Mid-air collision Accident Bristol F.2b Fighter J7666, 14 Mar 1928
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 212304
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Type:Silhouette image of generic BFIT model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Bristol F.2b Fighter
Owner/operator:2 Sqn Royal Air Force (2 Sqn RAF)
Registration: J7666
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:RAF Manston, near Ramsgate, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:RAF Manston, Ramsgate, Kent
Destination airport:RAF Manston, Ramsgate, Kent
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Bristol F.2b Fighter II J7666, 2 Squadron, RAF Manston: Written off (destroyed) 14/3/1928 in a Midair collision with Vickers Virginia Mk.VII J8239 of 9 (IX) Squadron, over RAF Manston, Ramsgate, Kent. Both crew of Bristol Fighter J7666 were killed. According to a contemporary newspaper report (" Thanet Advertiser" - Friday 16 March 1928)

The inquest was opened, at Manston R.A.F. Hospital to-day (Friday) afternoon, into the circumstances attending the tragic death two British officers – Flying Officer Horace James Joseph Mumford-Matthews, R.A.F., Manston, aged 22, and Lieutenant David Francis C. Scott, 1st Battalion Essex Regiment, aged 26, attached to the aerodrome for instruction with the Army Co-operation Squadron.

The two officers lost their lives as the result a collision in mid-air, on Wednesday morning. They were the occupants of one machine, a Bristol fighter. It appears that the crash happened about eleven o’clock, when five Vickers Virginia bombers, belonging to No. 9 Squadron, were engaged in a formation flight over the aerodrome. The machines were flying in the formation of an arrow, when the Bristol fighter came into collision with the rear bomber of the squadron. The smaller ’plane turned on its side and dropped like a stone.

The collision occurred at a height of about 500 feet from the ground. The fighter fell almost vertically, and crashed within the confines of the aerodrome, striking the ground partly on its side and partly on its nose. The ground staff rushed to the scene, but all that was left of the machine was a heap of splintered wreckage. The only part intact was the back of the pilot’s seat. When extricated, the pilot and his passenger were dead.

The Bristol fighter belonged to No. 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, stationed at Manston.

Fight With Death.
The bomber with which the Bristol fighter collided with was badly damaged, and staggered about in the air in a crippled condition. Both propellers were smashed, and two of the wings were bent at an acute angle to the sky. For a time it was in danger of sharing the fate of its unfortunate companion machine, but, by superb airmanship, Flying-Officer Radcliffe, who was flying solo, managed to straighten his machine out.

Then commenced a grim fight with death to land the stricken ’plane. Not knowing at what moment the damaged wing might collapse and hurl him to eternity, Flying Officer Radcliffe battled with the fates and managed to bring his machine to the ground nearly three-quarters-of-a-mile away. In its descent the ’plane missed a farm cottage by only a few feet. It skimmed the chimney pots and came to rest in a meadow about 200 yards from the cottage. People rushed to the scene, and when the pilot emerged from his machine he accepted a cigarette from an onlooker.

Considering the extensive damage the machine had sustained in its collision with the Bristol Fighter, Flying Officer Radcliffe made a wonderful landing. He was in the back cockpit, and escaped practically uninjured. The front cockpit, in which wireless set is carried, was reduced to a mass of splintered wreckage. The undercarriage of the ’plane was also smashed, owing to its crashing through a fence when the landing was made.

Sank Like Wounded Bird.
The meadow in which the bomber landed belongs to Mr. Philpott, and is adjacent to a farm on the Manston-road occupied Mr. B. Lednor.

An eye-witness to the catastrophe stated that the formation was flying over the camp, and just commencing to turn in the direction of Broadstairs when the collision occurred. The Bristol fighter, which had been flying slightly above the formation, suddenly appeared to turn and collide with the rear machine.

"The wing tips met with a splintering crash, and I distinctly heard the rending and smashing of woodwork", said our informant, "Then there was a death like silence as the engines stopped, and the two machines hovered in the air locked together. The smaller ’plane wrenched itself free, and, turning on its side, started to drop like a stone. I saw it crash in a field. For a moment I thought the bomber would drop also. Its wings were bent to the sky, and it was staggering and reeling about like drunken thing. It seemed every moment that would plunge into a dive and drop to earth. It swayed in the air for a time, and then the pilot made an attempt to land in the flying ground. The machine, however, was badly damaged, and it must have been very difficult to control. It sank down like a wounded bird, faster and faster, and plunged out of sight behind some trees".

