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Remembered Today:

2/Lt Horace Gregory Cleaver, 199 (N) Training Squadron


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Horace Cleaver was killed in an accident while training with 199 (N) TS on March 17, 1918, does anyone have details of the aircraft involved and location (East Retford ?) /circumstances of the crash please ?

I have a copy of his AIR 76 and will order a copy of his WO339 soon, the former only lists the date of his demise.

The RAF museum website displays the accident card but lacks the detail I seek, similarly I found nothing of note on the FlightGlobal archive site.

One of the types operated by 199 TS were FE2b but his name does not appear in the index to the RAF Museum/CCI FE2b/d tome, and so I have run out of ideas.

Thanks,

Ian

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Hi Ian,

I'm afraid I presently have about as much certain detail as you - certain statements about being killed while flying and a date. As I was involved in the Cross and Cockade FE2b'd Monograph I've tried to examine what data I have - as I feel strongly that if an aircraft was involved at 199 (N)TS at that time then it was very likely an FE. And yes, it's my understanding they were at East Retford. There were other types flying in the previous months when it was a Depot Station, such as the DH1A, but it is the FEs that mostly seem to take over with its revised role.

Looking through the several (many) FEs at 199 there is only one which seems a sort of circumstantial possibility as having been involved, and this is A5615. I say circumstantial as it seems to go off the record around March. All of the others we have records for seem to keep flying. Mick Davis might be able to illuminate this a little more, but if I had to pick a candidate, it is A5615. It is odd that there is no apparent record of this loss beyond the fundamental fact of a fatality - namely the usual details etc of what happened and why, and in what aircraft are not there. There might be something in the local press of the time?

I hope you resolve it. And please let us know what you find out.

Good luck,

Trevor

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Hello Trevor,

Many thanks for your input, checking the local press is a good point and I will think on this. Perhaps Mick will pick up on this topic later.

I have the WO339 file on order and should this reveal anything I will certainly round out this post.

Regards,

Ian (owner of TSTB & TSTB2 - one for each hand ! )

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I wouldn't like to speculate on which FE it was - it must have been a FE by then, as DH1As were withdrawn late 1917. I've a number of photos of East Retford crashes, sadly without serials visible, and the CCI Archive holds others from the album of AL Hitchin, who was 46 Wing photographer. My best suggestion would be to go for the Coroner;'s report, which might give an indication of the type of ground onto which the machine came down - woodland, ploughed field etc - which could help narrow down the available pics.

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Many thanks for your thoughts Mick. At the moment I am hoping his WO339 file will shed light (but suspect it will not) if not then a newpaper or coroner's report are next on my list.

Regards,

Ian

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Ian,

If you can wait until next week I'll check out both Retford Times and Retford Herald for issues published after 17 March on the library's microfilm. They occasionally carried reports on inquests by the District Coroner, Mr. E. S. Spencer.

Sam

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Hi Ian,

I've just been through The Retford Times (15 March - 26 April) and Retford Herald & Leader (19 March - 30 April) weekly editions on microfilm at Retford Library.

Neither of them record a coroner's inquest for 2/Lt Cleaver, and the Retford Times did not carry his name in the BMD announcements (the Herald didn't appear to have one).

Details of other inquests, carried out by Mr. Spencer, and aviation-related deaths were however published;

Herald (19 March) & Times (22 March)
Inquest into death of Gunner John Wilson, RFA, who fell out of a fast train after opening carriage door for a pee.

Herald (26 March)
Report on funeral of 2/Lt Middleditch, American Flying Corps, killed at "a Lincolnshire airfield".

Herald (23 April) & Times (26 April)
Inquest into deaths of 2/Lt Griffith William Evans, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, attached to the RFA, and 2/Lt Frank Gordon Lewtas, of the Canadians, who "broke an aerial journey by a stop at a Lincolnshire aerodrome," but nose-dived from 80 feet on take-off, killing both outright.

The location of this "Lincolnshire aerodrome" was slightly given away by the article's headline "Airmen killed at Saundby"... just across the River Trent from RAF Gainsborough!

