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Remembering the Crew of the NS 11, lost on the 15th July 1919.

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In the early hours of the 15th July 1919, (most contemporary eyewitness sources say about a quarter to two), the night sky over the sea of the North Norfolk was suddenly illuminated with a light so bright that from Wells in the west to Cromer in the east it was said that you could read a newspaper. This wasn’t thunder and lightning, although a storm was expected. Many of the citizens of the coastal towns and villages had been woken by the sound of an airship passing low overhead during the preceding hour. Those that continued to watch the airship as it headed out over the sea say the light came from the airship which then carried on for a few seconds before turning on its head and crashing into the water.

 

And with that ended the lives of 9 men and a ships’ dog, (or cat, depending on which sources you look at).

 

The story perhaps begins two days earlier with the record breaking arrival of the R.34 airship at the Pulham Airship station, near Diss in Norfolk. Three months earlier Alcock and Brown had completed the first flight across the Atlantic, travelling from West to East. Now the R.34 had done the round trip, breaking numerous records.

 

As the airship approached the UK on the return leg she was diverted to Pulham. Among the crowds waiting to greet them, and the RAF staff required to tether the arriving airship, was very probably the crew of the airship N.S. 11, led by their Commander, Captain Walter Kemeys Francis Warneford, A.F.C.

 

Now it’s likely they were proud of this British achievement, but one of the records smashed on the long outward leg of the R.34’s flight against the prevailing winds was the endurance record that had been set by the N.S. 11 under Warneford in the spring of 1919. That previous record had been set on a patrol of 101 hours over the North Sea. Perhaps Warneford intended to try and take the record back. He certainly had an opportunity. Although the N.S. 11 had barely flown since May, she was scheduled to take part in a mine-clearing operation in the North Sea. However, it has long been rumoured that the N.S. 11 took on board an excessive amount of petrol for the task at hand.

 

In some ways it should be easier – instead of a wartime complement of eleven or twelve men, there was now only eight – two officers plus 6 other ranks. But this was not just a shrinking down of the record setting crew. His original second in command had gone, having taken extended leave to participate in the summers’ tennis tournaments. Warneford had a temporary replacement for this flight in Captain Arthur Stanley Elliott. Captain Elliott had built up a reputation for being a reliable man in a technical crisis, but there was an element of jinx to him in that these crises happened. His contemporaries said he was just unlucky. This would be the first time the two would fly together

 

His Chief Engineer had gone as had one of his Coxswains. Now as the crew assembled there was a lot of experience there but very little of it in flying together or flying the NS.11.

 

There is some inconsistency in the reporting of when she slipped her moorings on the night of the 14th July 1919. Some reports say 9.30 while others say nearly midnight. The earlier time raises questions over why it took so long to travel the roughly 50 miles in a more or less northerly direction to reach the site where she exploded.

 

There are reported sightings of her over Melton Constable, then between Holt and Letheringsett, over Cley-next-Sea and then out over the marshes to the sea between Blakeney and Cley. The official account is she exploded 4 and a half miles north-west of Salthouse which is slightly odd as that would also put them northwest, (or north) of Blakeney and Cley, both of which were much more populous.

 

Over the next few weeks I intend to add the press reports on the loss of the NS 11 as they happened in the local, provincial and national press. The outcome of the official investigation, hinting that she might have been hit by lighting, does not seem to have been picked up in the national press, so I have no time scale for when to look at the local papers.

 

If you can’t wait then check out these resources: 

http://www.ns11.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airship_N.S.11_crash

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The Crew.

 

Captain Walter Kemeys Francis Goodall Warneford – Commander

Born 19/08/1895 Crewe, Cheshire. Unmarried.

A.F.C. and M.I.D, (poss x2)

Address on published casualty list: Lansdowne House, Huyton, Liverpool.

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2895259/warneford,-walter-kemeys-francis/

 

Captain Arthur Stanley Elliott DSC – Second Officer

Born 18/02/1894 Halifax, Yorkshire. Married.

D.S.C. and M.I.D.

Address on published casualty list: recently staying with his wife at Harleston.

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2894500/elliott,-arthur-stanley/

 

Sergeant Charles Henry Fred Lewry – Coxswain

Born 22/12/1892 Alverstoke, Hampshire. Married.

A.F.M.

Address on published casualty list: Sergeant Lewry, Leesland Road, Gosport.

Buried at GOSPORT (ANN'S HILL) CEMETERY

Location: Hampshire, United Kingdom

Cemetery/memorial reference: 15. 24171.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/3055457/lewry,-/

 

Sergeant Percy James Waghorn – Coxswain

Born 30/03/1893 Keston, Kent. Unmarried.

Address on published casualty list: Sergeant Waghorn, of the Star Inn, Crayford, Kent

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton. Aged 26.

Son of William and Rebecca Waghorn, of The Star, Star Hill, Crayford, Kent.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2895247/waghorn,-percy-james/

 

Aircraftman 1 Frederick Cameron – Air Gunner

Born 19/01/1899 Gorton, Manchester. Unmarried.

Address on published casualty list: A.C.1 Cameron, 16, Beasley Street, Gorton, Manchester.

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton.

Died aged 20. Son of Mrs. Elizabeth A. Cameron, of 16, Beasley St., Gorton, Manchester, and the late Frederick M. Cameron.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2894349/cameron,-frederick/

 

Flight Sergeant Charles O’Connor – Engineer

Born 01/10/1891 London. Married.

Address on published casualty list: Flight-Sergeant O’Connor, 68, Macfarlane Road, Wood Lane, Shepherd’s Bush.

