ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 199367
Last updated: 14 October 2021
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Time:c. 20:45 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic be2 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c
Owner/operator:36 Sqn RFC
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:5
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Stoney Lane, Southwick Green, Sunderland, County Durham -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Usworth, Sunderland, County Durham
Destination airport:RAF Usworth, Sunderland, County Durham
On 24 May 1917, Lt P Thomson took off from Usworth Airfield, to air test a newly fitted machine gun, over the sea, in preparation for that evening's anti-Zeppelin patrols, and when returning, observed a crowd of people gathered on Southwick Green. This was a public meeting at 8.30 pm in the evening, and was about food savings during the war.

The pilot dropped low to see what was happening, and failed to see a flagpole on the Green resulting in a wing being torn from the plane, and caused it to crash into the Co-op building at the corner of Stoney Lane. Five people were killed, and others injured, surprisingly the pilot survived. The civilian casualties were:

John Connolly (aged 29) killed
Elizabeth Curry (aged 48) killed
George Davison (aged 48) killed
Robert Spargo (aged 11) killed (a report below in "Flight" magazine implies that death was by decapitation)
John Thompson (aged 78) died 25.5.17 (next day) of injuries sustained.

In addition eight bystanders in the crowd were injured. The pilot - Lt Philip Thompson - was unhurt

According to contemporary reports in "Flight" magazine (May 31 and June 7, 1917 - see links #2 & #3):

"Aeroplane Falls on a Crowd.
AFTER giving a display of flying, including looping the loop, in connection with a food economy campaign at Southwick-on-Wear, near Sunderland, on May 24th, an aeroplane collided with a flagstaff and fell on the crowd. A woman and a boy were killed outright, the boy being decapitated, while three men were so seriously injured that they died during the night.

The Southwick Accident.
AT the inquest on the victims of the accident at Southwick, when an aeroplane fell on a crowd attending a food economy meeting, it was made clear that no flying demonstration had been arranged for in connection with the gathering.

It appears that 2nd Lieut. P. Thompson, R.F.C., while flying in the neighbourhood, saw a crowd and planed down to see what was happening. He had a bright sun shining in his eyes, and came down lower than he intended; in trying to rise, his machine touched a flagstaff which he had not seen before. A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned, and the jury expressed their sympathy with the relatives of the deceased and with the flying officer."


2. Flight magazine (May 31 1917 page 545):
3. Flight Magazine (June 7, 1917 page 566):
7. Sunderland Echo 25 May 1917:
8. Transcript of Coroner's Inquest Report:

Revision history:

04-Sep-2017 18:11 Dr. John Smith Added
23-Dec-2017 16:40 Nepa Updated [Operator, Destination airport]
08-Nov-2018 06:28 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
06-Feb-2019 18:55 Dr. John Smith Updated [Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description