Accident Maurice Farman MF.20 ,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 218512
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Date:Tuesday 19 January 1915
Time:16:30 LT
Type:Maurice Farman MF.20
Owner/operator:1 (Reserve) Sqn RFC
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Farnborough Airfield, Farnborough, Hampshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:Farnborough Airfield, Farnborough, Hampshire
Destination airport:Farnborough Airfield, Farnborough, Hampshire
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
19.1.15: Maurice Farman MF.20, (Reserve) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Written off (damaged beyond repair) when dived into the ground and caught fire, Farnborough Airfield, Farnborough, Hampshire. Pilot - 2nd Lt Maurice Leigh Gardner (aged 28) - was killed. According to a contemporary report (Flight magazine 22 and 29 January 1915 - see link #3)

"While making a descent after a flight at Farnborough on Tuesday, a Maurice Farman biplane, piloted by Second Lieut. M.L. Gardner, caught fire, and the pilot was burned to death before he could be extracted."

In the 29 January edition, Flight magazine reported the investigation into the accident and gave more details: "At the inquest held at Farnborough to enquire into the death of Lieut M.L. Gardner, no further light was thrown on the cause of the accident, although it was stated that death was due to the fall and not to burns.

According to the evidence, the machine was flying perfectly at a height of about 200 ft. Then it commenced to plane down normally, but when about 100 ft. up, the machine suddenly dived almost vertically. On contact with the ground the engine was thrown forward on to the petrol tank and the wreck burst into flames."

Why Gardner’s aeroplane plummeted so spectacularly and disastrously into the ground that day is something of a mystery, as far as I can tell. The official inquest was inconclusive. The Aeroplane magazine stated in January 1915:

“An eyewitness of the accident expresses the opinion that Mr. Gardner must have fainted in the air and have fallen onto his controls, so causing a dive for die last 60 feet. It may be, however, that he merely misjudged his height, and had no room in which to pull the machine back, as in the fatal accident to Flight Sub-Lieut. Ffield, R.N., at Hendon recently. It was not made known whether he was strapped into his seat or not.”

Either way, like Henry Ralph Lumley a few years later, Gardner’s nascent flying career came to a horrible end just as it was beginning. He is now commemorated in Golders Green crematorium.


3. Flight magazine, 22 and 29 January 1915
6. Daily Mirror (London) 21/1/1915

Revision history:

25-Nov-2018 03:01 Dr.John Smith Added
24-Jan-2019 17:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
26-Jan-2019 16:39 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]

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