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton. Aged 27. Husband of A. O'Connor, of 68, Macfarlane Rd., Shepherd's Bush, London.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2894965/o'connor,-charles/

 

Aircraftman 2 Thomas George Jarrett – Engineer

Born 02/11/1898 Bromley, Kent. Unmarried.

Address on published casualty list: A.C.2 Jarrett, 33, Dillyn Road, Lower Sydenham.

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton. Aged 22.

Son of George and Louisa Jarrett, of 33, Dillwyn Rd., Lower Sydenham, London.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2894712/jarrett,-thomas-george/

 

Leading Aircraftman Thomas Connelly – W/T Operator

Born 30/09/1892 Airdrie, Lanarkshire. Unmarried.

Address on published casualty list: L.A.C. Conelly (sic), Midfield Cottage, Invereek, Midlothian.

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2894405/connelly,-thomas/

 

Aircraftman 2 Alfred Thomas Jacques – W/T Operator.

Born 06/05/1900 Halifax, Yorkshire. Unmarried.

Address on published casualty list: A.C.2 Jacques, Victoria Road, Long Eaton.

He is commemorated at Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton. Aged 19.

Son of Edward and Annie Jacques, of 20, Lawrence St., Long Eaton, Nottingham.

Source: https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2894705/jacques,-alfred-thomas/

 

Ships mascot – an Airedale Terrier or a black cat.

 

 

 

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How the Press reported the loss.

 

Day 1. Tuesday 15th July 1919.

 

 

006 EEN 15071919 Crop.jpg

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A local newspaper for Norfolk, the Eastern Evening News, was probably the first to publish the story, the crash coming at the wrong time for their morning companion title, the Eastern Daily Press or the other main local, regional and national titles.

 

AIRSHIP DISASTER OFF WELLS

LOUD EXPLOSIONS HEARD ON THE COAST.

BLAZING MASS FALLS IN THE SEA

EYE-WITNESSES’ DESCRIPTIONS FROM NORTH NORFOLK.

 

At an early hour this morning an airship disaster occurred off the North Norfolk coast. The ill-fated craft is believed to be a coastal airship which left Pulham last night, the N.S.11. Residents along the coast saw a great flare in the sky shortly after midnight, and there was an explosion. Afterwards a burning mass was seen to fall into the sea. A portion of wreckage, believed to be from an airship, has been washed up at Sheringham. There is no news of the fate of the crew, who would probably number eleven or twelve.

 

THE LOST AIRSHIP

COASTAL CRAFT N.S. 11 FROM PULHAM

 

Telephoning just before two o’clock today, our Cromer representative says he understands that the airship which met with disaster was a coastal airship from Pulham. She carried a crew of eleven or twelve men.

 

Another message from Pulham states that the lost airship is believed to be the N.S. 11.

 

The “Eastern Daily Press” understands that two airships left Pulham Air Station during the night, and that wireless communication with one of them ceased.

 

STORY OF THE DISASTER.

EXPLOSIONS IN A STORM.

 

North Norfolk (says our Cromer correspondent) is much perturbed to-day over some mysterious happenings of a remarkable character, which occurred in the early hours of this morning.

 

According to several residents the sound of an aircraft was heard over Holt and district about midnight, and about an hour later, when a thunderstorm was passing over the district, a loud explosion was heard. The sound of this was spread over many miles. It was especially felt in the Wells district, and it was also plainly heard at Holt and Cromer, and at all these places there is talk of a second report of a similar nature, though some who heard it are rather of the opinion that the second report was a thunderclap.

 

BLAZING MASS IN THE SEA

 

Immediately after the first explosion came a blaze of fire in the sky north of Wells it was seen by the coastguard at both that place and at Morston, and it was described as resembling an aeroplane or airship on fire, and falling into the sea a few miles out. The flare in the sky was even seen at Holt, and it was also reported by a man who was gathering mushrooms at the time at Sheringham Golf Links. This was at 1.15, and whatever it was the mass continued to burn for some time afterwards on top of the water.

 

LIFEBOATS AND MOTOR BOATS OUT.

 

At Morston it was at this time thought to be a vessel on fire, and sending up flares, and the news was sent through to Sheringham for the Institution lifeboat there, the “J.C. Madge,” to be launched. The lifeboat signals were fired about two o’clock. At that time it was fairly fine, but the conditions were threatening, and as it was considered a case of considerable urgency the motor boat “White Heather” was first hurried to the scene, and the lifeboat followed about three o’clock.

 

Soon afterwards a message came from Morston that the vessel believed to be on fire was still afloat, and was apparently drifting towards the shore about a mile of Blakeney. The lifeboat had proceeded further north, and it was immediately decided to send out another motor boat, *The Maple Leaf,” which was got off at 3.30. It now appears that the first motor boat showed the lights which led Morston to believe that a distressed vessel was drifting ashore, and a further mistake appears to have occurred when the lifeboat saw rockets fired in the neighbourhood of Wells and took it to be a signal that the vessel was ashore at Blakeney.

 

UNSUCCESSFUL SEARCH.

 

The motor boats and lifeboats continued to search, but at four o’clock the wind shifted to the north and blew up a gale. This became so bad that the motor boats had to run for safety and they reached Sheringham after a risky landing. The lifeboat remained in the vicinity of the Blakeney Bell Buoy, and when daylight came there was still nothing to reward the search she returned home.

 

So far as we can gather no aircraft has been reported missing to the local naval authorities, and no wreckage has come ashore to account in any way for these strange happenings, though with the north-westerly gale that was blowing at the time the message was despatched, if there is anything of a tangible nature in the sea off this coast it seems bound to be speedily washed up.

 

STORIES OF AN AIRSHIP.

 

Telephoning later, our Cromer correspondent says that further information all points to the probability that it is an airship that has met with disaster.

