Incident Gloster Grebe J7364 ,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 162483
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Date:Wednesday 4 March 1925
Time:10:15 LT
Type:Gloster Grebe
Owner/operator:32 Sqn RAF
Registration: J7364
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:1
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Locks Heath School, Warsash, Hampshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RAF Kenley, Whyteleafe, Surrey
Destination airport:-
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Gloster Grebe Mk.II J7364, 32 Squadron, RAF Kenley: Written off 4/3/1925 when the pilot lost control and crashed into a hut at Locks Heath School, Warsash, Hampshire. The pilot (Flying Officer Alexander Hutchinson Montgomery) was only slightly injured, but a 12 year old student named Dora E Ball, who was in the hut, was killed in the crash. According to a contemporary local newspaper report ("Portsmouth Evening News - Wednesday 18 March 1925):

Inquest on girl victim
Eye Witnesses describe the accident
(from our own reporter)
Locksheath. Wednesday.

The inquest on Dora Ball, the little twelve year old victim of the Locksheath plane crash was resumed at the Guildhall, Southampton, today, and was conducted by the Borough Coroner, Mr H.K. Pope.

The fatality occurred during the morning of Wednesday 4th March. Seven girls including Dora Ball were receiving instruction in bread making at the cookery hut at Locksheath Council School when an aeroplane crashed into the building.

Miss Lena Booker, the cookery mistress, and several of the scholars received severe injuries , and the deceased child was conveyed to The Royal South Hants and Portsmouth Hospital in an unconscious condition, suffering from a compound fracture of the skull and lacerations of the brain. She died the same evening without regaining consciousness.

At the previous enquiry the only evidence taken was that of identification, given by the deceased child's stepfather, William Ball, a gunner's mate in The Royal Navy, and the medical testimony, It being stated by Dr. Seagar Thomas, Honorary Pathologist at the hospital, that death was due to injury to the brain and haemorrhage resulting from the fracture of the skull. Pilot Officer A.H. Montgomery, who was flying the machine at the time of the crash, and Miss Booker, were unable to attend owing to the injuries they received.

Mr. Arthur Emmanuel attended the inquest on behalf of the parents of the deceased child; Mr C Eustace Fulton (instructed by Messrs Swayne, Havers and Hartfield ) represented Pilot Officer Montgomery; and Mr A L Roberts (County Architect) attended on behalf of The County Council. Others present included Mr Campbell representing The Air Ministry; and Mr R F Casey RAF of The Royal Aero Club.

Miss Booker is still in hospital and was unable to attend today's enquiry , when the Coroner had the assistance of a Jury.

Schoolmaster and the crash:
The first witness called was Mr Edward Geo. Loader, Headmaster of The Locksheath Council School, who said at about 10.15 on the morning of March 4th he heard and aeroplane flying over the school. The machine was flying very low, and after going in an Easterly direction it reappeared. After passing the school windows it crashed into the cookery hut.

The Coroner - At what height was it ? - at that time it could have been no more than seven or eight feet from the ground when it struck the hut. On going outside the witness saw the wrecked 'plane lying in the playground and the officer was walking by the machine. When witness went into the hut he saw Dora Ball lying on the floor unconscious.

In reply to Mr Emannuel the witness said that he had not before seen an aeroplane descend in the vicinity of the school.

Mr Emannuel - Did you observe a tree was damaged ? I heard one was and I saw a piece which I believe was broken off. Witness spoke to the officer after the accident and he told the witness that it had struck a tree and part of the wing was damaged as it crashed.

Mr Emmanuel -- Did you observe if any people were watching ? -- I could not see any from my school.
Mr Emmanuel - Do you know if any relations of the pilot live near ? -- Yes, they live quite close.
Mr Emmanuel - Were they out of the house watching the aeroplane ? -- I cannot say.
Mr Emmanuel - Could you observe if the aeroplane was stunting ? -- No, I merely heard it rush past the school and come back again.

