Author Topic: Geoffrey England - aviation pioneer - killed in an air-crash March 1913  (Read 863 times)

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Offline Craggs

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This is a tiny little memorial in the graveyard of St Peter's Church, Hersham, Surrey.

I wasn't sure where to post this.  Pomme Homme has posted a number of topics about early aviation and gliding and a bit of this topic links into those threads.  


Geoffrey W. England
Died on the 5th March 1913  aged 20 years
Buried in the graveyard of St Peter's Church, Hersham, Surrey.

Initially I thought that this was a childs grave.  The kerb of the grave is only about 2' long x 1' wide.  It is, however, the resting place of the ashes of Geoffrey England, one of the pioneers of early aviation.  

Geoffrey England was the brother of Eric Gordon England who, on the 27th June 1909,  apparently flew the first glider flight from Amberley Mount, Sussex,  and according to Wiki ...... "on a height-gaining flight that reached 100 feet. It is the first recorded soaring flight, and is considered to be the birth of the sport of Gliding".

The inscription was originally made of inlaid lead and a few bits are missing - but it reads :

MARCH 5th 1913


One of the many newspaper articles about this incident..................

Western Gazette - Friday 07 March 1913




Another aviation disaster, resulting in the death of Mr. Geoffrey England, a very promising young pilot, occurred on Salisbury Plain on just after noon on Wednesday.  The ill fated airman was attached to The Bristol Flying School at Larkhill.  He started just before 12 o'clock on an hour's duration flight with an 80 h.p. Bristol monoplane which had been specially constructed for the Roumanian (sic)  Army.  Several Roumanian Army officers were present and were interested observers of the flight during which the young aviator climbed to a height of 5,000 feet.  Nearer the earth there was a stiff wind, which had nearly stopped the flying practice of the Army and other aviators assembled at Larkhill, as only one other machine had been taken out for a short flight.  Higher up, however, Mr Geoffrey England apparently found steadier conditions, and his machine behaved splendidly.

At about half past twelve many people in Amesbury saw the monoplane pass over the village, a mere speck in the sky.  The airman went over to Stonehenge and turned for Larkhill.  The watchers from this eminence were not expecting the aviator to descend until twenty minutes later, and when he suddenly put the nose of the machine down whilst over Knighton Down they feared that something was amiss.  The descent was a fine one until the monoplane was about 600ft from the ground when the machine suddenly "shuddered", and to the horror of the observers, one of the wings crumpled, and the craft crashed to the ground, turning over and over in its fall.

There was an immediate rush in motor-cars to the ruins of the machine.  Among the debris, Geoffrey England, who was only about 20 years of age, lay mangled and torn, life having been dashed from his body by the terrible fall.  The wing of the machine, which had given way, parted from the central portion of the craft and lay crumpled and twisted about 200 feet from the spot where the falling engine had ploughed a deep hole in the ground.  The body was removed to the Bulford Camp Mortuary to await the Coroner's inquest.

The aviators at Larkhill had no explanation to offer as to the actual cause of the disaster.  Several theories were advanced, but only expert examination will reveal whether a defect developed before the wing of the machine crumpled, or whether the still ground wind was alone the cause of the trouble.

Mr. Juilerot, of the Bristol Flying School, who was interviewed shortly after the accident, informed our reporter that it was his intention to send up a passenger in the flight, but fortunately, he said, the intention was not carried out, and poor England went up alone.  He added that England was a skilled and courageous pilot and one who was very popular in the school.  The young airman was also a very popular figure in the social life of Amesbury, where he had resided for some months, and his death is very keenly felt by the villagers.

Mr.Geoffrey England is the fourth airman killed in the neighbourhood of Stonehenge during the last twelve months, the previous victims being Mr Fenwick, who met with disaster during the Army aviation tests in August last, and Captain Loraine and Staff-Sergeant Wilson of The Royal Flying Corps, who fell to their death with an Army monoplane in July 1912.

If you do a simple internet search on "Geoffrey England Aviator" and look at the images there is a photograph, subject to copyright apparently, of Geoffrey English's remains being taken from Bulford Camp, on the back of a car, to Woking Crematorium for cremation.