 

A well-known Letheringsett resident, whose veracity is beyond question, declares he saw at 12.15 a large airship, with three big gondolas, pass overhead between Letheringsett and Holt, headed straight for Cley.

 

Further testimony comes from a Blakeney man, who declares he was awakened by his wife, and looking out the window which faces east, he saw a tremendous glare in the sky. It appeared to him to be a huge ball of flame, and as he was looking it turned over and dropped into the sea.

 

PIECE OF CHARRED WRECKAGE.

 

Mr. H.R. Johnson, Chairman of Sheringham Urban District Council, who is closely associated with lifeboat matters at Sheringham, and took a conspicuous part in arranging this mornings operations, states than when the lifeboat was being got up into its station at the Old Hythe, a piece of wreckage was picked up by a fisherman and handed to him. It was a piece of charred wood framing, between four and five feet long, attached to which were strips of aluminium or some similar light metal. Mr. Johnson says that after closely examining it he believes that it had not been long in the water. He has since handed it to the coastguard.

 

FLAME BURST AND LOUD EXPLOSION

 

The editor of the “Norfolk Chronicle” tells us that his representative has had an interview with a Cley man, an old seaman, who says he saw an airship making for the sea between Blakeney and Cley at 12.30 this morning. When some distance to sea it appeared she was in difficulties, and turned round and made for land again. While she was returning it was evident that she had engine trouble, for suddenly she burst into flame, and after burning furiously for a few minutes, she turned on end, and dropped into the sea. There was a loud explosion just before she reached the water.

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Day 2: Wednesday 16th July 1919.

 

The national press had picked up on the disaster.

 

This Press Association report is from the edition of The Western Times, dated Wednesday, 16th July 1919.

 

AIRSHIP DISASTER

 

British Dirigible Lost off Norfolk Coast.

 

CREW PERISH

 

The Press Association’s correspondent at Cromer telegraphs: It is feared that a disaster occurred to a coastal airship which left Pulham, Norfolk, last evening. Residents along the coast saw a tremendous flare in the sky shortly after mid-night, and then a burning object fell into the sea. A portion of the wreckage, believed to be from the destroyed airship, was washed up at Sheringham this morning. There is no news as to the fate of the crew, who would probably have numbered eleven or twelve.

 

Many people in the district speak to having heard and seen an airship about mid-night.

 

About 1.15, during a thunderstorm, there was the sound of a big explosion, which was heard for many miles around, and then a mass of flames was observed in the sky, and a burning object fell into the sea. The life-boat at Sheringham was called out, as well as two motor boats from the same place. They scoured the sea for some time.

 

Telegraphing late last night the Press Association says:-

It is believed the coastal airship which met with disaster off the Norfolk coast was the N.S.11, which carried a crew of two officers and five men, all of whom must have perished.

 

The airship left Pulham last evening, and shortly after midnight was seen by residents near Sheringham over the sea. The engines were heard working badly and suddenly there was a very loud explosion and the craft was seen to fall into the sea in flames.

 

Charred wreckage has been washing up along the coast, including the airship fittings and furniture, a broken propeller blade, an airman’s cap smelling of petrol, and a chair, apparently that of the coxswain.

 

Meanwhile the Eastern Evening News summarised that days’ developments.

 

LOST PULHAM AIRSHIP.

HER COMMANDER AND CREW.

KING’S MESSAGE OF CONDOLENCE

NO BODIES YET RECOVERED.

 

We have just received a message from our special correspondent giving the names of the crew of N.S. 11, and also a message of condolence from the king.

 

THE ILLFATED CREW.

 

The names of the crew are:-

 

Captain Elliott.

Flight-Sergeant O’Connor.

Sergeant Lewry.

Sergeant Waghorn.

Aircraft Hand 2 – Jarrett

Aircraft Hand 2 – Jacques

Aircraft Hand 1 – Cameron

Leading Aircraftsman Connelly.

 

THE KING’S MESSAGE.

 

The following message issued by the Admiralty, was received this afternoon at Pulham Air Station from the King:-

 

“His Majesty the King desires to express his deepest sympathy with the relatives of those officers and men who lost their lives in the airship N.S.11 whilst employed in mine-cleaning operations.”

 

NO BODIES RECOVERED

 

Our Cromer correspondent wires today:-

 

So far there is nothing further to report from North Norfolk concerning the loss of the airship. No bodies have yet been seen, but it is fully expected that they will be washed up, though it may not be until some days have elapsed.

 

STORY OF HER LAST FLIGHT.

 

NOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING.

 

The airship – which had a complement of 2 officers and 7 men – left Pulham at 9 o’clock on Monday night to co-operate in mine-sweeping operations in the North Sea. She was to have been out for forty-eight hours. News was last heard of her at the Aerodrome at eight minutes after midnight, at which time a wireless message came asking if there was any further communication to be made to her. There was none.

 

At first the view held was that she was struck by lightning. That, however, was considered to be not tenable in face of the information from a coastguardsman at Morston, who saw the ship in the air, heard an explosion, and actually saw the vessel burst into flames and fall into the sea. The weather at the time was fine, although a thunderstorm followed some quarter of an hour or twenty minutes later. It is accordingly believed now that N.S. 11 came to grief as a result of engine trouble.

