Smith, Arthur

Smith, Arthur         1917 August 31st         Netheravon

Young Officer Killed after Flying from Gloucester

The sad story of a tragic ending to a flight made from Rendcombe in Gloucestershire to Netheravon, in which a young aviator was killed, was related to the Coroner for South Wilts (Mr F H Trethowan) at an inquest held at the Netheravon Military Hospital on Saturday. The unfortunate officer was Lieutenant Arthur Leslie Smith, whose home is in New Cross, London.

Capt. Thomas Sidney Sharpe, of the 3rd Gloucesters, said that Lieut Smith was in the Seaforth Highlanders but attached, like himself, to the Royal Flying Corps at Rendcombe. He was 23 years of age, and was in witness’ squadron under instruction. In his opinion Lieut Smith was quite competent to take a cross country flight, and he sent him up on August 22nd to fly to Netheravon, Upavon and back to Rendcombe, on a RE 8 Machine. The Lieut had done ten solo flights on this type of machine. It was not difficult to fly and he left about 11.10am.

Lieut Wessel, of the Royal Fusiliers, attached to the RFC, stationed at Netheravon, said that at about 4pm he was walking towards the landing mark at the aerodrome at Netheravon, when he saw a BE8 machine about 100 feet up. It was climbing very steeply until it got to a height of about 800 feet, when it suddenly turned to the right, and when almost vertical put its nose down and dived to earth. The engine was full on. He did not see the machine hit the earth as there was a fold in the ground. He heard a crash, and about two seconds afterwards a thick cloud of smoke rose from the spot. He ran up as soon as he saw the nose dive, and by the time he got there the officer was dead and surrounded by flames. Men came up with fire extinguishers which were used under his direction. The cause of the nose dive was the turn which was made when the machine was climbing.

Frederick John Wainwright said he was a 2nd Air Mechanic in the same squadron. He overhauled the controls and rigging of Lieut Smith’s machine on the morning of August 22nd, and no one used it from the time of the over-hauling until the Lieut. went up. Everything was in order.

Edward Frederick Cruchley, also a 2nd Air Mechanic, gave evidence as to the engine of the machine being in order. He said he examined every part of it.

Capt Moore, RAMC, stationed at Netheravon Military Hospital, said he was the third person to arrive on the scene of the accident. He examined the young officer’s body and found there were extensive injuries caused by the fall, and in his opinion death was due to shock. He was sure that the burns were caused after death.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

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