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Eustace Loraine

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Eustace Broke Loraine (3 September 1879 – 5 July 1912) was a pioneer British aviator and the first Royal Flying Corps officer to be killed in an aircraft crash.

Eustace Loraine was the first child of Rear-Admiral Sir Lambton Loraine, 11th Baronet and his wife Frederica Mary Horatia (née Broke).

Loraine served in South Africa as a Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards and returned to Great Britain in the summer of 1902.

He later served in Nigeria on the headquarters staff in Lagos and as a section commander on Hugh Trenchard's 1907 / 1908 expedition to the Munshi tribe.

In 1909 whilst Loraine was still in Nigeria, reports reached him of Louis Bleriot's flight across the English Channel. This news stirred Loraine's curiosity and he decided to find out more about flying.

The War Office paid for Loraine's flying training and he was seconded from the Grenadier Guards in order that he might learn to fly. Loraine successfully completed his flying training and was granted Royal Aero Club certificate number 154 which was dated 7 November 1911.

Loraine was in correspondence with Hugh Trenchard, who was now serving in Ireland, and he kept Trenchard informed about his progress as an aviator. On one occasion in Spring / Summer 1912, Loraine wrote to Trenchard urging him to learn to fly. Trenchard was greatly impressed by Loraine's words which read "You've no idea what you're missing, ... Come and see men like ants crawling." At that time Trenchard was looking for a new direction and after reading Loraine's letter he decided to try and learn to fly.

At some stage in 1911 or early 1912, Lorraine was attached to No. 2 Company of the Air Battalion which was based at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. On 13 May 1912, with the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps, No. 2 Company was re-designated No. 3 Squadron RFC and Loraine remained at Larkhill.

Less than two months later, Loraine and his observer Staff Sergeant Richard H. V. Wilson were flying a Nieuport Monoplane out of Larkhill on a routine morning practice sortie. They were executing a tight turn when the aircraft fell towards the ground and crashed. Wilson was killed outright and Loraine succumbed to his wounds not long after the crash. Loraine and Wilson were the first Flying Corps personnel to die in an aircraft crash. Later in the day an order was issued which stated "Flying will continue this evening as usual", thus beginning a tradition.

The site of the crash, near the intersection of the A344 and the A360 roads and less than a mile west of Stonehenge, is now known as 'Airmen's Cross'. There is a stone cross memorial in middle of the grass island at the junction and its inscription reads:

'To the memory of Captain Loraine and Staff-Sergeant Wilson who whilst flying on duty, met with a fatal accident near this spot on July 5th 1912. Erected by their comrades'.


The Inquest
FROM the evidence as clearly given by Capt. Brooke-Popham and Corporal Ridd at the inquest on the bodies of Capt. E. B. Loraine and Staff-Seijcant Wilson, who met their deaths in the smash on Salisbury Plain on the 5th inst., it would appear that the great skill of Capt. Loraine had engendered an excess of confidence in his ability to control the Nieuport machine. It appeared that during a previous flight with Corporal Ridd, a similar incident to that which ended fatally occurred but then as the machine was at a height of 1,000 feet, Captain Loraine was able to correct it, and make a safe landing. After testing the motor,

Staff-Serjeant Wilson took Corporal Ridd's place and the fatal flight was started. The monoplane was steered in the direction of Shrewton and at the end of Fargo Plain a sharp turn was attempted. The machine then side-slipped and dived, and as the machine was only about 400 feet this movement could not be corrected in time. Lieut. Fox flew over to the scene of the accident and did what he could, and assistance was soon at hand. Staff-Serjeant Wilson died within a few minutes as he had sustained a broken neck, while Captain Loraine having fractured the base of the skull died ten minutes after admission to Bulford hospital. At the inquest a verdict of accidental death was returned and the jury expressed their sympathy with the relatives of the aviators.

Both Capt. E. B. Loraine, who was in the Grenadier Guards before his appointment to the Royal Flying Corps, and Staff-Serjeant Wilson were extremely popular on Salisbury Plain, and at the funeral of the latter at Andover on Monday all the regiments in the southern command were represented. Capt. Loraine's body was taken to his home at Bramford, near Ipswich, for interment, but it was conveyed from Bulford Hospital to the station with full military honours on Monday.

Capt. Loraine learnt to fly on a Valkyrie monoplane at Hendon, but at Salisbury Plain he had piloted quite a variety of types of machines.

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