 

She was a non-rigid type of airship, and had been used for sea-patrol work, haing done admirable duty of that kind on the Northern and North-Eastern Stations. N.S. 11 came to Pulham some three weeks ago, and there was some heart-burning among her officers and crew at the arrival there of R.34. Among the Royal Air Force as in the Navy there was a ready acknowledgement of splendid achievement. N.S. 11 admired the recent magnificent performance of R.34, but knew only too well that it meant the lowering of a record which N.S.11 herseLf had proudly held for a considerable time. That was a record for a duration flight. Setting out from Longsight, in Scotland N.S. 11 cruised up and down the North Sea for 101 hours. R.34 beat that performance on the outward journey of her Atlantic flight, which occupied 108 hours. It has been suggested that N.S. 11 had a desire to re-establish her record, and that when she left Pulham on Monday night she had on board ample supplies of petrol for that purpose. The captain who piloted her was the same officer who had charge of her when she set up her record. He was regarded by those competent to judge as an exceedingly able officer. Accompanying him on this unhappy voyage was another captain, said to have showed brilliant promise in his profession, despite the fact that he had been beset by ill-luck. This was, as a matter of fact, his first flight in N.S. 11.

 

HER CAPTAIN.

 

Captain W.K. Warneford, in command of N.S. 11, was a cousin of Lieutenant Warneford, V.C., who brought down the first Zeppelin over Belgium. Thick-set, hearty, and an all-round sportsman, he was a favourite among airship men. Although only 24, he bore his responsibilities lightly, and on many occasions showed a cool head and steady nerve in emergency. Early in the war he left Crewe, where his father is manager of the London and North Western Railway carriage works, and joined the Kite Balloon Section of the Royal Naval Air Service, later transferring to the Airship Service.

 

            ______           

 

VIVID STORIES BY EYE-WITNESSES.

SEEN FROM BEDROOM WINDOWS

 

Mr. J.T. Elwin, of Newgate, Cley, who is spending a holiday on furlough from the Army, said: “I heard the sound of an airship’s engines overhead about 12.30, and called out to my mother. “I can hear a Zepp, but something is wrong with it, for the engines don’t seem to be working right.” I was used to the sound of aircraft at the front to be mistaken; this was making a lot of noise. I called my mother, a brother, and sisters, and we watched the craft from a bedroom window, For a time it seemed at a standstill over three houses – it had come from the direction of Holt – and when I ran downstairs into the garden in was going over Cley Church, towards the sea. I saw a light come from it, whether it was from the exhaust or not I don’t know, and then she was hidden from my sight by a plantation.

 

FLASH AND EXPLOSION.

 

Mr. C. Long, of the White Horse Hotel, Blakeney, said he heard the noise of the airships engines about a quarter to one. He and his wife went to the bedroom window, but as it faced a different way they saw nothing of the craft, but they saw a great flash and heard the explosion. Mr. Long is the bowman of the Blakeney lifeboat, and he went and called his father, the coxswain, but with the tide out and the lifeboat in dry harbour, it was practically useless to attempt a launch, and they heard that the Sheringham boat had been called out. Many Blakeney people, he said, saw the burning mass at sea; it appeared to have dropped five or six miles out, and it continued to burn until daybreak.

 

THE FATAL PLUNGE.

 

The most vivid story of all, however, was that told by Mrs. G. Hudson, of St. Margaret’s, Blakeney, who told our representative: “I was overtired and could not get to sleep, and I heard the airship a little before 12.30 coming from the south-east. I went to my bedroom window and quickly located the airship with my field glasses. It was one of the big silver-coloured types, and when I first saw her she was going along so splendidly and gracefully that I turned to my husband and said, ‘I would not mind being in her now.’ I watched her till she got out of sight, and then went back to bed, but still could not sleep. I heard the sound of the engines gradually dying away in the distance, and then it seemed to return. The noise went on for half an hour, and the next thing I heard was an awful explosion, and a glare brilliantly illuminated the whole room. I rushed to the window again with my field-glasses, and saw the airship apparently in her original position. The suddenly she took a header and came down in a mass of flames. When nearly down to the sea she exploded again, and flaming pieces spread about. With my glasses I seemed to be able to see something black drop out of the flames – it was almost like a parachute, but I could not say what it was. It was a quarter to two when the first explosion came, and the thunderstorm did not commence till directly afterwards – there was one loud clap of thunder and a flash of lightning and then the rain came down in torrents. I am convinced that the airship was not struck by lightning, for there was none until after it was on fire. The remains burnt on top of the sea for hours afterwards.

 

WRECKAGE WASHED ASHORE.

 

During the afternoon charred remnants of the airship were washed ashore at Weybourne and Sheringham, and two flying officers from Pulham came over to inspect them. Among the wreckage  was part of a small cabin door, a portion of what appeared to be an airman’s cap smelling strongly of petrol, round white papier-mache article of half-cylinder shape four inches in diameter, resembling an inverted gas burner, and pieces of charred frame work and aluminium. The wreckage washed ashore also includes a broken propeller blade, a chair apparently belonging to a coxswain and marked N.S. 11, a piece of a mica window, and portions of the airship’s furniture. Wreckage is still coming ashore on the North Norfolk Coast from Morston to Runton.

 

Picture - Photograph of the ill-fated airship which has met with disaster off the Norfolk Coast.

036 Eastern Evening News July 17 1919 NS 11.jpg

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Day 3: Thursday, July 17th 1919.

 

The mornings’ regional press picked up on the previous days reporting from Norfolk.

 

From The Belfast News-letter, dated Thursday, July 17, 1919.

 

THE AIRSHIP DISASTER

 

Message from the King.

 

Telegraphing with reference to the airship disaster, the Press association’s Norwich correspondent says the following message from the King was received yesterday:-

 

His Majesty the King desires to express his deepest sympathy with the relatives of those officers and men who lost their lives in the airship N.S.11 while employed in mine-clearing operations.

