Accident deHavilland DH.84 Dragon G-ACEV, Thursday 21 February 1935
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Date:Thursday 21 February 1935
Time:c. 10:45 LT
Type:deHavilland DH.84 Dragon
Owner/operator:Hillman Airways Ltd
Registration: G-ACEV
MSN: 6023
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: None
Location:Park Drive, Upminster, Essex, England -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Nature:Passenger - Scheduled
Departure airport:Stapleford Tawney, Abridge, Essex (EGSG)
Destination airport:Le Bouget, Paris, France (LBG-LFPB)
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Narrative:
c/no 6023 (Gipsy Major #5209/5210): Registered as G-ACEV [C of R 4230] 8.5.33 to Hillman's Saloon Coaches & Airways, t/a Hillman's Airways, Maylands, Romford, Essex (Stapleford, Abridge, Essex with effect from 6.34); named "Ilford" and fleet no.12. C of A 3900 issued 12.6.33; delivered 7.7.33. To [new company] Hillman's Airways Ltd 11.33.

Achieved notoriety when Elizabeth and Jane DuBois both committed suicide by jumping from aircraft over Upminster on London/Paris service 21.2.35:

On the morning of Thursday February 21, 1935, Captain John Kirton an Abridge based Hillman Airways pilot took off from Stapleford to Paris with two beautiful female American passengers, expensively clad in fur coats, having paid for all six seats on the scheduled 10 am flight. Kirton was already vaguely acquainted with the pair of society girls, having flown them from Le Bourget to Abridge two days earlier with a number of other passengers.

The two girls and their single item of baggage had been alone when Picked up by the airline motor coach at Kings Cross for transportation to the Essex Airport, although Hillman's had expected a party of their friends to accompany them. To trace the missing members of the flight party, the coach driver had assisted one of the girls to make a telephone call to a Romford number, but after apparently making telephone enquiries from the airport, the girls declared that they had been let down and that they were to fly to Paris alone. The younger of the two girls handed over four £5 notes and a £1 note to the agent at Stapleford and the scheduled morning flight to Paris became, in effect, a charter flight for the heavy smoking young Americans.

Settling themselves into the rear seats of the six seat de Havilland DH84 Dragon airliner, GACEV, John Kirton started up the twin engines and taxied out onto the grass of the aerodrome.

Shortly after the aircraft left the ground Kirton concurred with a request from one of the passengers that he close the door between the cockpit and the main, six seat, cabin because of the draught.

Kirton, a greatly experienced pilot with commercial pilots and instructors licences, as well as the holder of one of only eight first class navigators certificates then issued, turned the blue and white Hillman airliner to fly south. The flight was not smooth and some minor buffeting was apparent as the airliner headed towards Kent.

Limited in capacity, the small airliners of the day could not afford either to allocate space to, or meet the cost of, a cabin attendant. Although unable to leave his seat, the pilot was duty bound to look after the welfare of his passengers. As the Dragon crossed the English Channel coast forty-five minutes later, Kirton opened the door again to check that his passengers were comfortable.

He was shocked to find that the seats previously occupied by the two pretty young girls were quite empty. Ominously, the passenger entry door in the side of the cabin was insecure, being held in place only by the pressure of the slipstream. Unable to leave his seat to investigate, as the type did not feature any form of automatic pilot, after alerting Croydon by radio he turned the Dragon around and returned to the Essex Airport.

On landing back at Stapleford, it was no surprise for Kirton to learn that news of his passengers disappearance from within the cabin had already come to the notice of the authorities. An object, not unlike a paper bag, had been seen to fall from the clouds to the ground as an unseen aeroplane flew overhead by two men working on the gas supply of a new bungalow in Park Drive, Upminster.

The gas fitters, George Watling and Tom Collins, rushed to the site beside Rushmere Avenue, Upminster, to find that there were two bodies of young women lying face down and holding each other. The police were called and locally based PC Strange was first to help the shocked workmen. The bodies were taken to the local mortuary".

Subsequent history of G-ACEV: Registered [C of R 6514] 25.11.35 to Hillmans Airways Ltd, Stapleford, Abridge, Essex. Reformed 10.35 as part of British Airways Ltd. Sold 12.35 and re-registered [C of R 6665] 23.1.36 to Airwork Ltd, Heston. Left Croydon 13.8.36 (with brand new C of A) for delivery to Spanish Republicans and registration cancelled 2. 8.36 as 'sold' ("Change of Ownership of Aircraft"). Detained at Paris, returned to Croydon and left again for Spain 15.8.36, arriving 17.8.36. To Alas Rojas squadron of the Spanish Republican Air Force at Sarinena. Ultimate fate not known, but presumed destroyed in Spanish Civil War.

Sources:

1. El Litoral 21 February 1935, page 1.
2. https://abpic.co.uk/pictures/view/1402011/
3. https://cwsprduksumbraco.blob.core.windows.net/g-info/HistoricalLedger/G-ACEV.pdf
4. http://www.airhistory.org.uk/gy/reg_G-A4.htmll
5. http://www.rcawsey.co.uk/Acc1937.htm
6. http://afleetingpeace.org/index.php/aeroplanes/15-aeroplanes/77-register-gb-g-ac
7. http://www.nwamuseum.co.uk/DuBoisSisters1935.pdf
8. http://www.brynelliott.co.uk/WESTESSEXcrashesMishaps2Peacetime.pdf
9. https://air-britain.com/pdfs/production-lists/DH84.pdf
10. http://www.airhistory.org.uk/dh/p060.html
11. https://www.essex.police.uk/SysSiteAssets/media/downloads/essex/about-us/museum/research/history-notebooks/40.pdf
12. https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/lifestyle/21547698.nostalgia-jane-betty-du-bois-plunged-earth-upminster-tragic-suicide-pact/
13. Calexico Chronicle, Volume XXXI, Number 157, 21 February 1935: https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=CC19350221.2.2&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1
14. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/185760654/elizabeth-dubois
15. https://gossipsofrivertown.blogspot.com/2014/10/a-life-of-achievement-and-tragedy.html
16. https://hillman.one-name.net/?page_id=121

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
17-Jan-2017 19:44 TB Added
01-Sep-2017 19:43 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Location, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Source, Damage, Narrative]
29-Oct-2022 18:06 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative, Category]
29-Oct-2022 18:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
29-Oct-2022 18:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
31-May-2024 21:48 Nepa Updated [Location, Operator]

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