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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

John Ritchie Laidlaw


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The Times of 22 Mar 1916 shows this lad as killed in a flying accident - can anyone confirm that he was member of the armed forces - he is a possible non commemorated



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Chris - it doesn't sound like it - this is the report of the accident from Flight magazine of 23rd March 1916 - he is referred to right the way through as MR Laidlaw.

In spite of the number of pupils being trained at our

various flying schools, fatal accidents are, fortunately,

extremely rare, although minor smashes are frequent

enough, to be sure. It was a most regrettable accident

that cost one of the pupils at the Ruffy-Baumann school,

Mr. Laidlaw, his life last week, and one which it is very

difficult to explain satisfactorily. From what I learn,

the known facts of the case are as follows : Mr. Laidlaw,

who had been at the R.-B. school for some four months,

was, according to the proprietors of the school, a most

steady and careful pilot. He had done straights, circuits,

and figures of eight on previous occasions, and his flying

as well as his landings indicated perfect mastery of the

machine as far as straightforward flying was concerned.

The machine on which the accident occurred was not

strange to him, as he had flown it very well previously.

On the day of the accident Mr. Laidlaw had the machine

brought up to No. 1 pylon and started off across the

ground heading towards the fence on the other side of the

aerodrome. The machine was seen to be climbing at a

very steep angle, so steep, in fact, that by the time the

fence was reached it was at a height judged by the onlookers

to be about 250 ft. By then it was obvious that

the climb was far too steep, and the machine was seen

to stall and side-slip, which latter soon turned into a

nose-dive. During this no attempt was, as far as could

be seen, made to flatten out, and the engine was running

all out until the machine struck. Unless one accepts the

surmise that has been advanced that Mr. Laidlaw lost

consciousness while in the air, it is difficult to explain the

cause of the mishap. All the control cables were found

intact, and I am told that the machine he was flying had

to be "held down" all the time, that is to say if

left to itself it would constantly climb. On a nose

dive, therefore, the machine, if left to itself, would flatten,

out automatically, besides which, any pilot with the

smallest experience would instinctively pull the lever

towards him when diving towards the ground. Another

thing which seems to indicate that Mr. Laidlaw had lost

consciousness is the fact that he never switched off, which,

after pulling the lever, would be the first thing a pilot

would see to. On the other hand, in accepting the

theory of his fainting, it is most probable that he would,

when the nose dive commenced, be thrown forward

against the lever, thereby aggravating the dive. It is to

be hoped that these points may be satisfactorily cleared

up at the inquest.



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There was a brief report after the inquest in The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.), Thursday 23 March 1916, page 5 suggesting his intention was to join up




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thanks very much for the info - like you say does not look like he was in the services at the time of his death


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Chris, He doesn't get a mention in Chris Hobsen's "Airmen Died in the Great War", another indication that he had not yet joined the RFC.



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Flight magazine on 2nd March 1916 reported the following:

The R F C Waiting List. .

Replying to Mr. Fell in the House of Commons on Tuesday,

Mr. Tennant said that there were on the waiting list of the Royal

Flying Corps 835 officers and 511 civilians. The establishment was

not yet complete.

I guess paying for your own tuition and Royal Aero Club Certificate was perhaps a way of fast tracking into the RFC and jumping up the waiting lists - have I read somewhere that the cost of the "qualification" - ie the Certificate alone was GBP75.00 - or did that include tuition - he must obviously have been a man of means



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Thanks very much everyone for the information


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This entry on the Auckland War Memorial Museum website is a little confusing - it says he was a member of the RFC, but also mentions he was a civilian learning to fly at his own expense:

More than a little confusing! Flight Sub Lieutenant was a rank in the Royal Naval Air Service not Royal Flying Corps. Using the UK National Archives online catalogue, I've looked for him as an RNAS officer, RN/RNAS rating; RNVR rating and RND with no matches.

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