Category Archives: Accidents

19 August 1918 – EV Grounded

Leutnant Emil Rolff of Jasta 6 was killed today shortly after takeoff when the wing of his Fokker EV collapsed. This is the second accident in three days, as on 16 August, Ernst Riedel of Jasta 19 was killed when a portion of his wing broke away during a practice flight. The EV was immediately grounded.

The original EV was a parasol cantilever winged monoplane built around the Oberursel UrIII rotary engine, but engine shortages meant the obsolete UrII was used instead. However the EV was lightweight and streamlined enough that this still provided decent enough performance. The first production EV aircraft were shipped to Jasta 6 in late July and examples also went to Jasta 1, Jasta 19, Jasta 24 and Jasta 36. 

Various publications and websites suggest that Rolff scored a victory in an EV on 17 August 1918, but there is no evidence in any of the official records to support this claim.

According to Anthony Fokker, the wing failures were caused by the army technical bureau, which had forced him to modify the original design by over-strengthening the rear main spar. This faulty design allegedly caused the wing to twist and fail. Fokker claimed that this defect was resolved by reverting to his original design.

However, further investigation revealed that the source of the wing failures was a result of shoddy and rushed construction. Fokker had subcontracted construction of the EV wings to the Gebrüder Perzina Pianoforte Fabrik factory. Due to poor quality control, inferior timber had been used and the spar “caps”, forming the upper and lower members of each spar assembly, had been placed too far apart during the fabrication. Because the resulting spars were vertically too large to pass through the ribs, excess material was simply planed away from the exposed upper and lower surfaces of the cap pieces, leaving the assembled spars dangerously weak. Other problems included water damage to glued parts, and pins that splintered the spars, rather than securing them.

Once these issues were addressed the wings were tested and shown to be well within required standards. Production restarted, but new aircraft did not reach the front until 24 October 1918 – too late to have any impact. It’s unclear whether i5 was flown operationally at all. By this point it was renamed the DVIII to try and disassociate it from the earlier failures. 

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18 August 1918 – “Not active”

The RAF Communique reported that today Low clouds and high wind restricted work in the air” and that “Enemy aircraft were not active.” Despite this a balloon and seven other aircraft were claimed by the RAF, though no corresponding German losses are evident. Two aircraft were lost however both to anti-aircraft fire.

Captain Christopher Johannes Venter from 29 Squadron RAF was last seen in his SE5a (D6965) between Kemmel and Bailleul at around 1215. Captain Robert Stewart Skinner Ingram and 2nd Lieutenant Austin Wrench Wyncoll from 108 Squadron RAF were last seen in a rapid descent near Ostend in their DH9 (D7302) after raiding Bruges. All three men were taken prisoner.

Douglas Abbott Ferguson

As was often the case, the Home Front proved just as deadly with 11 fatalities in a variety of accidents. In one case, Douglas Abbott Ferguson from 2 Squadron AFC was thrown out of his aircraft following a collision and killed.

6 August 1918 – Mirror Like

The difficulties of landing on water are well known. Perhaps counter intuitively, landing on calm or smooth water is more difficult as a lack of waves or visible indications not only make depth perception harder but also lull the pilot into a false sense of security.

All this was known back in 1918 and by this stage pilots serving on seaplanes were being specifically instructed in their use.

All the more surprising then that an experienced pilot such as Lieutenant Everard Marsden Porter was killed today attempting to land his Sopwith Baby at Suda Bay Seaplane Base in Crete after an anti submarine patrol in the Eastern Mediterranean. His commanding officer sent the following report:

