Accident Bleriot XI , Sunday 20 December 1914
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Date:Sunday 20 December 1914
Type:Bleriot XI
Owner/operator:2 Sqn RFC
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Aircraft missing
Location:English Channel, between Calais and Dover, Kent -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Air Park, St. Omer, France
Destination airport:RFC Dover, Kent
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
20.12.1914: Bleriot XI, 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Written off (presumed destroyed) when went missing over the English Channel, between Calais, France and Dover, Kent, England. Pilot - Captain Wilfred Picton-Warlow - missing presumed killed. His body was never found. He was flying back to England a for period of leave. He was seen passing over Calais, from where it was reported to be clear enough to see the English coast. That was the last that was heard of him, and it was assumed that he flew into high cloud, got lost and ran out of fuel before plunging into the English Channel. It was said that even the best pilot could miss his bearings if he was in cloud for more than five or ten minutes, and Wilfred Picton-Warlow may have “missed England completely.” The effects of the cold are not mentioned but other reports of the era states that two hours’ flying was about the maximum that anyone could stand, even at the relatively low level of 7,000 feet, said to be the minimum height for safety from German attack.

The incident was mentioned in the House of Commons in Parliament, and was recorded as follows in "Hansard", the official record of UK Parliamentry Debates under the heading "R.F.C. INQUIRY COMMITTEE. INTERIM REPORT."

Hansard.—Lost at sea flying on leave. "It is a very pernicious habit in France, that where there is an old machine which they want to get back and which is no use for any further service, and a pilot is going home on leave, if he likes to go home in it he can do so. It is a dangerous habit to endanger a valuable pilot's life to get an old crock of an aeroplane back to England and thus save on transport."

Supplemental statement.—Date, December 30th, 1914.
Machine, Bleriot monoplane. Lost in Channel.
Pilot, Captain Wilfred Picton Warlow.
Facts.—The machine was a two-seater Bleriot monoplane, a type that was in process of being discarded as too slow in climbing with full military load. As these machines could be spared from service at the Front such of them as were serviceable as school machines were sent home. Officers on leave were allowed as a privilege to fly them. This machine was overhauled before starting, and Captain Warlow tested it by a short trial flight. The weather was clear, but there were some high banks of clouds, and it is supposed that Captain Warlow got into the cloud banks and lost his way, exhausted his supply of petrol, and came down into the sea. He was supplied with petrol sufficient for twice the distance of his intended flight.

Conclusion.—The very serious suggestion that Captain Warlow was allowed to risk his life on an "old crock of an aeroplane" to save on transport is entirely unfounded. How the accident happened can only be surmised, but the machine was, as far as could be ascertained, in good order, and there was no negligence in allowing Captain Warlow to fly in it."

The official record card (see link #4) notes Captain Wilfred Picton-Warlow as "lost while flying 29.12.14" which is the date that he was officially listed as Missing On Active Service/Presumed Killed On Active Service


1. Flight magazine (August 17 1916 page 697):

Revision history:

28-Nov-2018 20:05 Dr.John Smith Added
28-Nov-2018 20:06 Dr.John Smith Updated [Time, Narrative]
30-Nov-2018 19:54 Dr.John Smith Updated [Damage, Narrative]
06-Dec-2018 17:01 Nepa Updated [Operator, Operator]
09-Dec-2018 22:46 Dr.John Smith Updated [Operator, Source, Narrative]

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