Category Archives: Accidents

18 November 1917 – Variety

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William Reynolds Cutler

The fact that flying is a dangerous business, even before the enemy start firing at you, is well known at this point. Training and accidents remain a significant source of casualties. Today is a case in point.

11 (Army) Wing, suffered two casualties. 2nd Lieutenant George Alec Cranswick from 23 Squadron RFC is missing presumed killed in his SPADVII (B3575) following a wireless interruption mission over Passchendaele. Meanwhile 2nd Lieutenant William Reynolds Cutler from 70 Squadron crashed his Sopwith Camel (B4611) on a practice flight near Berck-sur-mer. Cutler was killed.

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Similarly, 2nd Lieutenant William Somerville McLaren and 2nd Lieutenant David Whyte Hardie were on an offensive patrol near Dixmunde in their Bristol Fighter (A7282) when they were shot down in flames. McLaren jumped from the plane and was killed. Hardie was badly burned and later died of his wounds.

 

2nd Lieutenant John Patrick Waters from 56 Squadron was killed when his SE5a (B502) disintegrated after getting into a spin during a practice flight.

As well as these deaths, there were another four pilots injured from engine failures of various kinds.

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18 November 1917 – Variety

The fact that flying is a dangerous business, even before the enemy start firing at you, is well known at this point. Training and accidents remain a significant source of casualties. Today is a case in point.

11 (Army) Wing, suffered two casualties. 2nd Lieutenant George Alec Cranswick from 23 Squadron is missing presumed killed in his SPADVII (B3575) following a wireless interruption mission over Passchendaele. Meanwhile William Reynolds Cutler from 70 Squadron crashed his Sopwith Camel (B4611) on a practice flight near Berck-sur-mer. Cutler was killed.

Similarly, 2Lt William Somerville McLaren and 2Lt David Whyte Hardie were on an offensive patrol near Dixmunde in their Bristol Fighter (A7282) when they were shot down and killed.

2nd L John Patrick Waters from 56 Squadron was killed when his SE5a (B502) disintegrated after getting into a spin during a practice flight.

As well as these deaths, there were another four pilots injured from engine failures of various kinds.

14 November 1917 – Barely off the ground

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Christopher Charles Morse

Poor weather conditions, including a thick ground mist, prevented any work of consequence being carried ut along the entire front today. The few attempts to get up met with disaster.

55 Squadron suffered two crashes attempting to take off on a bombing raid to Dillengen. In one case, the fuselage of DH4 (A7624) broke in half after stalling on take off. The crew, 2Lt Arthur Stuart White and 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Castle suffered minor injuries.

Another DH4 (A7575), was seen to do an S turn when it stalled and nosedived to ground near to the aerodrome shortly after take off. The crew were not so lucky. The observer 2nd Lieutenant Charles Dudley Palmer was injured but 2nd Lieutenant Christopher Charles Morse was killed in the crash.

A fellow member of 55 Squadron, Capt Orlando Lennox Beater described Morse’s fate in some detail in his diary:

“Wednesday, November 14th 1917: Cold and misty until midday but after that it began to clear and we were warned to stand by. We started up our engines about 1300 and got off the ground at 1320, Farrington leading and the other seventeen as fast as they were able to leave the ground. We got up to twelve thousand, at which the weather again came on ‘dud’. Gray fired the ‘wash-out’ flare and we all turned and made our way back to Ochey aerodrome, where we took off our bombs and left them there, much to 100 Squadron’s disgust. The reason for this precaution is because it is not safe to land on our aerodrome with detonated [fused] bombs as, owing to the bad surface, a crash landing is always on the cards. While we were at Ochey, we heard that poor Morse, who was barely nineteen years of age, had been killed while taking off. It turned out that the engine had conked when he had got to about one hundred feet, and while trying to turn back to the aerodrome he got into a nose-dive and crashed into the trees close to our hut. He was killed almost at once, and his observer Palmer had a bad shaking, and was sent to hospital with probable internal injuries.”

3 November 1917 – Training mishaps

Crashes continue to sap an the manpower of the air services.

