On 31st August 1917, a young pilot on a training run met his death when his Martinsyde G100 Elephant scout caught fire and broke up in the air before crashing near Hanworth, south west London.
His name was Lieutenant Arthur Doricourt Roberts M.C., he was just twenty two years old, and yesterday, exactly one hundred years after his death, I was invited to a small ceremony in the churchyard of St. Mary’s in Byfleet in Surrey to commemorate his life.
Jim Allen, long-time BigNote follower, all-round good bloke, and Chair of the Byfleet Heritage Society reads a resumé of Arthur’s life,…
…before laying a wreath on the grave.
Arthur had enlisted in the Scottish Rifles in November 1914 as a temporary Second Lieutenant, gaining his Military Cross in September 1916 for ‘conspicuous gallantry in action’, before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in November 1916.
Words from the rector (above & below).
Jim & Arthur.
Arthur’s medals, M.C. on the left.
Following which we paid our respects at the grave of another flyer, one Richard Harold Barnwell, who was killed just a week before Arthur Roberts.
Julian Temple, Estates & Heritage Manager at the Brooklands Museum Trust, tells the gathering a little about Harold, as he preferred to be called, Barnwell’s life.
Barnwell was a Scottish aviator, designer, constructor and racer who was one of the earliest flyers in the country to gain his aviator’s certificate (No. 276), and who, in early 1913, began flying as what we would now call a test pilot (the term did not come into use until later in the Great War) for Vickers Aviation at Brooklands, in August 1914 becoming their chief pilot.
Over the next three years he would make the first flight of no less than sixteen prototype aircraft, culminating in the maiden flight of the Vickers FB26 Vampire night fighter on 16th August 1917, and it was in a Vampire, ten days later, that he met his death, apparently making no attempt to recover from a spin that took him and the aircraft into the ground at something over 150 m.p.h.
We even had a flypast,…
…the Piper Archer piloted, would you believe,…
…by Ian Whittle,…
…son of the late Sir Frank Whittle,…
…inventor of the turbojet engine.
After which Jim kindly opened the church for me to take some more photos within (you may or may not be aware that we have visited St. Mary’s before, a good few years back now), the results of which will appear in the Back in Blighty category in due course.