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Remembered Today:

Aerial suicide incidents anywhere


John Gilinsky
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Can anyone please tell us of specific verified and documented cases of aerial suicide? These might consist of deliberate solitary suicide; a pilot deliberately crashing his plane into an enemy's plane or base,etc....

Thanks,

John

Toronto

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John

Major Alexander Kozakov DFC, formerly the leading 'ace' of the Imperial Russian Army Air Service, and serving with the RAF in North Russia, took off in a Sopwith Snipe on 1 August 1919 and subsequently crashed with fatal consequences. He died from his injuries on 4 August. Witnesses said that the Snipe didn't gain much height after take off, and then pulled up as if entering a loop before stalling and crashing.

Major Kozakov had learnt that the British were to pull out of North Russia just before his fatal flight. He was offered a post in England, but declined.

See The Imperial Russian Air Service by Durkota, Darcey and Kulikov; ISBN 0 9637110 2 4.

Regards

Gareth

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G'day John,

In Charles Schaedel's "Australian Air Ace", the biography of A.A.N.D. "Jerry" Pentland he writes of the then commander of 87 Squadron "Casey" Callaghans death, page 59 states;

"One evening a few days later Callaghan called Pentland to one side and gave him a letter addressed to an Australian girl living in London, asking him to deliver it personally when he went on leave later that week. Next morning the Major took off on one of his lone flights and didn't come back. He was last seen attacking a big formation of enemy aircraft over the lines, one lone Dolphin against a couple of dozen scouts. There could only be one result, and a few minutes later Callaghan lay dead on German soil. Why he took such odds will never be known, but when Jerry went to London he delivered the letter as requested, and the girl showed him the contents. It contained a cheque for 100 pounds and a note that said simply, "Goodbye Doll, I'll meet you on the other side!"

Hope this helps

Andrew

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In Charles Schaedel's "Australian Air Ace", the biography of A.A.N.D. "Jerry" Pentland he writes of the then commander of 87 Squadron "Casey" Callaghans death, page 59 states;

What was Callaghan's rank and christian name(s)?

Jon

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What was Callaghan's rank and christian name(s)?

Jon

G'day Jon

He was Major Joseph Creuss Callaghan a 5 victory ace.

Regards,

Andrew

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Thanks all! What about the supposed Russian Captain who in 1914 deliberately crashed his plane into a German airplane? There were several prints and posters I think made in Russia at the time of this.

Did this really happen?

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He was Major Joseph Creuss Callaghan a 5 victory ace.

Hello Andrew

Thanks for that - I think I shall look him up the next time I go to France. It's a tragic and romantic story, and I'd like to look upon his headstone knowing the story behind it.

I see that on CWGC there are two Callaghan's listed as killed in the war serving in the Flying Corps/Air Force, and if I recall correctly, they both have Creuss as their second name. Were they brothers?

Jon.

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What about the supposed Russian Captain who in 1914 deliberately crashed his plane into a German airplane? Did this really happen?

John

Stabs-Kapitan Petr Nikolaev Nesterov, flying Morane Saulnier G No 281 of the 11th Corps Detachment, Imperial Russian Air Service, rammed an Albatros two seater flown by Feldwebel Franz Malina (pilot) and Oberleutnant Baron Friedrich Rosenthal (observer), of Austro-Hungarian Flik 11 over the town of Zholkov on 26 August 1914. All three airmen were killed in the encounter.

Regards

Gareth

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I know of one WW2. Interested?

I am :)

Yes please.

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I am :)

Yes please.

The story is this. One Saturday lunchtime 1942/43, a fighter strafed the centre of Dundee. It made two runs, caused stuctural damage but, miraculously no injuries. The plane then turned and headed out to the North Sea. The plane was identified as a Spitfire or a Hurricane. Definitely British. That much is borne out by all adults I asked. It was common knowledge. No report was printed in the local papers. My father told me that it was a plane from Montrose fighter airfield. 20 miles or so from Dundee. The pilot was said to have been from the Polish Free airforce, who were definitely stationed there. Many Poles settled in Dundee after the war and I asked one once about this. He said it was true . The Plane would not have been able to reach the continent from Dundee and was assumed to have ditched eventually. As far as I know there is not a scrap of evidence for any of this but the story, substantially as I have repeated it here, was commonly held to be true in the years after the war. Incidentally, several people pointed out to me the structural damage which remained for several years.