“I regret exceedingly having to cause further anguish, but I feel that you and your son’s relatives and friends must be anxiously awaiting details of the circumstances attending on the occurrence which unfortunately ended a life abounding in promise of fame and honour in the service of his King and country. “Lieut. Porter had only joined this station from Base Headquarters a fortnight ago. but in few days had made himself beloved by every one of his messmates by his never-failing optimism and cheerfulness. He was engaged in scout duty in connection with suppression of the submarine menace and was flying of. seaplane on which he was singularly skilful. On the morning of the 6th he left at dawn in the most peaceful calm weather: in fact, such conditions at to necessitate extra caution in landing, as the water, being mirror-like, is most deceiving, and most difficult to locate the surface. On returning to make the landing his machine was seen to fly at maximum speed straight into the water, and eye-witnesses say there was doubt at all that the pilot was confident that he was still a fair height from the water. The machine was completely wrecked, and sank instantly. When the wreck was brought ashore the pilot was found entangled among wires and other fabric, and resuscitation was begun at nonce. After 35 minutes work. Dr. Loutitt, R.N.V.R.. declared life extinct. “The obsequies were held the same day, he being accorded an Air Force funeral, with full honours. There was large attendance of military and naval officers, well as diplomatic representatives of England, France. Italy, and Russia. The local garrison kindly loaned their hand and a large escort. There were several lovely wreaths”

“Marsden” as he was known, had joined the Huntingdon Cyclist Corps in September l9l4. Shortly after that he had transferred into the Royal Naval Armoured Car Section and served in Gallipoli and then Egypt. After the disbandment of the Armoured Car Section he joined the Royal Naval Air Service, and obtained his pilot’s certificate in September 1916. He joined HMS Ark Royal as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant in October 1917 to fly Short Type 184 and Sopwith Baby aircraft around the Dardanelles. Shortly after this he was transferred to the Suda Bay Seaplane Base to fly anti-submarine patrols.

30 July 1918 – Crowe, Scholte, Foggin

Cyril Marconi Crowe

Sometime overnight, Major Cyril Marconi Crowe MC from 56 Squadron RAF was driving back to his aerodrome from a party at Dieppe with fellow airmen Captain Owen John Frederick Scholte MC from 60 Squadron RAF and Major h, when they ran into a tree. Scholte and Foggin were both killed in the accident, but Crowe survived. Crowe was court-martialed and briefly demoted to Captain for a month before moving to 85 Squadron RAF as commander.

Crowe had joined the RFC around the outbreak of the war and joined 2 Reserve Air Squadron as an instructor in January 1915. He served in a number of instructor roles before becoming Chief Instructor at the School of Military Aeronautics at the end of 1916. In January 1917 he had a brief stint with 28 Squadron RFC at Gosport for Home Defence duties before joining 56 Squadron in France. After a few months at the front in which he scored 9 victories and won the Military Cross, he was sent home as an instructor the Central Flying School in October 1917. He returned to 56 Squadron in March 1918 scoring 5 more victories. After his transfer to 85 Squadron he scored once more and survived the war.

Owen John Frederick Scholte

Scholte a school friend of Crowe’s (albeit 2 years younger) had previously served with the Bedfordshire Regiment and joined the RFC in June 1916. After becoming a pilot he joined 48 Squadron RFC and scored 6 victories with various observers flying Bristol F2bs winning the Military Cross. After retraining as a fighter pilot he joined 60 Squadron flying SE5as scoring two more victories.

Cyril Edgar Foggin

Foggin had been one of Britain’s early flyers gaining his pilot’s licence in 1912. He had his own Blackburn Type D Monoplane built in 1912 which is currently part of the Shuttleworth Collection and is Britain’s oldest airworthy aircraft.

For some reason he enlisted as a non-commissioned officer qualifying as an NCO pilot in Egypt in early 1915. He then received his commission and served with 1 Squadron RFC in 1916 flying Nieuports and Morane Parasols. He went back to England to serve as an instructor at 12 and 25 Reserve Squadrons, 56 Training Squadron and 1 School of Aerial Fighting. At the time of the accident he was serving in a staff post at RAF headquarters in France.

28 July 1918 – “Mad Jack”

Another RAF veteran was killed today. Again accidents proving just as deadly as the enemy.

