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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 204041
Last updated: 16 March 2020
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Date:22-APR-1919
Time:morning
Type:Handley Page O/400
Owner/operator:2 S of AN Royal Air Force (2 S of AN RAF)
Registration: F3748
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 7
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:RAF Andover, Weyhill, Andover, Hampshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Nature:Training
Departure airport:RAF Andover, Hampshire
Destination airport:RAF Andover, Hampshire
Narrative:
The Handley Page O/400 of 2 School of Navigation and Bomb Dropping was taking off at night from RAF Andover, Weyhill, Andover, Hampshire, when the aircraft crashed into a building. The aircraft caught fire, killing Five of the Seven crew:

Major Thomas Archibald Batchelor DFC AFC (aged 32) killed
Flt Lt Reginald Arthur Walter Adkins (Retire) (aged 27) killed
Lt Arthur Barlow Whiteside MC (aged 28) killed
Flt Sgt Horace Henry Heales (aged 38) killed
Corporal Edgar George Ward (aged 22) killed
Lt Edward Albert Westall injured
Flt Sgt Herbert William Smith injured

According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Western Gazette" - Friday 25 April 1919)

"AVIATION DISASTER.
GIANT HANDLEY-PAGE WRECKED.
FIVE AIRMEN KILLED.
TWO OTHERS CRAWL FROM BLAZING MACHINE.
TRAGIC START ON 2,000-MILE TOUR OF BRITAIN.
The annals of aviation probably contain few more shocking accidents than that which befel a Handley-Page machine at the Weyhill Aerodrome, some two and a half miles from Andover, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when five airmen of the Royal Air Force lost their lives, and two others had narrow escapes.

The aeroplane, a practically new Handley-Page bombing machine, fitted with two Rolls-Royce engines, and having a wing span of about 100 feet, carried a crew of seven. The machine was due to set out at two o'clock on Tuesday morning on a 2,000 miles flight around the British Isles - the third of a series of tours undertaken by similar aeroplanes within the last few days. By a coincidence one of the two machines previously despatched returned to the aerodrome on completion of its round trip that morning. The second aeroplane has been delayed in Wales by a slight accident to one of its wings. The machine concerned in the disaster had been tested on two occasions by Major Batchelor, one of the most experienced R.A.F. pilots, who found it to be in perfect order.

The Weyhill Aerodrome has an ample taking-off and landing ground, and during the past months hundreds of ascents and descents have been made there with this class of flying machine without serious mishap. It was nearly 2.30 on Tuesday morning when the machine, already tuned up, was ready to start on her experimental tour.

HOW THE DISASTER OCCURRED.
The machine crashed into a small building, glided off to another roof, caving in some of the stone work, and eventually crashing to earth outside a building used for sleeping purposes. The machine burst into flames, only two of the occupants being able to escape. The killed were:

Major T. A. Batchelor (33);
Captain R. A. Adkins (28);
Lieut. A. B. Whiteside;
Flight-Sergeant H. H. Heales (38); and
Corporal E. Ward (21).

Lieut. Westall and Sergeant Smith were found about 20 yards distant. Westall was so badly burnt that he had to be taken to Tidworth Hospital for treatment, being in a most critical condition. Witnesses say the flames from the machine were so fierce that no one could get anywhere near, but the medical opinion is that owing to the crash the five were killed before being burnt.

The aeroplane fired the building, starting at the window and working up under the iron roof destroying all the woodwork, and doing much damage inside where the men were sleeping. They removed in time to save themselves. The Andover Fire Brigade received a call just after three o'clock, and Captain Beale with a number of men and the steamer were quickly under way. They found on arrival, however, that there was an insufficient supply of water; the engine could not be used, and so the firemen drew water in buckets from the hydrants, and quelled the fire in that fashion. The bodies were moved from the machine as soon as it was light, and the Brigade returned about nine o'clock.

TESTS QUITE SATISFACTORY.
Captain J. T. P. Clarke, county coroner, held the enquiry on Wednesday morning, Mr. W. T. Barnard being foreman of the jury.

Lieut. A. E. Greenwood, R.A., attached R.A.F., proved identification of the bodies. Major Batchelor was in command of the wireless squadron; Captain Adkins was a demobilised officer from the R.N.A.S, and was attached by the Air Ministry authorities to that station on special duty in connection with trans-Atlantic work; Lieut Whiteside was a pilot instructor; Flight-Sergeant Heales was a wireless fitter; also Corporal Ward. Giving evidence he said he was on duty at the aerodrome on the night of April 21st, and the Handley-Page in question, which was a bombing machine, was detailed for a circular tour of Great Britain, to start at two o'clock on Tuesday morning. On the 21st the machine was taken into the air by Lieut. Whiteside for a test, and it was found to be quite satisfactory; he was detailed to be second pilot on the actual tour, and this was practically a new machine. Witness set about getting the crew together and proceeded to the machine. The engines were started at 1.40. After running a short while the revolution counter showed the engines to be all right. The crew got into the machine and were in their places just after two o'clock. Major Batchelor ran the engines again. "All clear" was asked for, and witness gave the signal. The machine taxied to the west end of the flare line, at 2.20 the throttle was pushed gradually over, and the machine started. About three parts along the flare line the tail lifted, and as near as he could judge left the ground shortly after passing the red lamp. She seemed to be going slightly to the right. Immediately afterwards he heard two slight crashes at short intervals, followed by a very loud crash. From the time of the first crash to the final one the engines were still running and did not change note. Witness went to the scene of the crash and found the machine piled up and blazing furiously against the north wall of No. 9 hut".

Sources:

1. Cambrian Daily Leader 22 April 1919
2. Western Gazette - Friday 25 April 1919
3. Flight, 24 April 1919:
4. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1919.htm
5. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/166642181
6. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205046976
7. http://www.rafmuseumstoryvault.org.uk/archive/batchelor-t.a.-thomas-archibald
8. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=13431.0


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
08-Jan-2018 20:48 ryan Added
16-Jul-2018 22:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
16-Jul-2018 22:30 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time]
20-Nov-2018 15:17 Nepa Updated [Operator, Nature, Operator]
18-Feb-2020 16:41 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]

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