There is another newspaper article, the Portsmouth Evening News - Friday 07 March 1913, which shows that Geoffrey England's father was Mr George England of The Hollies, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.

Offline alkhamhills

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Re: Geoffrey England - aviation pioneer - killed in an air-crash March 1913
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2016, 19:50:42 pm »
Geoffrey William England

See his Aviators Cert & Pic(no copyright). Also his brother’s

In 1911 with parents George & Amy, & 3 siblings(not inc Eric). Also 4 servants & 5 servants. At Oakwood Haywards Heath Sussex.
Geoffrey was a Motor Engineer. Father was “paying Guest Establishment”. Mother was private means. 3 of the visitors were of private means.
Eric Cecil Gordon was a visitor at Redcourt, Camberwell. He was an aviator—born 1891 Argentine.

Offline TrevC

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Re: Geoffrey England - aviation pioneer - killed in an air-crash March 1913
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2017, 16:10:02 pm »
For completeness, here is the Wiltshire coroner's report in full....
England, Geoffrey
England, Geoffrey           1913 Mar 7th        Bulford

Another Aviation Disaster

Terrible Fall on the Plain

An aviation disaster on Salisbury Plain on Wednesday, in which Mr Geoffrey England fell from an enormous height and was instantly killed, was the subject of an inquest at Bulford yesterday before Mr Frank Trethowan, the acting coroner.

His father, Mr George England, of The Hollies, Walton-on-Thames, said that on Monday his wife received a letter in which their son, who was only 20 years of age, wrote,

“We are going to test four Ramanian 80 horse-power monoplanes. Pixton went up in one but found it a jolly sight too bad. The Prince had the cheek to ask me to do the duration test, of one hour and five minutes, in a very bad and gusty wind, but I was not having any. Last night we had a wire from the firm saying that the tests had to be done by next Thursday, good or bad weather…..At any rate, we will have another go this evening.”

Replying to Mr Greville Smith (who appeared for the family), witness said his son had told him he did not like the 80 horse-power machine, but said he could not put his hand on the weak spot.

Mr Jullerot, manager of the Bristol Flying School at Larkhill, aid the monoplane in which England met with disaster was one of four ordered for Roumania. He and Pixton had completed the duration test on two of the machines. Mr England asked that he should be given the chance of flying one of them. Wednesday was not a good day for flying, but several military machines had flown from Upavon to Larkhill and back. Before starting witness examined the machine and found it in order. When Mr England had been flying about 39 minutes the wind had increased from 20 to 30 miles an hour. He started at five minutes past 12 on an hour’s duration test. There was a wind of not more than 20 miles’ velocity and a clear sky. Mr England quickly reached an altitude of 3,000 feet, and still climbing, he passed over the Upavon sheds at a height of over 4,000 feet. He then made a swoop round over Bulford, still increasing his height, passing on over Amesbury, until at Stonehenge he was nearly 5,000 feet high. Over Fargo Wood it appeared that the aviator was preparing to come down. He had been flying about thirty-nine minutes, and the wind had jumped up to thirty miles an hour. He thought the descent seemed a little steeper than usual. When the machine had dropped to a thousand feet the engine was either being switched on and off, or it was running badly. England apparently tried to put the nose of the machine into the wind, which would cause a greater strain on the machine. He turned sharply and was making a corkscrew descent. When he was about 600 feet up, I suddenly saw the left wing of the machine go down and the right go up to an angle of 50 degrees. I suppose he got a frightful “wind-shock” after the bank. The pilot tried to warp, but I saw the left wing fly off and the machine fell like a stone. He telephoned for a doctor and went to the spot on a car. England was an experienced pilot.

In cross-examination he admitted that his firm’s orders left them a discretion.

David Good, a pupil of the Bristol School, said England told him he was not taking a passenger because a passenger would probably have an unpleasant time of it. He saw the machine fall, and discovered England dead, with the wreckage across his legs.

Frank Matthews, groom, of Durrington, said he saw the machine drop, and it seemed that the wind got under the tail and tipped it up.

Lieut-Col Fords, RAMC, said he found both legs broken, also the left arm, a fracture of the base of the skull, and many other injuries. Death was probably due to fracture of the skull.

A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned.

Mr England on a motorbike (another passion) and one of his body enroute to Woking Crematorium.