Today, a Handley Page O/100 (3116) belonging to the RNAS was on a practice flight from RNAS Manston in East Kent. It circled the airfield twice. Coming into land, the right wingtip hit the ground. The aircraft was flipped over on its back, caught fire and then burst into flames.

As a result, Flight Sub-Lieutenant. Joseph Hesquith St. James (the pilot), Flight Sub-Lieutenant  Walter Albert Isaacs and Probationary Flight Officer Thomas  Reginald Western were killed. Probationary Flight Officers Vyvyan Holcombe Hervey and James Angus Smith were seriously injured but survived.

Hervey eventually recovered and later went on the serve with 56 Squadron RAF and after the war with 201 Squadron RAF.

Elsewhere at RFC Scampton, two Avro 504Js from 81 Squadron RFC collided in mid-air while carrying out banked turns.  The pilots, Lieutenant Owen Augustus Ellis Allen and Lieutenant Courtenay Patrick Flowerdew Lowson (one of the instructors) were both killed. The passenger in the first Avro 2nd Lieutenant Edward James Gallagher was injured but survived. The subsequent investigation put this down to pilot error.

In France, Lieutenant John Rowland Geddes from 23 Squadron was also killed when performing a practice landing in his SPADVII (B6787). As was customary with accidents at the Front no inquest was carried out.

25 October 1917 – Double disaster

1 Squadron AFC (67 (Australian) Squadron RFC), suffered a double setback in its preparations for the forthcoming offensive on Gaza.

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Bertie George Russon

Sergeant Bertie George Russon was undergoing pilot training and his first solo flight in a Maurice Farman Shorthorn (A2521) led to disaster when he crashed the aircraft. The court of enquiry could not determine any structural issues with the aircraft and determined that pilot error had caused the crash.

The fragile aircraft were no respecters of experience though. In the last few weeks new RE8s and improved 160hp Martinsydes have arrived for the new offensive. Lieutenant Henry William Bowd had been relieved temporarily of combat flying to assist in the preparation of the new aircraft.

He had been with the Squadron for just over a year, initially serving as an observer before undergoing flying training in November 1916.

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Henry William Boyd

Today, he was flying Martinsyde 1607. He attempted a loop manoeuvre and ground observers saw the plane go from looping into a steep dive without warning. As Bowd tried to pull out of the dive, the plane’s tail broke away just behind the pilot seat under the stress. His safety harness was attached to the piece that fell off, and he was pulled to his death as it plunged to the ground from 3,000 feet. The plane’s petrol tank exploded, destroying the rest of the aircraft.

The CO of 1 Squadron, Major Richard Williams noted:

“His death is a severe loss to the unit… I feel his loss more than ever owing to the fact that I had already recommended him for Captain and Flight Commander.”

18 September 1917 – Mid air

Poor weather conditions curtailed much flying today, but the relentless requirement of the army for data meant that many were up anyway. Despite the limited flying four pilots were still killed.

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Hugh Francis McArdle

41 Squadron lost two pilots from an offensive patrol in their DH5s when they ran into a patrol from Jasta 12. Lieutenant Hugh Francis McArdle (A9426) and 2nd Lieutenant Alfred John Chapman (A9208) were both shot down and killed. Leutnant Walter Ewers and Vzitfeldwebel Reinhold Joerke claimed the victories.

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Noel Stafford Wright

Earlier in the day, another two pilots had been killed, when they crashed into each other in mid air – Captain John Manley from 19 Squadron in his Spad VII (B3503) and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Noel Stafford Wright from 1 (Naval) Squadron, in his Sopwith Triplane (N5493).

12 September 1917 – Accidents will happen

The RNAS suffered two accidents today back on the home front.

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 Aylmer Fitzwarren Bettington

Firstly, Captain Aylmer Fitzwarren Bettington, Commanding Officer of the Eastbourne Naval Flying School was killed carrying out height tests in an Avro 504e (N6150) which was completely wrecked.

Later in the evening, Airship SS42a crashed into a farm building near Pembroke. The airship was badly damaged in the crash and drifed out to sea. The crew, Flight Sub-Lieutenant John Walter Davies Cripps and Leading Mechanic J C Simpson, both went missing presumed drowned.