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Lt Robert Barton Cameron, an observer with 9 sqdn RFC, jumped to his death from his RE8 from 1000 feet, on 7th January 1918, aged 21.

He left no message, but it is known that he had survived four crashes in which the aricraft was written off in the three previous months, and on three occasions had been attacked by enemy fighters which he had driven off with his machine gun. The quality of his work had deteriorated and he had been drinking heavily, including the night before the incident.

In other words he was suffering from combat stress and in later wars would have been ordered off combat duties.

He was listed as Killed in Action by his CO, Major Rodwell, presumably for the sake of his parents - though it may well have been considered that he was just as much a combat casualty as anyone else. The truth is known from the diary of his Flight Commander, Capt B.U.S Cripps.

Adrian

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Thank you Adrian for sharing the sad story of Lt. Cameron. Clearly there were many suicides all round that due to social stigmatization, religious beliefs, insurance payouts to name just three were benevolently covered up as something else. Many of these suicides either were caused by "shell shock" what we now call PTSD or it played a major contributing factor in such cases. Again think of the PBI who could easily let themselves be killed or acted rashly (to some heroically). There are several if not many cases of shell shocked diagnosed men and officers (severe) recovering and going back and obtaining medals for combat heroism. One wonders those who were never diagnosed, deliberately misdiagnosed and ended up getting a heroe's death (or worse!).

With the every growing air power and numbers of personnel flyers who operated in very small groups relatively speaking if not alone also had a much more difficult time in hiding any symptoms. Aviators therefore make up an interesting group for the study of "shell shock."

Thanks again Adrian for your valuable contribution.

John

Toronto

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Mate,

Not a death by aircraft but I have one AFC officer who was believed committed suicide.

This officer disappeared one night while his Sqn (1 Sqn AFC) was stationed in the desert, he was found later to have deid from the effects of thirst.

Why he wondered offinto the desert was never explained.

S.B

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On May 19th 1918, the French-American ace Major Raoul Lufbery also deliberately jumped to his death from his burning aeroplane, but he was merely precipitating the inevitable probably. He fell into a flower garden in the village of Maron, just north of Nancy, while his aeroplane crashed about one kilometre away in flames. When his companions rushed to find his body they found that it had already been covered with flowers by French peasants who had seen his fall.

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The story is this. One Saturday lunchtime 1942/43, a fighter strafed the centre of Dundee. It made two runs, caused stuctural damage but, miraculously no injuries. The plane then turned and headed out to the North Sea. The plane was identified as a Spitfire or a Hurricane. Definitely British. That much is borne out by all adults I asked. It was common knowledge. No report was printed in the local papers. My father told me that it was a plane from Montrose fighter airfield. 20 miles or so from Dundee. The pilot was said to have been from the Polish Free airforce, who were definitely stationed there. Many Poles settled in Dundee after the war and I asked one once about this. He said it was true . The Plane would not have been able to reach the continent from Dundee and was assumed to have ditched eventually. As far as I know there is not a scrap of evidence for any of this but the story, substantially as I have repeated it here, was commonly held to be true in the years after the war. Incidentally, several people pointed out to me the structural damage which remained for several years.

My father was born and grew up in the village of Broughty Ferry, a place then made up of fishermens cottages on the waterfront and jute millionaires mansions on the higher ground. Today it is a suburb of Dundee. My father was a boy of 9 years of age in 1940, and was out on the streets of Broughty Ferry the day a German plane flew low overhead firing off its machineguns, having also fired off rounds over Dundee city en route. Amongst buildings hit by the fire was the police station - where the bullet damage could be seen for many years. Apparently the plane was a German bomber, lost from a raid further south (perhaps over the Forth railbridge/Rosyth). After lightening his load by firing off the ammo the raider headed out over the North Sea, only to be shot down by British aircraft. This is a substantiated incident, and I believe it my be the basis for the story Tom has posted above.

