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Killed by a propeller: Sad accident to Air Mechanic

Lorraine has found a reference to an air mechanic, not on our Roll of Honour (air men who died at or around Croydon aerodrome during the war). Although the article does not detail that the accident took place at Croydon / Beddington, the location of the Crescent War Hospital in Thornton Heath makes it unlikely to be elsewhere. From the Croydon Advertiser and Surrey County Reporter, Sat. 29 March 1918:

A keen air mechanic, Henry Colin Lane, aged 29, met with his death through his keenness to ascertain if the engine of an aeroplane which he had just set in motion was running properly.

Ground crew at Beddington / Croydon in 1918.
H M Martin Photograph.
The story was told to the Croydon Coroner and jury at an inquest at the Union Offices on Tuesday afternoon, when Jack Liennewiel, a fitter in the RFC, described what occurred.  Deceased was assisting another air mechanic to start the propeller of a machine. There was another machine with the engine working about fifteen feet away.  After assisting to start the propeller deceased walked sideways into the propeller of the other machine, his attention being entirely devoted to the machine he had just started.  The propeller struck him on the head, knocking him down.  The engines were at once stopped and he was removed to the medical officer and then sent in an ambulance to the Crescent War Hospital.  Witness thought deceased did not realise that the other machine was in action, as he could not hear it owing to the noise of the machine he had just started. 

Flight Sergt. Alexander Vaile gave a similar description of the accident.

Capt. Edgar Willett RAMC, attached to the Crescent War Hospital, said that when deceased was brought to the Hospital he was able to tell him his name.  Witness had him at once taken to the operating theatre and there found that he had a large scalp wound and four smaller one, and his arm was also injured.  Witness could not find at the time any fracture of the skull. The wounds were cleaned and dressed and he was got to bed.  He was in a serious condition, and more serious at eleven o’clock, but witness did not think he had any injury he could not recover from.  About a quarter of and hour later, however, he suddenly collapsed and died.  A post-mortem examination the next day showed that there was no injury to his head from which he could not have recovered, but the liver was ruptured, and from this he could not possibly have recovered.  The propeller had also struck his side and broken some of his ribs and also caused a small rupture of one lung.

Sister Florence Lyal Wilson, the night superintendent at the Crescent War Hospital, said that deceased was never left.  He was seen by Capt. Selby, RAMC, at ten o’clock and again by Capt. Willett, at ten to eleven.

The jury found that death was the result of an accident.

(died 22ndMarch 1918)

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