Accident Gas balloon, Spencer Bros. Unregistered, Saturday 9 July 1910
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Date:Saturday 9 July 1910
Type:Silhouette image of generic BALL model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Gas balloon, Spencer Bros.
Owner/operator:Spencer Brothers
Registration: Unregistered
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: None
Location:Coventry, Warwickshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Departure airport:Coventry, Warwickshire
Destination airport:Coventry, Warwickshire
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
9.7.1910: Gas balloon, Spencer Bros. Parachutist fell from factory roof after descent, Coventry. Edith Maud Cook alias Miss Viola Spencer (aged 31) died 14.7.10 of injuries sustained. According to her wikipedia entry:

"She died from injuries sustained following a jump from a balloon at Coventry on 9 July 1910. Her parachute collapsed after a gust of wind blew her on to a factory roof. It was reported that another gust of wind caught the parachute and she fell from the factory roof sustaining serious injuries. She died on the 14th, and an inquest was held on the 16th; her death certificate states the cause of her death as "Internal injuries, broken pelvis and arm, caused by a fall from a parachute. Accidental." Apparently Dolly Shepherd had been due to make the jump at Coventry but Cook took her place."

Edith Maud Cook (1878-1910) was a balloonist, parachutist and one of the first UK woman pilots. She was born in Fore St. Her father was a baker who also had shops in Tacket St and Foundation St. Edith was possibly inspired at the age of 10 by a balloonist who was part of a celebration event in Ipswich.

She made 300 balloon ascents - with her parachute she would hold on to a trapeze bar which was attached to a smoke or gas balloon. The balloon would be lifted to 4,000 feet and she would then let go. This thrilled the public watching and was a sought-after entertainment at that time. She used various ‘stage' names, such as Viola Spencer and Viola Kavanagh. It was a dangerous life, and descents didn't always go to plan. She was probably well paid, but must have had enormous courage.

In 1909 she started to train as an aviator at a flying school in France, and is said to have been the first British woman to pilot a plane. It was her ambition to cross the Channel. According to a contemporary report in "Flight" (July 23 1910 -see link #9)

"Death of Miss "Viola Spencer. "
ON Friday of last week, Miss "Viola Spencer" died in the Coventry Hospital, as the result of the injuries she received while making a parachute descent on the previous Saturday. It will be remembered that under the pseudonym of Miss " Spencer Kavanagh", this young lady learnt to fly a Bleriot monoplane at the Grahame-White school at Pau, and she gave promise of being a very successful aviatress. Using the name of "Viola Spencer," Miss Edith Maud Cook, as her real name was, had been known for some years for her daring parachute descents. In summing-up at the inquest, the Coroner said he considered parachuting should be reported to the Board of Trade as a dangerous pursuit which should
be suppressed. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death, and endorsed the Coroner's remarks."

In 2010, to mark the 100th anniversary of her death, the Suffolk Aviation Heritage Group and her descendants marked her grave in Coventry with a headstone. They are now working towards a permanent memorial to her in Ipswich.

As for Dolly Shepherd, she had a long life, surviving two world wars, and died in 1983 at the age of 97.


9. Flight Magazine July 23 1910 page 582 at

Revision history:

14-Nov-2018 21:24 Dr.John Smith Added
19-Nov-2018 20:04 Dr.John Smith Updated [Operator, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

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