Henderson, William Perry, John

Henderson, William, and Perry, John       1918 March 15th        Stonehenge

Two 17 Year Old Boys Killed at Stonehenge

Another aviation accident occurred on Sunday afternoon at the Stonehenge aerodrome, when an aeroplane moving along the ground crashed into a group of boys employed at the aerodrome. Several of them were injured, and two, who were both 17 years of age, were killed, William Edwin Henderson, of Camberwell, who died almost immediately from fracture of the vault of the skull and laceration of the brain, and John Perry, of Glasgow, who succumbed to his injuries at 6.30 in the evening at Fargo Military Hospital.

The Coroner for South Wilts opened the inquests on Wednesday, but the inquiries were adjourned.

Adjourned Inquest 1918 April 5th Stonehenge


As the result of an aeroplane diving to the ground at the Stonehenge Aerodrome on March 10th and striking a group of boys, the death has occurred of William Edward Henderson, aged 17, of Camberwell, and John Perry, aged 17, of Glasgow. The inquest was held on Wednesday in last week at Fargo Military Hospital by the Coroner for South Wilts (Mr F H Trethowan). The pilot of the machine, Second-Lieutenant Campbell, was represented by Mr A J Atkins (Messrs Hodding and Jackson).

Robert Reid, a boy in the RFC, stated that he was working with comrades when he saw an aeroplane coming towards them. It dived over some RNAB men who were some distance away. The Machine then span and went in the direction of Fargo Hospital. It banked, and just cleared the telegraph wires, and then came in their direction. When the machine got level, it dived straight towards them. He dropped flat on the ground and the wing of the machine passed over him. When it had passed he got up, and found that Henderson, Perry and Reynolds were lying together, and that Henderson was dead.

Sergt-Major F Sugden, RFC, Stonehenge Aerodrome, said he saw the machine flying over Larkhill Camp at a very low altitude, and it then turned in the direction of Sergt-Major Cox and himself and headed straight for them. The machine dived at them, and he had to move quickly to get out of the way. It appeared an intentional dive, and the wing tip missed him by about two feet. The machine rose again quickly, and after doing a left-hand turn over the telegraph wires, dived at another crowd. He heard a crash and saw the injured boys being attended to. He could give no reason for the second dive.

Sergt-Major Cox gave similar evidence, and a boy named Brown said it appeared to him that the pilot dived towards them intentionally, apparently to frighten them.

Cadet Ronald Knight, RFA, Larkhill, who was a passenger in the machine, said they had been flying for about half-an-hour before the accident. Once when they dived close to the ground he saw two men move quickly out of the way. He thought the machine was out of control. Shortly afterwards the machine dived again, and he thought it was still out of control, and he was rather frightened. On the second dive he saw men just beneath the machine.

Captain A N Benge, RFC, Stonehenge Aerodrome, said he was in charge of the squadron at the School. Before March 10th there was a notice in orders that “stunting” was not permitted. He called diving deliberately at people “stunting,” and also diving close to the ground when there was no necessity to do so. Such diving was not part of the training. After the smash he examined the machine and found that everything which would be operated to raise the machine from a dive was in order.

Replying to Mr Atkins, he said that “stunting” by airmen at reasonable heights was generally encouraged, and “low stunting” was not encouraged. He was not aware of any orders at the school to define a low height.

Lieut P J Barnett, MC, and Second-Lieut W L Coleridge said that Lieut Campbell was remarkably steady and careful, the former declaring that he had been told there was no reason why they should not dive close to the ground in open places.

Second-Lieut H W Campbell, RFC, Stonehenge Aerodrome, who elected to give evidence after being warned, said he was about 200 feet up when the machine dived. He was doing a climbing turn. The machine lost speed, and the nose went down and he had no control of it till he regained flying speed. He would not attempt to stall a machine unless he was up at least 1000 feet. He made a small dive over the sergeant-majors, but with no intention of frightening them. The dive was lower then he expected or meant it to be. On the occasion of the second dive he had no intention of diving; his intention was to fly back to the aerodrome. He had been flying for seven months, and had his wings. He had never had a previous crash, not even breaking a wire.

The Coroner, in summing up, told the jury they would have to consider the case very carefully, because if they thought Lieut Campbell was actually diving over these boy’s heads with the intention of frightening them, it might possibly be manslaughter. Before they decided that point they should consider whether the pilot was actually endeavouring to frighten the boys, or whether his machine was falling by reason of the turn he had made over the telegraph wires. There was not very much doubt that he was “stunting” or showing off when he made the first dive, but they could only take that evidence as an indication of what he might have intended to do on the occasion of the second dive. Before coming to any conclusion as to manslaughter the jury must be satisfied that there was gross negligence on the part of the pilot, or else a breach of the law of which the accident was the natural consequence.

After a consultation, the Foreman said the jury found a verdict of accidental death in both cases, and they believed that the dive of the machine on the boys was accidental. They were, however, certainly of opinion that the dive which was made over the sergeant-majors was intentional and dangerous.

The Coroner expressed agreement with the verdict of the jury, and said he thought some publicity ought to be given to the case, as it might tend to put a stop to “stunting” close to the ground and in places where people were walking about, because there could be no doubt whatever that it was exceedingly dangerous.

See also the case of Reynolds, Albert


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