Ciao,

GAC

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Hi GAC, It's possible that the story ' has grown feet ' as they say, but I think there is more to it than that. There were several incidents during the war when bombers offloaded bombs into the Tay before the North Sea crossing. There was one deliberate air raid which hit several targets and killed one lady. The raid targetted foundries in the town and gave rise to speculation re spies. A German bomber strafing the town would have been a big story in its own right. No need to confuse it with a British fighter. A German raid would have also made the papers. The incident I referred to was told to me by several different adults, reminiscing about the war. It was always described in substantially the same way regardless of who told the tale. I normally give little credence to ancdotes. This one I would award a reasonable probability of being based on fact. Your Dad is a few years older than me. I was being pushed about in a pram at the time of this alleged incident. The one aspect of my story that I am very dubious about, is the identity of the pilot. This may have been a reflection of the prejudice felt by some elements of the population of the town against the Polish servicemen. Many of whom remained in Dundee after the war, married local girls and became Dundonians themselves, albeit with a very strange accent.

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Back to Callaghan mentioned earlier - there is a good page and a half on him in Norman Franks's "Who Downed the Aces in WW1?" as well as a picture of him. He was a dashing looking young man with a fine twirly-ended moustache, just the sort you'd imagine to go charging into a mass of enemy planes as he did! He can be found under the heading, "The Mad Major!"

He was killed by the leader of Jasta 13, Leutnant Franz Buchner, who would achieve 40 kills by the end of the war.

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Wasn't it usually suicide to get even airborne in April 1917?

Jerry

Not if you were on the German side of the Lines.

Gareth

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Thanks again everyone for your contributions. I still think that there are some quite fascinating cases. A very famous 1943 Canadian air vc was the Ukrainian Canadian who attempted to free a trapped rear gunner from their bomber but in the process caused his parachutes to be fire damaged though he did evacuate - he perished but miracles of miracles the rear gunner survived the crash.

I am sure that during 1916 to 1918 with the larger planes and larger crews with such planes being shot down that similar behaviours must have occurred. Does anyone have any further details on this particular aspect or anything else to add?

John

Toronto

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If you're including cases where men jumped rather than burn to death, then another famous one is the Zeppelin commander Heinrich Mathy. He was asked by journalists if he'd jump or burn & replied that he wouldn't know until the time came. When it did, on the night of 1/2 October 1916, he chose to jump.

Heinrich Mathy & L31 from Tom Morgan's website

BBC website

The BBC article argues that the choice was a slight chance of survival but almost certainly a horrible death if you didn't jump or a certain but quicker death if you jumped. I'm not sure if that's accurate & if there are any cases of Zeppelin crewmen staying with the burning airship & surviving. I'm sure that I read somewhere that a man jumped from a burning Zeppelin, fell through the roof of a convent, landed in a bed that a nun had just vacated & survived! That sounds like an urban myth but there was definitely a case in WW2 where the tail gunner of a Lancaster was blown clear after it blew up. He wasn't wearing his parachute as gunners often unclipped then from the harness as they restricted movement but kept them close at hand. However, his fall was broken by trees & he landed in a snowdrift & survived.

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The WW2 pilot who survived the fall into the snow. Refused entry to the Caterpillar Club (for those who have escaped from a plane using a parachute) because he didn't actually use a parachute...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Alkemade

Steve.

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Thanks again everyone for your contributions. I still think that there are some quite fascinating cases. A very famous 1943 Canadian air vc was the Ukrainian Canadian who attempted to free a trapped rear gunner from their bomber but in the process caused his parachutes to be fire damaged though he did evacuate - he perished but miracles of miracles the rear gunner survived the crash.

I am sure that during 1916 to 1918 with the larger planes and larger crews with such planes being shot down that similar behaviours must have occurred. Does anyone have any further details on this particular aspect or anything else to add?

John

Toronto

John

I don't think that there could have been many similar cases in the Great War as aircrew didn't have parachutes, aside from balloon observers and some German airmen towards the end of hostilities. Hence, all the crew would have been trapped together in a crippled aeroplane.

There were, of course, incidents where a pilot attempted to save the life of his observer, though at great risk of losing his own. Perhaps the best known is the effort of Sgt Thomas Mottershead of No 20 Sqn RFC on 7 January 1917, who flew his burning FE 2d A39 in a manner to make sure that it crashed over the Allied side of the lines - knowing that a crash in the front line area would almost certainly mean the death of his observer, Lt W E Gower. Sgt Mottershead was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Regards

Gareth

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