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Author Topic: Aircraft Artificer Alan Wilson - suicide with a 'Verey Pistol'... ?  (Read 114 times)
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Craggs
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« on: May 18, 2017, 15:11:58 PM »

Alan Wilson
Aircraft Artificer (A.A.) 4c
Service number FX 100396
RNAS Ford  -  HMS Peregrine

Died on the 16th June 1956

Buried in the CWGC section of the graveyard of St, Mary at Clymping, West Sussex.
__________________________________________________________________

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 18 June 1956

HELICOPTER DEATH.

Petty Officer Alan Wilson, an armoured artificer, was found dead in the seat of a helicopter inside a hangar at the Royal Naval Air Station at Ford, Sussex, yesterday.  The facts have been reported to the Littlehampton Coroner.

______________________________________

The Naval History Net website simply states :

Saturday, 16 June 1956
Peregrine

WILSON, Alan, Aircraft Artificer (A.A.) 4c, FX 100396, died


The newspaper article, above, gives Alan Wilson's rank as 'Petty Officer'.  His gravestone is too weather worn to be able to make out what rank was inscribed.  There is another newspaper article in the Littlehampton Gazette - Friday 22 June 1956 which shows that Alan Wilson killed himself with a 'Verey Pistol'.  It is a long article and I'll transcribe it later (as soon as I can).   In the meantime, here is a photograph of his headstone.

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Craggs
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2017, 15:59:41 PM »

This is what is reported in the newspapers about what happened.  I do, however, have a question which I will add at the end.

Littlehampton Gazette - Friday 22 June 1956

'An unusual method of suicide' says Coroner at Inquest.

FOUND SHOT IN HELICOPTER COCKPIT.

Took life with a Verey pistol.

"An unusual method of suicide" was the comment of the Chichester Coroner, Mr. G.F.L. Bridgman, at an inquest at Chichester on Wednesday on a naval air petty officer who killed himself in the cockpit of a helicopter at R.N.A.S. Ford with a Verey star pistol.  The dead man was Alan Wilson, aged 29, whose parents live at 88 Brick Lane, Whitechapel.

C.P.O. Derek Huddlestone Cooke sais Wilson was on duty supervisory armourer on a helicopter that was wheeled into a hangar on Saturday afternoon.  The doors of the hangar were left about a foot open because of an unfavourable weather forecast.  The helicopter might be required quickly.  "I returned to the hangar at 4pm and found the doors only two inches apart.  I put my head inside to ask if anyone were there. Getting no answer I shut and locked the door" said C.P.O. Cooke.  He found Wilson in the cockpit of the helicopter at 9.10am on Sunday and telephoned the duty officer and sick bay.

Surgeon-Commander Louis Herbert Duthie said that when he saw the body at 9.30am death had occurred at least 12 hours before.  He was on the same station in Scotland as Wilson in September 1955, where Wilson consulted him for depression.  "I thought it was quite a serious matter" said the Commander.  He said he sent Wilson to a Glasgow hospital for psychiatric treatment.  Later, Wilson was sent to Haslar Hospital, Gosport, and he was returned to duty at Ford in November, having made a good recovery.

WAS DOZING.

Petty Officer Leslie Edwin Harwood said "I saw Wilson in the petty officer's mess at 2.30pm on Saturday.  He just sat at the bar with his head in his hands apparently dozing.

Police Constable Hopkins produced the bottle container of a Verey pistol that had been fired, found on the floor of the cockpit.  One of the crew of the helicopter, Leading Telegraphist Ronald Mitchell, said that he checked that the Verey pistol was stored in its usual place in the cockpit after a practice flight on Saturday morning.  

Dr. D.P. King, pathologist, said that he found the jagged metal container of the flash in the mouth of the body.  There was a rupture on the left side of the mouth, and there were traces of grey powder running down into the chest cavity.  The discharge of the pistol would create a certain amount of carbon monoxide.  The doctor concluded that death was from asphyxia due to a combination of factors.  

The Coroner said "It is an unusual case in several ways - certainly an unusual way of committing suicide.  It is one I would have thought no one used to the functions of this particular pistol would have attempted."  He recorded a verdict of "suicide while the balance of the brain was disturbed".  He added there was a history of depression.  It was not always apparent either to others or to the person concerned that it was getting more acute.  It was quite certain that the medical officers of the service did all that was possible.
__________________________________________________________________________________

I have absolutely no experience of Verey pistols - so - am I reading this correctly - "death was from asphyxia" - as stated at the inquest. Did Petty Officer Wilson shoot himself with the Verey pistol or did he do something with it, or the cartridge, that caused him to be deprived of oxygen and suffocate ? ?
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Pete
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« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2017, 08:59:13 AM »

Sounds like the flare itself would not have caused death in the way a normal round would and as a Verey flare starts to burn immediately on firing it would have done so in his mouth  allowing CO & smoke to be inhaled. Does it state the calibre anywhere? They were 1" or 2"
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Craggs
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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2017, 09:53:17 AM »

It doesn't mention any calibre in the newspaper articles.

What you have just said about Verey pistols and with the Coroner's comment that it was "An unusual method of suicide" makes me think that Petty Officer Wilson was very determined in his purpose of ending his own life.
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Pete
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2017, 12:10:10 PM »

Agree and not a very certain method with a fairly low muzzle velocity
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