Accident Deperdussin monoplane 258,
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Date:Friday 6 September 1912
Time:06:15 LT
Type:Deperdussin monoplane
Owner/operator:3 Sqn RFC
Registration: 258
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Manor Farm Cottages, Wymondley Road, Graveley, Hitchin, Hertfordshire -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:RFC Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Destination airport:RFC Willian, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
6.9.1912: Deperdussin monoplane 258, 3 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, Larkhill, Wiltshire. Written off (destroyed) when Broke up in flight, at Graveley, near Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Both person on board killed:

Capt Patrick Hamilton (aged 30) killed
Lt Athole Wyness Stuart (aged 30), Royal Artillery killed

Patrick Hamilton (1882-1912). Early Aviator: 1882 June 3rd. Born in Southampton. 1912 March 12th. Died. Capt. Patrick Hamilton, with Lieut. A. Wyness-Stuart as passenger, flying on a French Deperdussin two-seater monoplane, fitted with a 100-h.p. Gnome engine, left Wallingford on the morning of September 6th, 1912, for work in connection with the Army Manoeuvres. When approaching Hitchin from the direction of Graveley, the aircraft was observed to become unsteady, shortly afterwards the wing to break, and the aircraft to fall to the ground. The aviator and his passenger were both killed instantaneously. Capt. Patrick Hamilton was granted his Aviator's Certificate No. 194, on March 12th, 1912, and Lieut. A. Wyness-Stuart, No. 141, on September 26th, 1911, by the Royal Aero Club.

A memorial obelisk was erected at the crash site (see link #7), which is listed by Historic England was being "circa 650 metres south-west of Manor Farm Cottages, Wymondley Road, Willian, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, SG6 2AJ". THe Historic England website also noted:

" In September 1912, 3 Squadron (formed as an aircraft unit at Larkhill on 13 May 1912) was playing a role in a war game involving some 75,000 troops across East Anglia. Part of General Griegson’s “Blue Force” tasked with defending London, 3 Squadron’s role was to provide reconnaissance intelligence: thus demonstrating the capabilities of aircraft to a still-sceptical cadre of senior War Office personnel.

The Squadron had been formed from 2 (Aeroplane) Company of the Air Battalion Royal Engineers. It was the first independent military unit to fly heavier-than-air machines and included Captain Patrick Hamilton and Lieutenant Athole Wyness Stuart. Hamilton (b1882), Worcestershire Regiment, learnt to fly at Hendon, gaining his Royal Aero Club certificate (number 194) on 12 March 1912 having spent a spell flying in America. Wyness Stuart (b1882), Royal Field Artillery, was awarded his certificate (number 141) on 26 September 1911 having learnt to fly at Brooklands.

On 6 September 1912 they were flying a Deperdussin monoplane powered by a 100hp Gnome aero-engine, modified to take the Observer (Wyness Stuart) in a wicker seat inserted in front of the pilot’s flying position. Hamilton took off from Wallingford aerodrome at around 6am. They headed for a landing ground at Willian, an hour’s flying away. On the descent towards the prepared fields the engine failed. Part of the engine casing broke through the bracing wires of one wing and both men died on impact in the ensuing crash; in sight of the hundreds of local residents who had turned out for a rare glimpse of an aircraft.

Their funeral service, with full military honours and including a specially-composed hymn, was conducted at St Saviour’s Church in Hitchin. The two coffins were transported on gun carriages to the train station: Hamilton was buried in St Leonard’s churchyard, Hythe (Kent), whilst Wyness Stuart was buried at St Mary’s, Great Elm (Somerset). The crash and ensuing funeral attracted national newspaper coverage. Combined with another crash a few days later also during the military exercises, resulting in the deaths of Lt Bettington and Lt Hotchkiss (commemorated by a plaque on the Grade II-listed Toll Bridge at Wolvercote), the War Office stopped the use of monoplanes in favour of biplanes, which were understood to be more stable aircraft: this policy affected British aircraft development for a number of years.

Marking the location of the crash, one of the very earliest in the history of the Royal Flying Corps, a memorial obelisk was raised by public subscription. The memorial was dedicated by Reverend Gainsford and unveiled by Major Brooke Popham, who commanded 3 Squadron, on 27 November 1912. The men’s uniforms are reputed to be buried under the obelisk. According to Flight magazine, some 7,000 people attended the ceremony. Although their deaths post-dated those of the first RFC fatalities (Captain Loraine and Staff Sergeant Wilson who died in an air crash on Salisbury Plain on 5 July 1912) the obelisk thus pre-dates the erection near Stonehenge of Airmen’s Cross (Grade II-listed) and is thought to be the first British public monument to individual servicemen who died whilst under orders."


4. Flight magazine of 11th January 1913
8. The Army Fatalities”, Flight, 14 September 1912, p837-8
9. The Late Captain Hamilton”, Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate, and Cheriton Herald, 30 November 1912, p4
10. Unveiling the Hamilton-Stuart Memorial”, Flight, 7 December 1912, p1143

Revision history:

17-Nov-2018 00:53 Dr.John Smith Added
19-Nov-2018 19:15 Nepa Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Destination airport, Operator]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description

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