Newbury News Ltd. Print-Digital-Social

Memorial planned for First World War pilot

Canadian flyer crashed into Hungerford garden 100 years ago

Memorial planned for First World War pilot

A CENTURY ago this year a First World War pilot crashed into the rear of what is now the Hungerford Arcade.

And owners Adrian Gilmour and Hazel Browne plan to mark the sad but dramatic event with a memorial plaque.

Mr Gilmour said: “I wasn’t actually aware this had happened in our back yard, until a customer mentioned it during a conversation about helicopters and low-flying aircraft over Hungerford.

“If you go back 100 years then the good folk of Hungerford would not have expected to see many airplanes in the skies above the town.”

He added: “Indeed, the first time that a military airplane was recorded as flying over Hungerford was in October 1914 when a small biplane approached the town from the west at a low altitude.”

It reportedly completed a circuit of the town before heading off towards Marlborough, Wiltshire.

Then, on Saturday, May 26, 1917, a number of people in the town became aware of an aircraft approaching from the west.  

But unlike its 1914 predecessor, its engine did not sound right and the machine was flying very slowly. 

Townsfolk initially thought they were witnessing a display of aerial acrobatic prowess before realising with horror what was really happening.

A report in the Newbury Weekly News recorded that, as it passed over Hungerford, the airplane appeared to climb suddenly and attained a vertical position before flipping over.

It passed over the market place and then nose-dived into the garden behind what was then the garden of Thomas Alexander’s house and grocery business.

Sadly, the young Canadian pilot did not survive the crash.  

He was identified as 2nd Lieutenant John Douglas Price Scholfield, who was stationed at the Central Flying School in Upavon, Wiltshire. The 23-year-old had been in the process of qualifying for his wings.

Subsequent investigation of the Avro 504A biplane suggested the aircraft had been mechanically sound and that Lt Scholfield had probably stalled.

He is buried in the graveyard of St Catherine’s Church in Sindlesham.

Mr Gilmour said: “To our surprise, there is no monument, plaque or mention of this tragedy in the High Street and Hazel and I feel strongly that we should put up a plaque in memory of this very brave young man. 

“If anyone has any views and suggestions, we would be glad to hear from them.”

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on Newbury Weekly News

Characters left: 1000