Phillips, Azariah

Phillips, Azariah              1918 January 18th

Young Officer Killed – Aviation Accident at Old Sarum

Machine’s Collision with a Tall Steel Pole

As the result of an unusual accident near the Old Sarum Aerodrome on Friday morning serious injuries were sustained by Second-Lieutenant Azariah Phillips, from which he died in the Infirmary the next day. The circumstances were related to the City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson) at the inquest on Monday evening.

Mr T G Sturgess was chosen foreman of the jury.

Lieutenant Etienne Bruno Hamel, of the Royal Flying Corps, said that Second-Lieutenant Phillips was attached to the same squadron as he was at Old Sarum Aerodrome. He was 19 years of age, and had only been with them about a week. He was learning to fly, and on Friday morning at 9.25 he went up in a machine with Lieutenant Whitcut as pilot. Witness saw them go up. They started off in the usual manner, riding to a sufficient height to clear the buildings. Then the propellor appeared to strike a pole which was about 48 feet high, and the machine turned on its back and fell to the ground. He helped to extricate Lieutenant Phillips from the wreckage. The pole was used for testing the weather and had been fixed for about a month.

Answering the Foreman, witness said the machine went straight for the pole and struck it before it had circled at all. The engine cut off the pilot’s line of sight, being in front of him as he rose, and he could not see the pole.

A Juryman : Could there not be something on the pole which airmen could see?

Witness : That is not for me to say. It might be improved, I suppose.

Lieutenant D V D Marshall, ASC, acting Flight Commander, attached to the RFC, said that at nine o’clock on Friday morning he flew the same machine which Mr Phillips subsequently used and found it in perfect flying order. He landed at about 9.15 and ordered Lieutenant Whitcut to take up Mr Phillips for instruction. He watched them start. They took off slightly across wind and got sufficient height to clear the buildings. Then they came into collision with the pole. This was a hollow steel tube painted red and white but it was rather difficult to see. The machine crashed to the ground, and both Mr Phillips and the instructor were badly hurt.

A Juryman : Could not the pole be shifted to another place?

Witness : I can’t tell you. That is a matter for the RE Office.

Captain A P Woolwright, RAMC, said he attended both officers immediately after the accident. Mr Phillips had a compound fracture of the right thigh, a simple fracture of the left thigh, and dislocation of the left shoulder. He sent him to the Infirmary.

Mr Shebsell Yahilevitz, house surgeon, said the patient was admitted at 10.15 on Friday morning. He described the injuries and said he was suffering from hemorrhage and shock. A preliminary anaesthetic was administered with a view to controlling the hemorrhage, purifying the wound and correcting the dislocation. Later, when the shock had considerably passed off, loose fragments of bone were removed. Apart from two short periods of embarrassed respiration the patient was fairly comfortable till Saturday evening, when witness was called and found him with distressed respiration and obviously dying. He expired at 6.30pm. The cause of death was respitary cardiac failure, induced by fat embolism.

The Coroner said that that was all the evidence he could call at present, but it was very necessary that the pilot should be called because he was the only one who could give a satisfactory account of what had happened. The inquest would be adjourned till Monday next at 6pm at the Council Chamber, when the doctor expected Lieut Whitcut would be well enough to attend.


Adjourned Inquest 1918 January 25th

The adjourned inquest on Second-Lieutenant Azariah Phillips, who was killed in an aviation accident at Old Sarum, was concluded on Monday evening in the Council Chamber, when a verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.

The pilot of the machine, who was flying with the officer who was killed, Lieutenant H M Whitcut, of the 5th South Staffs, attached to the RFC, who was injured, gave his version of the fatality.

On Friday, January 11th, he was ordered by Lieutenant Marshall to take out Lieutenant Phillips between half past nine and ten for instruction. They took off against the wind and saw they had plenty of room to clear the buildings. He was flying along and the next thing he remembered was that he was on the ground endeavouring to get Phillips out of the machine. His conclusion was that the machine hit the tall weather pole somewhere in the under-carriage of the machine.

The Coroner : When you took off did you see the pole?

Witness : I could not see it at all. If I had I should have known what to do. He added that in the aeroplane he would be in the back seat and could see directly to the right or left, but could not see straight ahead.

You knew where the pole was? I knew there was a pole up, but I didn’t know anything about it. It is quite a recent introduction.

How long have you been here? I arrived there on November 16th.

You have flown since then? I have flown about 60 or 70 hours.

The pole was about 48 feet high? I should think it was about that.

It is a wind gauge? I am not sure. To the best of my knowledge it is for registering the speed of the wind, but I could not say whether that is correct.

You have flown since the pole has been up? Oh, yes.

The Foreman : Have you been advised by your superiors that there was any danger from the pole previous to your going up?

The witness replied in the negative.


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