Records on their Casualty Cards (RAF Museum website) identify the aerodrome as Gainsborough, with engine failure as the cause, both from No.11 Training Squadron (RAF).

Due to rationing, newspaper size was reduced, the Times being only four pages, so if an inquest was carried out and he wasn't a local boy then it may not have been reported. There were no alternate articles regarding a possible crash.

Sorry I couldn't find anything.

Sam

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Hello Sam,

Many thanks for searching, disappointing as the result is, your effort still much appreciated and I hope you had better luck with your own search.

As an aside I have just looked on the RAF Museum website for casualty cards and although I can view these, find I can no longer download a copy. Not noted on previous visits is a download a high res copy option (£3 per file), unless I have a PC problem looks like they have cottoned onto a nice little earner !

Ian

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Ian,

Must admit, I hadn't noticed that they were now charging for larger copies (although I'm sure there is a way round it... not that I would ever consider such action! #cough, look at the raw page text info, cough#). I had noticed previously that "large" images were hosted on a different site from the museum vault #cough, crowfile.com, cough#).

In case anyone ends up here while searching for Evans or Lewtas, I remembered after posting that the aerodrome location for Gainsborough was on the Notts side of the Trent (field, just south of the A631 where it bends for the bridge), Saundby being just west, while the admin offices were in Gainsborough, Lincs. At least that's the counties they are in now. Of course it may have been different back then, but the border is currently the river.

Sam

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update.

Have now reviewed Horace Cleaver's WO339 record that as suspected does not reveal detail of the aircraft in which Horace met his death.

Some detail that may be of value to readers is date of birth April 16, 1899 at Oxford and prior to RFC service was employed as a solicitor’s clerk. These records state accident was at Retford with 199 (N)TS.

The assistant CO of 199(N)TS at the time of death was Captain John Overton Cone Orton who became Commanding Officer from May 27, 1918. He had previous service with 39, 30 and 76 squadrons.

Ian

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Ian,

Further to your J.O.C. Orton post, he was with the Norfolk Regiment in India at the outbreak of war, and wounded at Shaiba in 1915.

Born on 30 August 1889, he lived in the US between 1896 and 1901 (resident in Larchmont, New York), he was commissioned into the Norfolk Regiment on 6 November 1909 (Gazette Issue 28304), and served with them in Italy.

Initially appointed a Flying Officer (Observer) in January 1916, he was seconded to No.30 Squadron, RFC, in Mesopotamia, where the Norfolk Regiment were then serving. While with them he received the Order of Karageorge, 4th Class (with Swords) from the King of Serbia.

Issued a Flying Certificate (RAeSoc) 30 April 1917, he was part of Home Defence with 39 and 76 Sqns before being made up to Squadron Commander (temp. Major) on 9 February 1918, when he assumed command of 199 NTS at Retford.

He was awarded the Military Cross on December 1918 (Gazette Issue 31043), for actions in Mesopotamis:

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during three months’ operations. He showed splendid qualities as an observer and rendered most valuable service. His intimate knowledge of the country enabled his reports to be most accurate throughout. He was three times in action against enemy aircraft, and on the last occasion returned with twenty bullet holes in his machine, after one and a half drums of ammunition from a Lewis gun had been emptied at the adversary."

followed by the Air Force Cross in June 1919 (Gazette Issue 31378).

He relinquished his RAF commission in December 1919 and returned to Army Duties with the Norfolk Regiment as Adjutant, retiring in January 1925.

Then it gets interesting with his career as a film screen writer. At last count I had him associated with 55 individual films, from early Gainsborough pictures in 1925 , making Australia's The Flying Doctors film in 1926, to Wil Hay films of the thirties and forties.

Still writing for the screen into the 50s, he died during May 1962

In May 2011, his medals and associated paperwork were auctioned off for £3,700.

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Hello Sam,

Thank you for your comprehensive account of J O C Orton's RFC/RAF service details. My meagre contribution is taken from his AIR 76 records and the variations are taken on board.

It is always interesting to see what some of these fellows got up to after leaving the service and in Orton's case he certainly seems to have made good use of a creative mind.

Regards,

Ian

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