 

The names and addresses of the crew of the ill-fated airship are: - Captain W.K. Warneford (commander), Lansdowne House, Huyton, Liverpool; Captain A.S. Elliott, recently staying with his wife at Harleston; Flight-Sergt O’Connor, Shepherd’s Bush, London; Sergt. Lewrey, Gosport; Sergt. Waghorn, Crayford, Kent; Air-Craftman B.J. Jacques, Long Eaton; Air-Craftman J. Cameron, Gorton, Manchester; and Air-Craftman Connelly, Invereek, Midlothian.

 

It has been definitely ascertained that the ship foundered four miles north-west of the village of Salthouse, between Wells and Sheringham.

 

It would also get the briefest of mentions in The Times focusing on the message from the King.

 

The same days’ edition of the Eastern Evening News added the following.

 

LOST PULHAM AIRSHIP.

REPLY TO KING’S MESSAGE.

WRECKAGE FOUND, BUT NO BODIES.

 

According to latest reports from cromer, the rumours current last night to the effect that bodies of the victims of the N.S. 11 disaster had been washed ashore are devoid of truth.

 

Our special correspondent at Pulham confirms this, and adds that no clothing has been picked up; but wreckage of the ill-fated airship is being found, including charred bits of the vessel’s envelope.

 

WHERE THE AIRSHIP WAS LOST

NOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING.

 

Our correspondent at Pulham in a message last night says:-

It has now been definitely ascertained that the airship foundered four miles north-west of the village of Salthouse, between Cley and Weybourne. The actual cause is not yet known, nor will it be known until the official inquiry has been held.

 

In the meantime it may be reasonably assumed that those most competent to judge are not disposed to seriously entertain the idea that N.S. 11 was struck by lightning. From what I am able to gather the coastguardsman’s information pretty well disposes of that idea. He actually saw the airship in flight, heard an explosion, and saw it burst into flames, and fall into the sea. At the time the weather was fine, although a thunderstorm followed a little later.

 

AN OFFICER’S VIEW.

 

A prominent officer of the R.A.F. with whom I discussed the subject, expressed the opinion that the disaster was due to either to engine trouble or some trouble with the wireless. “It is perfectly well known,” he declared, “that when you are operating wireless and there is a thunderstorm about you are apt to get what is called ‘atmospherics.’ That would probably cause sparks, and these sparks might ignite the gas. The wireless apparatus is extremely sensitive to any electrical disturbances in the atmosphere.”

 

A strange fact is, I am told, that much of the wreckage which has been picked up does not seem to have been affected by fire. That prompted a responsible officer of the R.A.F. to declare his confident belief – speaking quite unofficially – “that although I think some of the crew might have been burned, I certainly think some of them were drowned. Unhappily no boat was put out to the scene of the disaster, although it was only four miles from the coast at the most. I think that if there had been half a dozen men with boats, some of N.S. 11’s crew might possibly have been saved. You could have got there in a rowing boat. There was not a big sea at the time and only a five miles an hour wind.”

 

Two members of the crew went up for the first time in N.S.11, although they had had previous experience in airships. They took the place of two previous members who had been demobilised.

 

(A letter of complaint from the Sheringham RNLI  about this RAF officers claims would later be printed in this paper).

 

CAPTAIN ELLIOTT’S FINE WORK.

 

Capt. Elliott appears to have been well known in flying circles as a very efficient although unlucky airman. A good story about him was related to me, as an illustration of his resourcefulness. “I think the best thing he ever did,” said an officer who was well acquainted with him, “was when he was at a station on the south-west coast. On a ship of which he was captain he had some trouble with his engines. One of them broke down, and he was in a hopeless position. By great ingenuity he used his ship as a balloon and, making a free balloon passage in it, managed to land safely in France. That was during the war, some time in 1917.”

 

REPLY TO KING’S MESSAGE

 

The following reply has been sent to the King’s message of sympathy:- “It is requested that the grateful appreciation of the officers and men at Pulham Airship Station should be conveyed to his Majesty the King for his kind message, which has been transmitted to the relatives of the officers and men of N.S.11

-        From Commanding Officer, Airships Pulham.”

 

LIST OF ILL-FATED CREW.

 

Following are the names and addresses of the officers and ratings of the lost airship:-

Captain W.K. Warneford (commander), Lansdowne House, Huyton, Liverpool.

Captain A.S. Elliott, who had recently been staying with his wife at Harleston.

Flight-Sergeant O’Connor, 68, Macfarlane Road, Wood Lane, Shepherd’s Bush.

Sergeant Lewry, Leesland Road, Gosport.

Sergeant Waghorn, of the Star Inn, Crayford, Kent.

A.C.2 Jarrett, 33, Dillyn Road, Lower Sydenham.

A.C.2 Jacques, Victoria Road, Long Eaton.

A.C.1 Cameron, 16, Beasley Street, Gorton, Manchester.

L.A.C. Conelly, Midfield Cottage, Invereek, Midlothian.

 

AN OFFICER ON LEAVE.

 

Lieut. C.A. McConchie, R.A.F., who is playing in the Norwood Lawn Tennis Tournament this week, is the sole survivor of the crew of the ill-fated airship N.S. 11, which was lost with all hands on Tuesday off the Norfolk coast in consequence of an explosion.

 

Lieut. McConchie, who had taken part in all the airship’s long flights, was granted leave a few weeks ago, and he has spent it in playing at the various lawn tennis tournaments around London.

 

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Day 4: Friday, July 18th 1919.

 

The Weekly newspaper The Norfolk Chronicle, would definitely have regarded this area as their patch, but the disaster was already starting to fade from the public gaze. However they tried to summarise everything that had been reported so far in their edition of Friday, July 18, 1919.

 

TERRIBLE DISASTER ON NORTH NORFOLK COAST.

BURNING AIRSHIP FALLS INTO SEA.

EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNTS.

