling had become the more famous in November 1916 when he was one of the pilots involved in the destruction of Zeppelin L21.

In actual war flying, Lieutenant Cyril Stephen Cravos and Flight Sergeant Alfred George Shepherd from 5 Squadron RFC failed to return from an artillery patrol near Gommecourt in their BE2e (7192). It is believed they were hit by anti-aircraft fire but they must have crashed in no-mans land as their bodies were never recovered.

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