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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 218044
Last updated: 5 October 2020
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Type:Short S.38 biplane
Owner/operator:CFS RFC
Registration: 446
C/n / msn: S,62
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:RFC Upavon, Wiltshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:RFC Upavon, Wiltshire
Destination airport:RFC Upavon, Wiltshire
3.10.1913: Short S.38 biplane 446, Central Flying School, Upavon. Written off (damaged beyond repair) when Pilot fell out in dive, Upavon, Wiltshire. Pilot - and sole occupant - Major George Charleton Merrick DSO (aged 41) was killed. According to the following transcript of the Coroners Report, held at Upvanon on 10 October 1913:

"Upavon Flying Accident
Inquest on Major Merrick, DSO

The inquest on the body of Major George C Merrick, aged 41, who fell from an aeroplane at the Central Flying School, Upavon, Salisbury Plain, on Friday, was held by Mr F A P Sylvester, Coroner for Mid Wilts, on Saturday.

Captain Godfrey Pain, RN, the Commandant at the School, stated that Major Merrick had been taking a course in aviation at the School since September 17th, when he was attached. He had qualified for his Royal Aero Club certificate at Brooklands as an amateur.

The coroner: I suppose the number of officers and men who commence to learn to fly at the age Major Merrick did would be very small? Yes, but we have had several officers about that age here under instruction in flying.

Had Major Merrick flown here before? Yes, several times.

Major Eugene Luis Jerrard, Royal Marine Light Infantry,attached to the Flying School, gave particulars of Major Merrick’s previous flying experience since he had been taking his course at Upavon. He took the certificate of the Royal Aero Club before he came to the School and was then attached to witness’s flight. “He made five flights with me as a passenger,” proceeded Major Jerrard. “The first was September 19th, on the same type of machine.”

The Coroner: I suppose that kind of machine is intended for instruction? Yes.

Proceeding, Major Jerrard said the total time occupied in the five flights was two hours and eleven minutes..

The Coroner : Had he been up alone before? Yes, on September 26th he went up alone for the first time, and between that date and the day of the accident he made eight flights, occupying an hour and fifty three minutes.

The Coroner : On the same machine? Yes, I also gave him a couple of flights on other machines to give him a general idea.

You saw him flying yesterday? Yes, I was starting another machine myself, and I saw Major Merrick apparently making to land. He evidently intended to pitch on the green in front of the sheds. I noticed that he was coming down rather steeply – not very steeply. I was not disturbed at the time until he reached about 800ft, then the machine’s nose went right down, and she was flying on her back. Major Merrick was underneath. I saw him fall out just after the machine passed the vertical.

About how many feet was he from the ground then? About 250ft.

What happened to the machine? The machine remained on her back for a few seconds. I am not quite sure what happened to it then. The next thin I saw was the machine flying in the same direction as it had been originally flying, on an even keel, and the right side up.

And then it eventually came to ground? Yes, when it lost its flying speed.

The engine was still going? The engine was then stopped. When the Major fell out I think the engine had stopped. I could not be quite certain, as it was some way off, and there were other machines about.

Was there much wind? Practically none; it was calm.

Major Merrick met his death instantaneously? He must have. I was there within three minutes.

Are they fastened by a strap? There is a belt provided for pilot and passenger. Major Merrick generally wore it.

Had he one on that day? I did not see him start, but when I examined the machine the belt was stuffed behind the chair. It was evidently placed there by the Major.

Is there any rule about that? There is no actual rule. Some people object to the belt. We always provide belts, and I always recommend them to be worn. I always wear one myself when flying.

Major Jerrard went on to say that he afterwards examined the controls of the machine with Lieut Waldron and found them both in perfect order. Several parts of the machine were broken, but it was not reduced to a heap of wreckage.

The Coroner: Have you any theory to advance as to what caused the accident? I think Major Merrick fell forward on to the lever, because I think the tendency of a machine if left without control is to dive. This machine did not dive. It went over at a steep angle right down on to its back ; it did not stop at the vertical, as one would have expected.

Lieut Francis Fitzgerald Waldron, of the 19th Hussars, attached to the Central Flying School at Upavon, said that he was in the air at the time of the accident. He saw the machine turning over and over and falling.

The Coroner: Did Major Merrick appear to have ordinary control? I did not see him until he was falling.

Did you see the machine when the Major fell out? I saw the machine falling, and flew to the spot at once. I saw Major Merrick’s body about 150 yards from the machine. Witness added that he afterwards examined the machine with Major Jerrard and found everything intact.

Did you find anything unusual in the air that morning? No, it was a perfect morning for flying.

Major Charles Henry Carr, surgeon of the Royal Army Medical Corps, spoke to having examined the body and described the injuries. Major Merrick had not been under his care at all since he had been at the School. All officers and men were examined before they joined the Royal Flying Corps.

Sergeant Henry Robert Vagg, of the Royal Flying Corps, deposed to having examined the machine Major Merrick was using before he went up on Friday morning. The machine was all correct. It was a Short biplane, No 446.

Did Major Merrick appear to have the usual control? Yes, until he began to descend.

Major John Duncan Fulton, RA, section commander of the Royal Flying Corps, said he was requested to examined the wrecked machine, which he did, and found it in order.

The Coroner: You agree it was a good flying morning? Yes, it was a perfect flying morning.

The Coroner, in the course of his summing up, said the verdict must be one of accidental death. It must occur to them whether a man of Major Merrick’s age, who had only just started to learn to fly, had the same adaptability, readiness and agility, and the quick correspondence between mind and muscle, which might be found in a younger man. That was the question which occurred to one when one heard of an unfortunate death of a distinguished officer such as Major Merrick was. He (the Coroner) understood from the Commandant that this was the first fatal accident which had occurred at the Upavon Flying School after some thousands of flights. He would be expressing the feelings of the jury when he said they all sympathised with the relatives of Major Merrick, and regretted the loss which the Flying Corps and the Regiment of Artillery sustained by his death.

The jury found a verdict of accidental death. The Foreman endorsed the expression of sympathy and regret made by the Coroner, and at the same time hoped that the accident would not be a deterrent to aviation.

The Coroner: I am sure it will not.

The funeral took place on Monday. Major Merrick had seen 22 years’ service in the Army, and was a general staff officer, second grade, at the War Office. He took part in the operations on the North West frontier of India in 1897 and 1898, served with the Tirah Expeditionary Force, and saw considerable service in South Africa. He was with the Ashanti operation in 1900, and was several times mentioned in dispatches, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his work in the operations against the people of Semolike in 1906."


4. "Evening News" (Sydney, NSW) Saturday 4 Oct 1913 Page 8 at
5. Bendigo Advertiser (Bendigo, Victoria) Monday 6 Oct 1913 Page 7 at

Revision history:

18-Nov-2018 00:40 Dr.John Smith Added
19-Nov-2018 21:32 Dr.John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]
20-Nov-2018 19:27 Nepa Updated [Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Operator]
09-Dec-2018 21:58 Dr.John Smith Updated [Operator]
23-Jan-2019 09:06 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]

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