 

A terrible tragedy occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning a few miles from Cley-next-Sea, and in a few short minutes one of our airships was reduced to a mass of twisted steel and her gallant crew either roasted to death or drowned.

 

The airship was the N.S.11, with a crew of two officers and five men, which left Pulham, the statio(n) where the R.34 landed on her return from America – just previous to midnight on Monday on mine-sweeping patrol duty. At one o’clock there was a thunderstorm, accompanied by lightning in North Norfolk. The cause of the fire will probably never be known. It may have been caused by an accident on board the ship, or she may have run into an electrical storm, such as the R.34 encountered on her outward voyage across the Atlantic. Referring to this storm in his log, General Maitland said “such a buffeting a non-rigid airship could never have stood.”

 

There is only one other case of a British airship catching fire in the air, and this was one of an experimental type, which was undergoing trials. The N.S. type of airship is of the non-rigid class with a capacity of 360,000 cubic feet and is 262ft. in length. She has two Fiat engines of 250-h.p. each.

 

At the time of her destruction, N.S. 11 was commanded by Capt. Warneford, R.A.F. Captain Warneford, who is a young unmarried officer, had the distinction of holding until recently with Lieut. Brow three unbeaten records for flights in the N.S. 11.

 

An unofficial member of the crew was a black cat, the airship’s mascot.

 

AT HOLT and LETHERINGSETT.

 

About 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning many residents in Holt and the little village of Letheringsett were awakened by the sound of the engines of an airship or aeroplane, and on investigation they found it was the former. A large airship was plainly to be seen going seawards, and passing just to the west of Holt, between that town and Letheringsett. Rev. W.H. Finlayson, Rector of Letheringsett, in the course of an interview with a representative of this journal, said he could distinguish the airship quite plainly, and it reminded him of a Zeppelin; as far as he could see it had three gondolas. When he last saw it it was proceeding in the direction of the sea between Blakeney and Cley, and appearing to be travelling easily and well, although the engines were making considerable noise.

 

AT BLAKENEY.

 

Later on our representative interviewed Mr. Page, of Blakeney, who said that he was awakened by his wife, and his attention drawn to a brilliant light in the sky. The window of his bedroom faced east, and the light was north-north-east over the sea in the direction of Cley. He could see that it was an airship enveloped in a mass of flames, and as he and his wife watched it the burning mass turned on end and dropped like a stone.

 

Mrs. G. Hudson, of St. Margaret’s, Blakeney, interviewed by the Cromer representative of the Eastern Daily Press, said:- “I heard an awful explosion, and I saw a terrific glare. I rushed to the window with my glasses, and saw the airship apparently in its original position. While I was watching she suddenly took a header, and went down to the sea in flames. Just before she reached the surface she exploded again, and flaming fragments were scattered about. With the aid of my glasses I saw a black object drop out of the flames. It looked like a parachute, but I could not say definitely what it was. The mass burnt on the surface of the sea for hours.”

 

“The time of the first explosion was about a quarter to two, and immediately after it came down in flames. I then heard a peal of thunder, and saw a flash of lightning, and the rain came down in torrents.”

 

Mr. C. Long, of the White Horse Hotel, said he heard the noise of the airship’s engines about a quarter to one. He and his wife went to the bedroom window, but as it faced a different way they saw nothing of the craft but they saw a great flash and heard the explosion. Mr. Long is the bowman of the Blakeney lifeboat, and he went called his father, the coxswain, but with the tide out and the lifeboat in a dry harbour, it was practically useless to attempt a launch, and they heard that the Sheringham boat had been called out.

 

Dr. and Mrs. Kaye heard and saw the airship when she first passed overhead. The noise awakened them, and she thought it was the R.34 proceeding from Pulham to East Fortune. Afterwards they saw the glare in the sky and heard the explosion.

 

AT CLEY.

 

Our representative was able to obtain some further information from an old seaman who lives at Cley, who said he had watched the airship proceeding to sea between Cley and Blakeney about 1.15. He did not think it was travelling at all easily, and appeared to be having trouble with the engines, so much so that, when a few miles out it appeared to turn round and head again for land. He watched its progress anxiously, as being an old Navy man he was sure that everything was by no means right. Whilst still some miles from land he saw a bright light, and heard an explosion, and within a few moments the whole airship was a glowing mass. It continued in a horizontal position for a short time, and then suddenly turned on end and pitched downwards at a terrific speed, and exploded either just as it reached the water or just before, he could not be certain which.

 

Mr. J. T. Elwin, who is home on leave , informed a representative of the Eastern Daily Press that he was awakened at 12.30 on Tuesday morning by the noise of an airship’s engine. “My relations and I watched it from the bedroom window. It appeared to be at a standstill over neighbouring houses, and was making a lot of noise. I came downstairs and saw it going over Cley Church towards the sea. As it disappeared from my view behind a plantation I noticed a flash come from it, but whether it was simply from the exhaust or anything else I could not say.

 

Mrs. Catling said she saw the air-ship through her field-glasses distinctly. “It looked like one of the ‘Pulham Pigs’ as they are called locally.” She watched it go out over the sea, and suddenly heard a big explosion. The airship seemed to be one mass of flames.

 

The Cley correspondent of this journal states that early on Tuesday morning a large airship came over Cley and hovered for some time; her engines were making an unusual noise, and she was flying so low that some people declared that they could see the men in her. A lady living near the Beach-road examined the airship with glasses and could see her distinctly. Shortly afterwards she heard a loud explosion a(n)d the whole airship went down (into) the sea one mass of flame which lighted up the whole village, and there was light enough to read a paper. The mortar was fired from the coastguard station, and the rocket cart was quickly on the beach, standing by for the remainder of the night.

