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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 221570
Last updated: 13 October 2021
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Date:19-MAY-1917
Time:afternoon
Type:Silhouette image of generic be2 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c
Owner/operator:42 (Reserve) Sqn RFC
Registration: 5817
MSN:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Staines Road, Hounslow, Middlesex -   United Kingdom
Phase: Initial climb
Nature:Military
Departure airport:RFC Hounslow Heath, Hounslow, Middlesex
Destination airport:RFC Hounslow Heath, Hounslow, Middlesex
Narrative:
19.5.17: Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2e 5817, 42 (Reserve) Squadron, RFC Hounslow Heath. Written off (destroyed) when Spun into the ground shortly after take off, and caught fire on impact, Staines Road, Hounslow, Middlesex. Pilot - 2nd Lt Geoffrey Arnold Nicholson (aged 20) - was killed. According to the aircraft accident record card for B.E.2c 5817:

"Court of Inquiry 87/7954
8/6/17
Flying accident. On third solo flight on this type of machine. Failed to recover from a spinning nose dive. It was the opinion of the Court of Inquiry that the accident was due an error of judgement in the handling of the machine by the pilot. Machine got into a spin, nose diving to the ground, where it immediately caught fire on impact. Machine appeared to be in perfect order before flight."

According to contemporary newspaper reports ("Middlesex Chronicle" 26 May and 20 October 1917 respectively)

"DEATHS
NICHOLSON: On the 19th May, as the result of an aeroplane accident, 2nd Lieutenant Geoffrey Arnold Nicholson R.F.C., the dearly loved and youngest son of Grace D. Nicholson and "Surrenden", Staplehurst and A.G.Nicholson of Coonoor, South India.

Our readers will remember that Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Arnold Nicholson, of The Royal Flying Corps, met a cruel death on the afternoon of the 19th May last, through the aeroplane in which he was flying crashing to earth and taking fire near the gravel pits in Staines Road, despite the gallant efforts of two local residents who went to his assistance and tried to rescue him from the wreckage. One of these was Mr A.B. Wakeford of Gravel Pit Cottage who told the Coroner and his jury at the inquest that on the afternoon in question he was sitting at his window when he noticed an aeroplane over the poplar trees, and all of a sudden he saw the exhaust go black and the machine nose dive to earth and then burst into flames. He rushed to the place where he and "another man" were the first to arrive. They saw the airman (Lieut. Nicholson) in a sitting position, and crying piteously for help. They did not speak to him but did all they could to get at him until members of the Flying Corps came and took him away.

Appended to our report of this inquest was the following : "The other man spoken of in evidence by the witness Wakeford was responsible for an act of resource and courage on the occasion which thoroughly merits, and if he comes forward, will undoubtedly receive due recognition. Although by no means a young man it appears that in an effort to rescue the unfortunate airman he covered his head with is coat and dashed into the flames, sustaining burns himself in doing. Even when it was pointed out to him by someone in authority that he could do no good for the young fellow, he replied to those who thus addressed him with an emphatic "I am here to do my duty". And well he did it too, with a courageous heart, only human weakness yielding to the fearful element of fire which devoured the flying machine and claimed another gallant airman as its victim. Despite all enquiries no clue to the identity of this hero has yet been obtained and Mr Wakeford himself does not know the man"

The modest hero of this tragic incident remained unknown for some time, but diligent enquiries were made by direction of the authorities, and at last it was discovered that Mr Percy D. Manning of Wellington Road, Hounslow was the brave man who made the daring attempt to rescue the unfortunate Lieutenant from his terrible fate. The circumstances were brought to the attention of The Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, and it was announced on Tuesday that they had awarded to Mr Manning their Silver Medal, with a gratuity of ten guineas "for his gallantry on May 19th, when an aeroplane came down and took fire. Manning made several attempts to reach the pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Nicholson, who lost his life"

We cordially congratulate Mr Manning upon having received from so influential a Society this recognition of his noble deed - performed under a high sense of duty in so unobtrusive a manner, and in keeping with the best traditions of the British race."

Sources:

1. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1917.htm
2. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/369546/nicholson,-/
3. http://www.rafmuseumstoryvault.org.uk/archive/nicholson-g.a.-geoffrey-arnold
4. http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=10401.0
5. http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Kent/Staplehurst.html
6. https://www.british-genealogy.com/threads/26790-Accident?s=f6ebbe1fc09bf9c4db28eb135f9a5b6b


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
05-Feb-2019 17:34 Dr. John Smith Added
06-Feb-2019 16:25 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]

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