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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 218662
Last updated: 2 November 2019
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Date:18-SEP-1915
Time:17:30 LT
Type:Short S.38?
Owner/operator:RNAS Eastbourne
Registration:
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Bignor Park, Bignor Park Road, Pulborough, West Sussex -   United Kingdom
Phase: Approach
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RNAS Shoreham, Sussex
Destination airport:Bignor Park, Bignor Park Road, Pulborough, West Sussex
Narrative:
18.9.15: Unidentified Naval aircraft, RNAS, Eastbourne. Written off (destroyed) when Crashed into trees, Bignor Park, Bignor Park Rd, Pulborough, West Sussex. Of the two persons on board - Flt Sub-Lt William Croucher (pilot, aged 19) - was killed; Flt Lt Robert Hilton Jones (observer) was injured.

On the evening of 14 Sept, an aeroplane piloted by Flight Lt Hilton Jones with Flight Sub Lt William Croucher, RNAS, aged 19, as passenger, took off from the aerodrome and flew to Shoreham, where it remained overnight. Croucher, of Dulwich, a former civil servant at the Admiralty, had obtained his Pilot's Certificate some ten weeks previously. The next day they took off and arrived at about 5.30 pm at Bignor Park for a rendezvous with an army unit. While approaching the intended landing area, the pilot realised that it was unsuitable and tried to abort the landing. In doing so he probably misjudged the climb and speed of his machine and the engine may not have pulled up quickly enough to clear the surrounding trees. The pilot was reported to have said that the engine had stopped at the time of impact.

According to a contemporary newspaper report ("Portsmouth Evening News" Wednesday 22 September 1915):

NAVAL AIRMAN'S DEATH.
INQUEST AND FUNERAL AT CHICHESTER.
The fatal aeroplane accident over Bignor Park last Wednesday, which resulted in the death of a young Naval Flight Sub-Lieutenant, William Croucher, at Graylingwell War Hospital, on Saturday, was the subject of an inquest hold at Graylingwell Hospital on Tuesday morning by the Chichester Coroner (Mr. J. W. Loader-Cooper).

Croucher, who was only 19 years old, was before the war a civil servant to the Admiralty. He had obtained his flying certificate only within the last two weeks. He was a passenger in the machine at the time of the accident, the pilot being Flight Lieut. Hilton Jones. The aeroplane was flying over Bignor Park, West Sussex, in the direction of Portsmouth, about 4.45 on Wednesday afternoon, and was observed to be flying badly and very low. It seemed at one time to be coming down on the Bignor Park Convalescent Home, and Private James Power, driver of a Graylingwell War Hospital motor ambulance which was at the Home at the time, said that, being under the impression that it was coming down there, he called out to some other A.S.C. men to get out of the way. He heard the engine misfire badly, and the machine made a loop towards the earth, and then stood up on end and crashed down, striking the top of a tree in its fall.

The aviators were taken from the wreck by members of the Wilts Yeomanry who were near, and were conveyed to the Convalescent Home. Lieut. Hilton Jones was able to walk a few steps, but Lieut. Croucher was unconscious when taken from the wreck, and never recovered consciousness. The pilot, who has a dislocated shoulder and other injuries, but is doing well, was left under care at the Home, but Lieut. Croucher was brought on to Graylingwell Hospital, where he lingered till Saturday morning at nine o'clock. His head was severely injured, and his death was caused by haemorrhage on the brain, which an operation on Friday evening failed permanently to relieve. The unfortunate young man also had a fractured thigh and other injuries.

Evidence was given by Flight-Commander Philip Shepherd, of the Royal Naval Air Service, that prior to Tuesday, when the deceased himself flew the aeroplane from Eastbourne to Shoreham, it had been laid up for 48 hours, and had been thoroughly overhauled and inspected both by witness himself and by Lieut. Hilton Jones, who was to have command of it. Witness was thoroughly satisfied that it was in perfect order. As to what the witness Power had said about the misfiring, Flight-Commander Shepherd observed that Power was not an expert on the type of engine used on the aeroplane. When this engine was throttled back for coming down, it very often "popped," in a way that sounded very much like a misfire. The engine had since been overhauled, and nothing had been found wrong with it, except a cracked cylinder head, which was probably caused by the fall, and in any case would not have stopped the engine. Witness had seen the pilot since the accident, and he suggested, in reply to the Coroner's question what he thought happened, that the pilot found that a certain spot where he had intended to come down was not suitable, and in attempting to rise again his engine did not "pick up" quite quickly enough to clear the trees. The pilot was not only a careful flyer, but was always careful to look over his machine before he started.

The jury and the deceased's brother expressed themselves satisfied with the evidence, Mr. Croucher adding that he had himself spoken with the pilot and was satisfied he had done all that skill could do. A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned, the Coroner expressing the sympathy of himself and the jury with the family in the loss which they and the country had sustained in the young officer's death."

NOTE: The exact type of aircraft involved is not confirmed, nor is there any reference to the exact aircraft type or serial number in contemporary reports. However, RNAS Eastbourne did operate the Short S.38 at this time, and aircraft involved was specifically a two seater (as is the Short S.38)

Sources:

1. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1916.htm
2. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=10598.0;wap2
3. Flight (September 24 1915 page 714): https://www.flightglobal.com/FlightPDFArchive/1915/1915%20-%200714.PDF
4. http://www.worldwar1atsea.net/xDKCas1915-09Sep.htm
5. https://airwar19141918.wordpress.com/tag/1915/
6. https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/70938-lt-charles-robert-chapman/?tab=comments#comment-641387
7. http://www.bignorpark.co.uk/index.php/about/history


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
27-Nov-2018 22:02 Dr.John Smith Added
27-Nov-2018 22:07 Dr.John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Narrative]

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