Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Meopham Air Disaster - 21st July 1930

Eighty years ago today, a Junkers F 13 (G-AAZK) of Walcot Air Line set off from Berck-sur-Mer near Le Touquet, France.

At the controls were Lieutenant Colonel George "Budgie" Henderson MC AFC, a very distinguished and experienced former RAF World War 1 pilot and Mr Charles Shearing, assistant pilot - also ex RAF.

On board were four wealthy passengers returning from a weekend high society party.

The weather was very poor for the time of year with gale force winds and driving rain. However, despite the terrible conditions, the aircraft safely crossed the English Channel and continued on it's flight over Kent heading towards Croydon, which at that time, was London's main airport.

At around 2.35 PM, disaster struck!

High above the skies of Meopham, a rural village on the outskirts of Gravesend, eye witnesses reported hearing a sound like an explosion and then looking up in horror as the aircraft disintegrated in mid air and bodies fell to the ground.

The wreckage from the aircraft was spread over a wide area. The aircrew and passengers all perished in the crash. Five of the bodies were found dead in Leylands Orchard but the assistant pilot was still strapped in his seat alive.

He was carefully removed from the aircraft by the local Bobby and the village Doctor was summoned quickly. Sadly the assistant pilot never regained consciousness and died shortly afterwards.

The passengers.

Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 3rd Marquess of Dufferin and Ava was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1875. He joined the British Army and served with distinction in the Second Boer War, was awarded the DSO and gained the rank of Captain.

After leaving the Army in 1913 he was appointed military secretary to the Governor General of Australia. In 1914 he rejoined his old regiment and was seriously wounded whilst serving on the Western Front. In the autumn of 1915 he was again seriously wounded having only returned to duty three days earlier.

In 1921 Lord Dufferin was elected to the Senate of the Northern Ireland Parliament where he served as Speaker until his untimely death.

Society beauty Lady Rosemary Millicent Leveson-Gower, Viscountess Ednam was born on 9th August 1893. She was the daughter of the 4th Duke of Sutherland and wife of the 3rd Earl of Dudley whom she had been visiting in France.

Sir Edward Simons Ward, 2nd Baronet Ward was born on 1st July 1882. Educated at Eton, he served with the Grenadier Guards during the First World War and achieved the rank of Captain.

Mrs Henrik Loeffler was married to a mining engineer with business interests in South Africa. She was a very well known society hostess and had organised the party in France attended by the Marquess and Sir Edward.

The aftermath.
The loss of so many high profile society figures in one fell swoop prompted the Air Ministry to launch an extensive investigation into the cause of the crash. The enquiry was lead by Major Cooper and the results were to be made public for the first time. A precursor to the modern day AAIB (Air Accidents Investigation Branch).
The aircraft manufacturers, Junkers and the German Government also conducted an investigation into the aircraft's loss.
Following extensive scientific tests conducted at Croydon, Major Cooper concluded that the aircraft's loss was due to a phenomenon he called "tail buffeting". Under certain wind conditions and above a particular air speed it was found that the aircraft would suffer severe vibration which could cause catastrophic structural failure.
The Germans on the other hand discounted this theory and seemed to imply that the crash may have been due to pilot error and/or the weather conditions.
It should be born in mind that the Great War had only ended just over ten years prior to the accident and Anglo-German relations were naturally still very strained. Admission of any potential deficiency with the Junkers aircraft would have been an embarrassment for both the company and the German government.
Needless to say, the British Air Ministry accepted the outcome of Major Cooper's enquiry.
Pathe news.
I came across a brief news film report on the Pathe archive web site. Here is the link.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please feel free to leave a comment. They are always welcome.
Further posts you may find of interest...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gravesend Classic Bus Day - Pictures

On Sunday 11th July, Gravesend town held it's annual Classic Bus Day in absolutely glorious weather. As all rides on the buses were free, we decided to have a cheap day out (for a change!).

There were approximately a dozen different vintage buses running during the day on the old London Country routes through North Kent. These included the two AEC Regal IV's shown above which date from 1953 and 1951 respectively.

AEC - the Associated Equipment Company - manufactured thousands of buses and trucks, including the world famous Routemasters, between 1912 and 1979 and was based in Southall, Middlesex.

An AEC Reliance bus in Maidstone and District bus company livery. This bus (390 DKK) first entered service in 1958.

This was the oldest bus on display. STL2692 dates back to 1946
RML2589 is an AEC Routemaster bus which entered service in 1966. We had a ride on this bus from Gravesend to Dartford and then on to Longfield before returning back to Gravesend.

Someone really enjoyed their ride on the bus! (only the second bus he's ever been on - a real sign of the times).

Another Routemaster - RMC 1486. She was built in 1962.

More pictures of the buses can be found here on my Flickr pages

If you have enjoyed reading this post you are welcome to leave a comment. They are always very welcome.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

On the Buses in Gravesend

In the immortal words of Blakey, "Get that bus out!"
This Sunday (11th July 2010) vintage buses from the 1950's and 60's will once again take to the streets of Gravesend, Kent as the town holds it's annual Classic Bus Day.

The buses will be operating between 11 AM and 5 PM, arriving and departing from Milton Place Car Park in Ordnance Road, Gravesend.

They will be running on various different routes from Gravesend to Dartford, Longfield and other towns and villages such as Hartley, Betsham and Cliffe. Further details here


The double decker bus, seen running through Northfleet last year, is a Leyland Titan which originally entered service with Leeds City Transport in 1959. Since 2005 it has been owned and operated by Ensign Bus Company based in Purfleet, Essex.

This single decker is a Guy Special (GS 15) which I photographed a couple of months ago at a rally in Dartford. The bus was built by Guy Motors in Wolverhampton for London Transport and entered service in 1953. It remained in service with them until 1969 when it was sold to private owners.

The Guy Motor Company had a very distinctive emblem which appeared on the bonnets of their buses and other commercial vehicles - "Feathers in Our Cap".
Unfortunately the Guy Motor Company fell into financial difficulties in the late 1950's despite exporting their buses all over the world in large numbers - even to China!

They were taken over by Jaguar in 1961 and later became absorbed into British Leyland finally ceasing vehicle production in 1982. Bus production under the Guy named had already ended in 1964.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please feel free to leave a comment. They are always welcome.

Further posts you may also like.....

Milton Church, Gravesend - Porcupines & Masons

Visit to West Malling

Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial, Manston