You are in [Events] [Plane Crash in High Street, May 1917]

In 1917 an air crash occurred in Hungerford and was reported in the NWN on 31 May 1917 (p7).

A plane piloted by a Canadian from the RFC school at Upavon crashed in the Constable's garden (T W Alexander, 26 High Street) on Sat 26 May at 8.30pm, killing the pilot.

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- The crashed Avro 504A in the garden of 26 High Street, May 1917

More about the crash:

Roger Day kindly contributed the following additional detailed information on this incident:

"Britain's first military airfield was founded at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain in 1910, but by the outbreak of World War One it had closed and two new sites had been established nearby at Upavon and Netheravon. In flying terms these airfields were relatively near to the towns and villages of the Kennet valley and it was not long before aeroplanes were seen operating over the area. Their appearance attracted a great deal of interest and reports appeared regularly in local newspapers. This may seem strange when viewed through modern eyes, but in 1914 flying was still a very new and exciting concept.

The first recorded sighting of a military aircraft flying over Hungerford occurred during the latter half of October 1914 when a biplane approached the town at low altitude from the west. It made one circuit of the borough before heading off towards Marlborough. However, three years later it was a more serious flying event, with tragic consequences, that made the headlines.

At about 8:15pm on Saturday 26 May 1917 the people of Hungerford became aware of an aircraft approaching the town from the west. Its engine sounded rough and it was flying very slowly. As it passed over the town it appeared to climb suddenly and then stand on its tail before turning over. The High Street was crowded with onlookers and most thought the pilot was giving an aerobatic display and showed their appreciation by clapping.

However, their delight soon turned to horror when they realised the plane was out of control and floating like an autumn leaf to the ground. It passed over the Market Place and nose-dived into the garden of Mr Thomas Alexander's house and grocery store (26 High Street, now the Antiques Arcade). Those close by rushed to the crash site and managed to pull the pilot free from the wreckage, but sadly nothing could be done to save him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The pilot was identified as 2nd Lieutenant John Douglas Price Scholfield, a 23 year-old Canadian stationed at the Central Flying School, Upavon. The plane was immediately placed under guard and the following afternoon officers from Upavon arrived to hold a military enquiry. Lieutenant Scholfield was in the process of qualifying for his wings and had left Upavon at about 7:30pm in an Avro 504A (serial number 4061). Although originally designed as a front-line aircraft the Avro 504 was soon replaced by newer designs and relegated to the training role. However, it quickly earned a first class reputation as a trainer and by the end of the war 8,340 had been produced.

The wreckage was examined by an officer from the Central Flying School who reported that, in his opinion, the controls and wires appeared to be in perfect working order and the plane had crashed as the result of a stall.

The Constable (T W Alexander) presided over the inquest the following Monday.

See also:

- First World War Photo Gallery

- First World War

- Aeroplanes on the Common