 

AT SHERINGHAM.

 

Sheringham was awakened at 1.45 on Tuesday morning by the firing of the rocket, warning the lifeboat crew that their services were required. The crew quickly assembled, and proceeding across the golf links to the lifeboat, prepared the “J.C. Madge” for launching, and were away on their errand about a quarter to three. The message that what they though to be a vessel on fire, (this was the airship burning after it reached the sea) came from the coastguard at Morston, and the boat proceeded in the direction of the Blakeney Bell Buoy. Previous to the launching, and to save time, the large motor boat “White Heather” was rushed to the scene of the supposed disaster.

 

Soon afterwards a message came from Morston that the vessel believed to be on fire was still afloat, and was apparently drifting towards the shore about a mile off Blakeney. The lifeboat had, in the meantime, proceeded further north, and it was immediately decided to send out another motor-boat, “The Maple Leaf,” which was got off at 3.30. It now appears that the first motor boat showed the lights which led Morston to believe that a distressed vessel was drifting ashore, and a further mistake appears to have occurred when the lifeboat saw rockets fired in the neighbourhood of Wells, and took it to be the signal that the vessel was ashore at Blakeney.

 

The motor boats and lifeboats continued to search, but a four o’clock the wind shifted to north, and began to blow hard with a choppy sea. This became so bad that the notor boats had to run for safety, and they reached Sheringham after a risky landing. The lifeboat remained in the vicinity of the buoy, but as there was no trace of anything she returned home.

 

Later on in the morning a portion of wreckage was washed up at the old Hythe, some charred woodwork with aluminium attached, there was secured by Mr. H.B. Johnson, and handed over to the coastguard; it had the appearance of having been only in the water a short time.

 

WRECKAGE WASHED ASHORE.

 

During Tuesday afternoon charred remnants of the airship were washed ashore at Weybourne and Sheringham, and two flying officers came over from Pulham to inspect them. Among the wreckage was part of a small door, a portion of what appeared to be an airman’s cap smelling strongly of petrol, round white papier-mache articles of half cylinder shape, four inches in diameter, resembling an inverted gas burner, and pieces of charred frame work and aluminium. The wreckage washed ashore also includes a broken propeller blade, a chair apparently belonging to the coxswain and marked N.S.11, a piece of a mica window, and portions of the airship furniture.

 

AT MELTON CONSTABLE.

 

Reports from Melton Constable state that the ill-fated aircraft passed over that place at about 12.45. Mr. C. Dyer, a foreman in the works, says it was so low down that he could plainly see the number N.S.11, and as he was watching it a light was shown. Mr. W.E. Newman, the Assistant Engineer, and Dr. Skrimshire also state that it was exceedingly low, the latter stating that when he saw it it was apparently only a very short distance above the houses. Mr. Newman was of opinion that the engines were running well at this time.

 

NAMES OF OFFICERS AND CREW.

 

Following are the names and addresses of the officers and ratings of the lots (sic) airship:-

Capt. W. K. Warneford (commander), Lansdowne House, Huyton, Liverpool.

Capt. A.S. Elliott, who had recently been staying with his wife at Harleston.

Flight-Sergt. O’Connor, 68, Macfarlane-road, Wood-lane, Shepherd’s Budh.

Sergt. Lewry, Leesland-road, Gosport.

Sergt. Waghorn, of the Star Inn, Crayford, Kent.

A.C.2 Jarrett, 33, Dillyn-road, Lower Sydenham.

A.C.2 Jacques, Victoria-road, Long Eaton.

A.C.1 Cameron, 16, Beasley-street, Gorton, Manchester.

L.A.C. Conelly, Midfield Cottage, Inveresk, Midlothian.

 

THE KING’S MESSAGE.

 

The following message was received at Pulham on Wednesday afternoon from His Majesty the King :-

 

“His Majesty the King desires to express his deepest sympathy with the relatives of those officers and men who lost their lives in the airship N.S. 11 while employed in mine clearance operations.”

 

The following reply was sent:- “It is requested that the grateful appreciation of the officers and men at Pulham Airship Station should be conveyed to his Majesty the King for his king message, which has been transmitted to the relatives of the officers and men of N.S.11. – From Commanding Officer, Airships, Pulham.”

 

WRECKAGE REMOVED.

 

On Wednesday night a R.A.F. car from Pulham removed some portions of the destroyed airship which had been washed up at at Sheringham, among them being a petrol tank, some of the wood work was very little damaged by fire.

 

NO BODIES FOUND.

 

Up to the time of going to press no news of any bodies having been found is to hand, and it is thought that it may be some days before they are washed ashore.

 

Meanwhile the nearest large town to the Pulham Airship Station was Diss. This too had a weekly newspaper, published on Fridays.

 

From The Diss Express, Friday 18th July 1919.

 

PULHAM AIRSHIP LOST.

 

ALL ON BOARD PERISH.

 

At an early hour on Tuesday morning the airship N.S.11 net with disaster off the North Norfolk coast. Following an explosion she fell in flames into the sea and was totally lost with her complement of two officers and seven ratings.

 

The airship left Pulham at nine o’clock on Monday night to co-operate in mine-sweeping operations in the North Sea, and was to have been out for forty-eight hours. News was last heard of her at the Aerodrome at eight minutes after midnight. Afterwards it was found she was out of touch with the wireless. Even the authorities at Pulham did not experience any alarm. They thought that possibly something had gone wrong with the transmitter.

 

At first the view held was that she was struck by lightning. That, however, was considered to be not tenable in face of the information from a coastguardman at Morston, who saw the ship in the air, heard an explosion, and actually saw the vessel burst into flames and fall into the sea. The weather at the time was fine, although a thunderstorm followed some quarter of an hour or twenty minutes later. It is accordingly believed now that N.S.11 came to grief as a result of engine trouble.

