Accident Blackburn Iris III N238, Wednesday 4 February 1931
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Date:Wednesday 4 February 1931
Type:Blackburn Iris III
Owner/operator:209 Sqn RAF
Registration: N238
Fatalities:Fatalities: 9 / Occupants: 12
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Batten Bay, off Mount Batten, Plymouth Sound, Devon -   United Kingdom
Phase: Landing
Departure airport:Mount Batten, Plymouth, Devon
Destination airport:Mount Batten, Plymouth, Devon
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Blackburn Iris Mk.III N238 of No. 209 Squadron RAF crashed 4/2/31 in the water at Batten Bay, off Mount Batten, Plymouth Sound, Plymouth, Devon. Pilot, Flt Lt M.H. Ely seriously injured. Wing Commander Charles Tucker took over the controls from Flt Lt Ely to land the plane on the flat waters of Batten Bay just to the south of Mount Batten. Instead of a graceful landing, the Iris nosedived into the water at approximately 70 mph.

The aircraft hit the water under the pilots seats, the tail came up and the main plane crashed into the sea. After a pause one of the aircraft's floats surfaced followed by the tip of the rudder. Wilfred Little, a harbour pilot and Harry Hole were sailing nearby and were the first on the scene of the incident and rescued two men clinging to wreckage.

The Mount Batten station commander and Aircraftsman Shaw (T.E. Lawrence) arrived in an RAF launch which saved two more. Eight of the twelve people on board perished in the crash and six bodies were never recovered, two of the crew are buried at Ford Park Cemetary. "The Aeroplane" of 25/2/31 carried a lengthy report of the inquiry. Key paragraphs read:

"Wing Commander C.G. Tucker was the pilot of the boat. The evidence shows clearly that he was not a competent pilot, and that he had no right to meddle with the controls at all, as he was flying merely as a marker for machine gun practice by the aircraftmen in the boat, and was only sitting in the seat usually occupied by the second pilot because that seat gives a better view."

"He tried to put the boat down on the water, using his authority as senior officer, and he put it down in the wrong way. Flight Lieutenant Ely, who was in the seat intended for the first pilot, endeavoured to correct his mistake, after having already signified that Wing Commander Tucker was doing the wrong thing". 9 of the 12 crew died in the crash:

Wing Commander Charles Gilbert Tucker (aged 44) killed
Flying Officer Frederick Kingsley Wood (aged 23) killed
Sgt Edmund Walter Harris Wilson (aged 24) killed
L.A/C William Henry Stark (aged 22) killed
L.A/C Cecil Gwilym Davies (aged 22) killed
L.A/C Louis Charles Oates (aged 25) killed
L.A/C Harold Corrie Ongley (aged 25) killed
L.A/C William Sidney Rutledge (aged 24) killed
L.A/C William George Stevens killed
Flight Lt Maurice Hibbert Ely injured
Flight Lt Charles Ryley injured
Corporal William Mansell Barry unhurt

The investigation into the crash found that cause was pilot error, when the pilot misjudged a landing approach over a glassy-smooth Plymouth Sound.


1. Associated Press, "Nine Perish in Seaplane Dive: Three Saved After British Air Force Craft Plunges Into Bay During Practice", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Thursday 5 February 1931, Volume LXVII, Number 158, pages 1,2.
Nieuwe Tilburgsche Courant



Revision history:

15-May-2012 11:25 ryan Added
15-May-2012 11:26 harro Updated [Aircraft type]
22-Mar-2013 13:19 ryan Updated [Source, Narrative]
22-Mar-2013 14:13 ryan Updated [Registration]
15-Jul-2013 02:44 JINX Updated [Location, Departure airport, Destination airport]
14-Nov-2014 08:32 Anon. Updated [Narrative]
18-Apr-2018 16:52 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
18-Apr-2018 18:59 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
09-Oct-2018 17:31 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
18-Apr-2021 17:56 Cobar Updated [Registration, Source, Narrative, Photo]

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