Shadow of Disaster.
Another eye-witness, who was quite close to the bomber when it landed, told Advertiser representative that the machine struck the ground and turned complete circle before finally coming to rest.

A lady motorist, who saw the collision from a distance, said she saw the machines meet, and "they seemed to hang in the air locked together for ever so long. Even from a distance" she added, "I saw the wings of the bomber crumple up. I fancy I heard a faint splintering, but it was a long way off, and may have been the engine missing before it finally stopped. The small machine turned on its side and dropped through the air at terrific speed. It made me feel quite sick to think of the poor men hurtling to death".

The shadow of the disaster hung like a black shroud over the camp and the village. Crowds of people assembled to see the damaged bomber. A guard was placed over the machine, but from the road it was possible to discern the shattered propellers and wings, twisted and broken, as though some giant hands had taken them and crushed them in a fit fury.

The public were not permitted on the flying ground to see the wreckage of the Bristol fighter. Here the brooding spirit of tragedy which hovered over the whole was more marked. The sight of the wreckage was appalling.

An Air Disturbance.
The cause of the collision is not known, but it is thought that the Bristol fighter became caught in a "slip stream”, the technical term for air disturbance caused by an aeroplane. The rush of wind from the propellers of the bombers probably sucked in the smaller machine. If such the case the force exercised must hare been considerable, for the machines met with terrific impact. Wood splintered as a result of the the crash was picked up over a large area.

Machines following other aircraft have got into a slip stream on several occasions before, and have crashed to earth. The air disturbance created at the rear of a ’plane is similar in many respects to an air pocket. A machine becoming caught in an air pocket is likely to lose flying speed, get out of control, and fall.

This double fatality brings the R.A.F. death-toll in crashes this year up to eight.

Pathetic circumstances attend the death of Flying-Officer Mumford-Matthews, who was killed on his mother’s birthday.

A Mother's Grief.
When the telegram arrived announcing the death of her only son, Mrs. Matthews thought that it bore a message of congratulation. She was quite overcome when she learnt the tragic news. Pilot-Officer Mumford-Matthews was the, son of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Matthews, of the Vine Inn, Chertsey. The father, who is well known as a conductor of orchestras, was at Littlehampton conducting the afternoon performance of "Lady Luck". The news was kept from him until after the performance.

It is stated that this was Mr. Scott's first flight in an aeroplane. The Army Co-operation Squadron exists to help the land forces in aerial reconnaissance and providing targets for antiaircraft gun practice. Army officers are attached to the R.A.F. as observers to obtain an insight into conditions applicable to the manoeuvres of peace of the sterner work of active service.

Flying-Officer Mumford-Matthews served in China during the trouble there, and was stationed at Shanghai: Upon his return he was promoted adjutant. He had played Rugby for Chertsey, and held the R.A.F. welterweight boxing championship. At Manston he was very popular officer.

When our representative visited the scene of the crash yesterday (Thursday) an attempt was being made to clear away the wreckage of the machines."

Crew of Bristol Fighter J7666:
Flying Officer Horace James Joseph Mumford-Mathews (pilot, aged 22) killed
Lt David Francis Cummin Scott (passenger, aged 27) killed

Flying Officer Ratcliffe (pilot and sole occupant of Vickers Virginia Mk.VII J8239 of 9 (IX) Squadron, RAF) was unhurt.


1. Royal Air Force Aircraft J1-J9999 (and WW1 Survivors) Dennis Thompson (Air Britain, 1987 p 55)
2. Thanet Advertiser - Friday 16 March 1928
3. Daily Herald - Thursday 15 March 1928
4. Aberdeen Press and Journal - Monday 19 March 1928
5. Londonderry Sentinel - Saturday 17 March 1928
6. Birmingham Daily Gazette - Saturday 17 March 1928
7. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=14284.0
8. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1929.htm
9. http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?17344-RAF-fatalities-1928

Revision history:

17-Jun-2018 21:19 Dr. John Smith Added
02-Nov-2018 19:46 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
18-Feb-2020 17:34 Dr. John Smith Updated [Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

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