Angeloff, Gill, and Cox

Angeloff, Claude, and Gill, Edmund, and Cox, William

1918 November 8th           Unknown

Sad Aeroplane Accident

Three Deaths – Several Injured

Mr Trethowan (Deputy Coroner for the City) held an inquest, without a jury, on Thursday evening in the Council Chamber, Salisbury, concerning the death of Claude George Angeloff, acting sergeant, ASC, attached to RAF as sergeant pupil, aged 18 years; Edmund Gill, corporal, Artillery Co-operation Squadron, RAF, aged 30, of 42, Rampart road, Salisbury; and of William Cox, mechanic sergeant aged 32, of the same squadron, whose home address was Orchard Street, Blandford. Their lives were lost as the result of an aeroplane accident on Tuesday near an aerodrome in the vicinity of Salisbury.

Capt Stanley Beresford Collis, RAF, said he thought Angeloff was a Roumanian and a single man. He was a pilot belonging to the ASC, attached to the RAF, and was an acting sergeant. On Tuesday, October 5th, Angleoff was posted to a finishing group, to complete a few tests for overseas’ service. At 1.15 he left the ground, being alone in the machine, to do his camera obscura test, and carried twelve 20lb bombs undetonated.

The Coroner : That means that the heat must have caused the explosion?

Witness assented, and said most of their work was to finish pilots ready for overseas’ duty as near service conditions as possible, with formation flying and their war load on just as if they were in France. These bombs were issued to witness and should be quite harmless. He had seen bombs detonated, and ready to drop, burn and not go off.

Captain William F Mayoss, of the Artillery Co-operative Squadron, RAF, identified the body of William Cox, a single man; also the body of Edmund Gill, a corporal in the same squadron.

Capt Arthur John Ormesby Wigmore, of the RAMC, attached to the RAF, said that on Tuesday he was at the aerodrome about 1.20, and received a message informing him of this crash. He went to the spot and as he was half-way across the aerodrome the explosion occurred. There was an ambulance always ready on the ground in case of accident, and before he arrived near the debris of the machine the body of the pilot, very badly injured, had been removed. Witness saw the bodies of the other two at the mortuary. In their cases death must have occurred within a minute or two. Witness thought the pilot must have been killed by the crash itself. The sergeant had several wounds in the neck which were the cause of death. Both men, Cox and Gill, were covered with wounds. The latter had a very marked fracture of the skull.

Lieut Cunningham deposed to seeing the machine take off, and said it went up about 300 feet. He saw there was only one man in the machine. Very shortly after he saw the aeroplane in a “spin,” and it fell in a field about half a mile away. After the accident he saw smoke coming from where the machine disappeared, but he could not see the aeroplane, and subsequently the explosion occurred.

Flight-Sergeant Arbour, belonging to an Aero Squadron of the American Expeditionary Force, attached to the RAF, said it was reported to him that Angeloff before this accident had trouble with his machine, which kept missing fire. Witness looked over the engine and had a new accumulator put in. When the machine was taking off he stood by it, and Angeloff tried the engine, and worked his controls to see that they were free. The signal was given to pull the blocks, and at the time witness was quite satisfied that everything was in order when the aeroplane started. He saw the machine rise into the air and commence a slight turn to the left, and he, believing that the machine was all right, turned his attention away to other machines in the air.

About a minute and a half afterwards he noticed a machine coming down head first. At that time he not realise it was Angeloff’s machine, because there were several aeroplanes near. The spot where the accident occurred was about half a mile away from where he stood. He went there in an ambulance and the explosion occurred after he arrived. The machine was on fire, and was practically destroyed, all the canvas having been burnt. There was quite a number standing near the machine and the medical orderly went up to see if the pilot was alive, but nothing could be done for him. It was obvious that before the explosion the pilot was dead. Some little time after that the explosion happened. There were several men near the machine, and after the explosion he noticed some of them lying on the ground, and he rendered assistance to another man who was cut. He did not know that there were any bombs on board, or he would not have gone near the wreck.

The Coroner : There has been a military court of enquiry?

Capt Collis : Yes.

Do you know whether the court has come to any decision? I haven’t heard.

Usually they let me see the result and the evidence, but I haven;t seen it in this case. Have you heard of any suggestions as to why the machine crashed? No one actually saw it.

Even if they don;t see it, the military court of enquiry usually expresses some opinion; they either say the man turned too sharply or “stalled” the machine or something of that sort. There is no suggestion that anyone is to blame, except the pilot, for the crash? No.

The Coroner said this was one of the worst accidents he had known. It was one of the worst cases in Salisbury or in South Wilts. There were three deaths, and he understood there were other men who were very seriously injured, but he was glad to say that there was every prospect of every one else recovering.

Capt Wigmore said two of the men were very seriously injured.

The Coroner said he heard there was a chance of their recovery. The evidence was very clear, except as to how the accident happened, and possibly if the matter were delayed they would not get any further facts or information with regard to the machine crashing. In the case of Angeloff, the Coroner returned a verdict of death from injuries caused by accidental falling of an aeroplane of which he was the pilot; and with regard to the other two victims of the fatality, he found that death was caused by the accidental explosion of aerial bombs.

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