 

She was a non-rigid type of airship, and had been used for sea-patrol work, having done admirable duty of that kind on the Northern and North-Eastern Stations. N.S. 11 came to Pulham some three weeks ago.

 

During Tuesday afternoon charred remains of the airship were washed ashore at Weybourne and Sheringham, and two officers from Pulham came over to inspect them. Among the wreckage was part of a small cabin door, a portion of what appeared to be an airman’s cap smelling strongly of petrol, around white papier-mache article of half-cylinder shape four inches in diameter, resembling an inverted gas burner and pieces of charred frame work and aluminium. The wreckage washed ashore also includes a broken propeller blade, a chair apparently belonging to the coxswain and marked N.S. 11, a piece of mica window, and portions of the airship furniture. Wreckage is still coming ashore on the North-Norfolk coast from Morston to Runton.

 

Captain Elliott, of Harleston, is stated to be one of the victims of the disaster.

 

Amongst the reports in the provincial press, The Runcorn Guardian had this to say:-

 

CAPTAIN WARNEFORD IN COMMAND.

 

The airship was in command of Captain W.K.F.G. Warneford, only son of Mr. W.W. H. Warneford, late manager, Crewe Works, and now superintendent of the L&N-W Railway Wagon Works, Earlstown. It was only in June that Captain Warneford was awarded the Air Force Cross in recognition of his distinguished services during the war, and in May, during a journey with N.S. 11 to Ireland, he passed over Crewe, and was received with great cheering by the men of Crewe Works, to many of whom he was personally known. While in Crewe he gained prizes as an expert swimmer, and was actively interested in all outdoor sports.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Warneford are hoping that he had been picked up from the sea, but it is rather doubtful. General sympathy is felt for them in Crewe, where they were so popular and did so much public work.

 

Captain Warneford’s cousin was the first airman to being down a Zeppelin and was awarded the V.C. Only a few days after this gallant exploit his aeroplane met with an accident and he was killed.

 

THE N.S. 11.

 

The N.S. or North Sea type of airship is the largest non-rigid airship in the air fleet. The first of the type, then capable of carrying a crew of 10 for a period of 20 hours at full speed, was completed in 1916. Six others of this class were built the following year, and other additions followed. In the memorandum on the airship’s future issued early this year, the capital Cost of airships of this type was put by the Air Ministry at £24,000.

 

The N.S. 11 was the best known vessel of her class. She was roughly 260 feet in length and had a gross lift of four tons. (The R.34, it may be noted for purposes of comparison, has a disposable lift of 29 tons, is 639 feet in length, and has a cubic capacity about five times that of the N.S. 11.) The airship has accommodation for a crew of eleven, with beds and cooking apparatus in a cabin of about 30ft. long.  She was driven by two Fiat engines of 260-hp, giving a maximum speed of over 50 miles an hour.

 

In February she established a record for duration of flight for non-rigid airships in a cruise in the North of Scotland which lasted nearly 101 hours. The following month the N.S. 11 made a long distance overseas flight of 1,285 miles in 40½ hours. It was then the longest non-stop overseas voyage of any British aircraft, and is still the world record for non-rigid airships. The voyage took the form of a circuit embracing the coast of Denmark, Slesvig-Holstein, Heligoland, North Germany, and Holland, and throughout the weather could hardly have been worst. During the last stage of the voyage the vessel was flying in a fifty-mile gale, one of her engines had broken down, and petrol had run short.

 

Meanwhile that days’ edition of the Eastern Evening News had this to add.

 

LOST AIRSHIP WRECKAGE.

 

PETROL TANK AND CHEST WASHED ASHORE.

 

No bodies have yet been washed up from the wrecked N S 11, says our Cromer correspondent, but wreckage continues to come ashore. In addition to much charred woodwork, it includes a petrol tank and two boots, an airman’s jacket, and a small chest, apparently belonging to the captain, containing some Verey lights.

 

Leading Air Craftsman Thomas Connelly, wireless operator, lost in the NS 11, was formerly a coalminer.

 

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From the Eastern Evening News.

 

CAPTAIN A.S. ELLIOTT.

 

One of the officers on the airship N.S. 11, which was destroyed by fire about four miles north-west of Salthouse. He was well known in flying circles as a very efficient, although unlucky, airman.

 

 

073 Captain A S Elliott Eastern Evening News 18071919.jpg

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Day 5: Saturday, July 19th 1919

 

From the Nottingham Journal & Express.

 

LONG EATON AIRSHIP VICTIM.

 

Our photograph is that of Air Craftsman C.J. Jacques, of Victoria-road, Long Eaton, one of the crew who lost their lives in the disaster to the British coastal airship N.S. 11. As stated last night, Jacques, who was 19 years of age, joined the R.N.A.S. in 1917 as a bay mechanic and served at several R.N.A.S. stations in England. During the war he was employed on submarine “spotting” over the North Sea. Later he qualified as a wireless operator.

 

No bodies have yet been washed up from the NS. 11, but wreckage continues to come ashore. In addition to much charred woodwork, a petrol tank, two books, an airman’s pocket-book, chairs, and a small chest containing Verey lights and letters have been recovered. The chest apparently belonged to the captain.

 

 

Nottingham Journal - Saturday 19 July 1919 p8 Long Eaton Airship Victim sourced BNA crop.jpg

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whatisart

I wonder what became of the items recovered. I do have a charred piece of N.S.11's envelope which was taken back to RNAS Pulham. Great work finding the newspaper clippings – I still have yet to put faces to three of the crew. Check out ns11.org

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