Accident Spencer spherical balloon 'Miramar 1st' G-FAAM, Tuesday 27 July 1926
ASN logo
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Date:Tuesday 27 July 1926
Time:15:30 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic BALL model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Spencer spherical balloon 'Miramar 1st'
Owner/operator:C G Spencer & Sons Ltd
Registration: G-FAAM
Fatalities:Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 6
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Hoo Park, Kempston, Bedfordshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:Hoo Park, Kempston, Bedfordshire
Destination airport:
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
Spencer spherical balloon G-FAAM: C of R No LA.14 Registered May 1925 to C.G.Spencer & Sons Ltd., Highbury, London N5. Named "Miramar 1st". Written off (destroyed) 27/7/1926 when balloon envelope parted from basket, Hoo Park, Kempston, Bedfordshire. The pilot and one passenger were killed instantly. The police attended the three other casualties. However, one died on the way to hospital and two others died shortly after being admitted.

Ernest Thompson Willows (pilot, aged 40) killed
Ernest Crowsley (aged 37) killed
Mrs Flora Crowsley (aged 37) killed
William Francis Harbage (aged 34) killed
Mrs Nellie Harbage (aged 32) killed
J Lowe injured

Four of the victims were buried in Kempston parish church, with over 2,000 mourners attending the funerals on 7/8/1926. According to a contemporary newspaper report ("The Bedford Record" 3rd August 1926):


At 3.30 this afternoon (27 July 1926) when the amusements and attractions of Kempston Flower Show and Fete were at their height a terrible disaster occurred. The organisers of the Show had engaged one of Spenser and Son’s captive balloons to make trips carrying four passengers on each trip in the basket.

Several trips had been made, and just before the accident the balloon was up in the air at about 600 feet. The usual practice of winding in was followed at the ed of this trip by a small motor winch standing on the ground and winding in the balloon by means of a hawser. The wind, however, had freshened from the north-east as the balloon was nearing the earth. It was noticed that the effect of the pull on the hawser in conjunction with the effect of the wind on the envelope of the balloon was causing the basket to tilt dangerously. The pilot was not in the passenger basket but was sat on a seat just above them. The basket contained four adult passengers. In consequence of the basket tilting, it is believed when the balloon was about 50 feet from the ground the pilot allowed some of the gas to escape in order to effect a safer landing, but the result was that the netting supporting the basket came of the partially deflated envelope, in the words of an eye-witness, like ‘skin off a banana.’

The basket fell rapidly to earth, pitching out the four passengers and pilot. The distance was about 40 feet.
The accident took place in the full view of an enormous crowd, and the authorities promptly decided to close the proceedings.

The Luton Red Cross band played The National Anthem, and except for those who helped remove the injured people to hospital, everyone departed for home.

The Killed
Four people where killed, the names being as follows: the pilot, Mr A.T.Willows, address unknown at present; Mrs Ernest Crowsley, 270 Bedford Road; Mr W. Francis Harbage, 1 Church Walk and his wife; Mr Ernest Crowslwy lies in hospital dangerously injured.

The balloon bore in large letters the name ‘Mirarnia’ and underneath it the words ‘Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.’ The balloon was perfectly round in shape and not the usual pear shape. A parachute descent by a lady had been arranged for the evening."

In a follow up article in 1977 two eyewitnesses of the disaster provided some additional details about events that day, including the cost of a ride as being two shillings per person, and a recollection that the balloon owners were subsequently fined £100 for not having a certificate of air worthiness. Altogether a cautionary tale for fete organisers

C of R Cancelled 31.1.27.


9. The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria) Thursday 5 Aug 1926 Page 11:
10. The West Australian (Perth, WA) Friday 6 Aug 1926 Page 9:

Revision history:

31-May-2018 21:36 Dr. John Smith Added
21-Mar-2022 05:26 Ron Averes Updated [Operator]
06-Sep-2022 21:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Aircraft type, Source, Narrative, Category]
06-Sep-2022 21:08 Dr. John Smith Updated

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description

The Aviation Safety Network is an exclusive service provided by:
Quick Links:

CONNECT WITH US: FSF on social media FSF Facebook FSF Twitter FSF Youtube FSF LinkedIn FSF Instagram

©2024 Flight Safety Foundation

1920 Ballenger Av, 4th Fl.
Alexandria, Virginia 22314