Lesley Herbert Pratt , a bricklayer's laboured of Sarisbury, who was working on a building opposite the school, said he saw an aeroplane flying very low and at a fast speed over the school. After passing the school it turned Northwards and in doing so it struck the top of a group of fir trees. The machine continued Northwards then turned to the East finally returning and passing over Jesmond House, crashing immediately afterwards. When witness arrived at the hut the teacher was lying on the floor.

Mr Emmanuel - What is Jesmond House - is that where the relatives of the officer live ? -- Yes.

Witness added that after striking the trees the machine appeared to be under proper control.

A member of the Jury - Was the officer manoeuvring over the house or was he trying to descent nearby ? -- I could not say.

A member of the Jury - Had he wanted to land would there have been plenty of room near the house ? -- Yes.
At about 10.15 in the morning of the crash Mr E W Edwards Burton , of Locksheath , was in an upstairs room of his house when he heard a crash and on looking out of the window he saw pieces of fir tree falling. He ran out of the house up to the school where he saw the aeroplane wrecked in the playground. Subsequently witness found a portion of the aeroplane in his garden and the pane of one of his windows had a very small hole in it which the witness believes was caused by a sharp blow from a tree.

Edward Geo. Smart from Little Abshotts Farm, Titchfield, who is about a mile from the accident , said he saw the aeroplane travelling from the East about 300 feet up. "It was travelling at a terrific speed and seemed to be falling sideways and I thought it was going to crash" ... as the machine turned it righted itself and seemed to go straight up in the air. The next thing he noticed was that the machine was falling sharply, as if out of control, and immediately it disappeared from view the witness heard the crash.

After further evidence had been given by eye witnesses Pilot Officer Montgomery went into the witness box and having been warned by The Coroner he said he was stationed at Kenley Aerodrome, Surrey. He said that on 4th March he was instructed to make a practice flight , which involved him being up a number of hours and flying when he pleased. He started his Flight Commander's machine at 9.20.a.m. and found himself over Warsash village at about 10.10.a.m. Until he received orders that morning he had no idea he would fly that day.

Mr Fulton - Did any relatives know that you would be flying over there , or expect you there ? -- No.

Witness went on to say that he was flying at a height of between 500 and 800 feet and as he turned the nose of his machine went downwards, and decreased the altitude rapidly. His speed was then 110 miles an hour and he failed to pull up quickly enough to avoid the trees.

The Coroner - A lack of judgement ?
Mr Fulton - Yes.

Witness added that the result of striking the trees was that he broke the wing , which drooped downwards , and for all practical purposes the machine was quite out of control. He saw an open space beyond the school and made up his mind rapidly to try and land there. He was unable to effect a landing and approached the hut with a drooping wing. He managed to clear the hut with his undercarriage , but the damaged wing struck the centre of the hut and swung the aeroplane around. He then crashed. There was a stiff breeze blowing at the time, at about 35 miles an hour.
Answering Mr Emmanuel the witness said that he had not previously known the direction of Locks Heath

Mr Emmanuel -- Were four relatives in the garden of "Jesmond House" ? -- I did not see them.
Mr Emmanuel -- Were you expecting to see them ? -- I should not have been surprised.
Mr Emmanuel -- Did you intend to circle around the house until you called their attention ? -- No.
Mr Emmanuel -- Why did you strike the fir tree ? -- Without realising it I had come down too low.

"An Error of Judgement"
The Coroner remarked that the accident appeared to have resulted from an error of judgement , and there was nothing in the evidence to show that there was any culpable negligence on the part of the pilot.

The Jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death" attaching no blame to anybody and expressed their sympathy with the relatives of the deceased girl"


4. Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 5 March 1925
5. Portsmouth Evening News - Thursday 5 March 1925 and Wednesday 18 March 1925

Revision history:

24-Nov-2013 17:49 ryan Added
25-May-2018 18:46 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
09-Nov-2018 08:54 stehlik49 Updated [Operator]
17-Feb-2020 05:11 Dr. John Smith Updated [Source, Narrative]

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