Captain Toné Hypollyte Bayetto was killed when the top wing of his Sopwith Dolphin (E4449) folded up and he crashed. At the time he was an instructor at 29 Training Depot Station and was instructing Hogan and others in formation flying.

The book Pearls Before Poppies suggests that he collided with an Avro flown by Sergeant Patrick Hogan. Confusingly the RAF casualty cards for Hogan show two different dates for his accident, both 4 April 1918 and 4 August 1918. The second of these suggest he collided with a Sopwith Scout (D4176) rather than a Dolphin, so I think this is probably incorrect.

Bayetto’s own card suggests simply that he was performing “an acrobatic”. Bayetto had earned the nickname “Mad Jack” for his stunting.

Bayetto had obtained his pilot licence in 1913. He started in the RFC as a Sergeant Pilot back in 1915, flying Morane Saulnier Type Ns with 8 Squadron RFC. One of the most well know photos of an RFC Type N features Bayetto in the cockpit.

After stints at the front he was serving with 66 Squadron RFC when on 30 September 1917 he was shot down and fractured his skull in the crash. He was sent home to recover and then posted to East Boldre as an instructor.

Bayetto’s father was head chef at one of London’s leading hotels and was always happy to give any RFC friends of his son a good meal free of charge.

27 July 1918 – “Lunacy”

On the Western Front today, low clouds and rain prevented flying during the day, though the weather improved a little that a few bombing sorties were carried out overnight.

That didn’t stop the casualties though. Back in England at Montrose, 2nd Lieutenant Robert Emmet Gorman from 36 Training Squadron was killed when his RE8 (B5029) collided with another RE8 (E152) piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Reuben John Davidson. Davidson was also killed.

Meanwhile, at RAF Joyce Green, pilots of 63 Training Squadron were involved in mock dogfights when Flight Cadet Charles David Brown (In AVRO504 6182) collided at about 200ft with Lieutenant George Edward Taylor in another AVRO (D8834). Both aircraft crashed and Brown was killed though Taylor escaped with minor injuries.

Joyce Green was a particularly unsuitable spot for an aerodrome and many of the units had already moved to nearby Biggin Hill. Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Stanley Gould Lee later described the airfield as follows:

“To use this waterlogged field for testing every now and then was reasonable and to take advantage of it as an emergency landing ground for Home Defence forces was credible, but to employ it as a flying training station was folly and as a Camel training station was lunacy. A pupil taking off with a choked or failing engine had to choose, according to wind direction, between drowning in the Thames (half a mile wide at this point), or crashing into the Vickers TNT works, or hitting one of their several high chimney stacks, or sinking into a vast sewage farm, or killing himself and numerous patients in a large isolation hospital, or being electrocuted in an electrical substation with acres of pylons and cables; or trying to turn and get back to the aerodrome. Unfortunately, many pupils confronted with disaster tried the last course and span to their deaths.”

8 July 1918 – Collision

George Henry Grimshaw

Training accidents continue to plague the RAF. Today at around 1810 at RAF Montrose, in Scotland, 2nd Lieutenant George Henry Grimshaw in Sopwith Pup B7485 and Leonard Martin Frederick in Sopwith Pup C381 collided with each other during a practice combat. Both men were serving with 6 Training Squadron.

Grimshaw was from Macclesfield and had previously served with the Army Medical Corps since September 1914, before transferring to the RAF. He had only graduated as a flying officer yesterday

The CO wrote to Grimshaw’s parents:

Your son went up into the air to have a sham fight with another pupil, and during the combat they collided. I knew your son personally; he was a keen and daring pilot and an enthusiastic pupil. Even in his last flight he showed risk and ability while fighting the other pupil, which showed that he had the pluck and the stamina which make the pilots of the RAF predominant over the Germans in France. I can only add my deepest sympathy…”

Frederick was a Canadian from Belleville, Ontario. Unfortunately not much more is known about him.