Mystery of the WW1 Propeller

When I was growing up in our garage we had what we were told was a propeller from a WW1 plane, the story in the family of where it came from has always seemed some what fuddled!

Recently, while looking on ebay for local items, a postcard turned up for sale in California entitled Fatal Areoplane Wreck Near Northallerton 15.5.14. It is amazing what a bit of poking about on the internet turned up with a quick search!

The pilot was a Lieut. John Empson, 4th Royal Fusiliers, he has learned to fly at Brooklands in 1913 at the Bristol School. I think the plane is a Bristol Boxkite. Anyway John Empson is listed as being awarded his Aviators certificate in 1913 by the Royal Aero Club.

His plane crashed at Lonesome Hill, Northallerton in May 1914. I’m not sure where Lonesome Hill is and assume its a typo or the name has changed slightly to Lovesome Hill which is on the A167 between Northallerton and Darlington.

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The report of the inquest reads:

Inquest May 1914
The accident which occurred at Northallerton on Friday of last week, in which Lieut. John Empson and Air-Mechanic George Cudmore, of No. 2 Squadron Military Wing R.F.C., was the subject of a coroner’s inquest at Lonesome Hill, Northallerton, on Saturday.

Major C. J. Burke, in command of No. 2 Squadron, said they left Montrose on Monday morning, and everything went well until leaving Seaton Carew on Friday morning. It was perfectly clear when the witness left Seaton Carew. He could not say when Lieut. Empson left. The machines were always examined and overhauled before a flight. Lieut. Empson was perfectly competent. The witness went north as soon as he left Seaton Carew, as he saw fog and mist arising when five miles out. They had general instructions to follow to the effect that in the event of fog no landing had to be effected on the landing ground.

The Coroner said he thought the instructions might be made a little more explicit. If the airmen saw fog arising, could they not descend where it was clear? Major Burke replied that this would be impossible, as the fogs moved about, the air being clear at one moment and dense at the next. From his investigation, it was clear that the machine overturned on its back after striking a hedge. He believed the two men were ‘vol planing’ very fast at the time.

Dr. Tweedy stated that when he saw Lieut. Empson he was dead, being inside the wreckage on his back with his knees drawn up. His head was severely crushed, and he had received internal injuries. Death was instantaneous.

Dr. Carter stated that the base of Cudmore’s skull was fractured and he had internal injuries, either of which would have caused immediate death.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death,” and expressed sympathy with the relatives.

Now could our propeller be from this crashed Bi Plane? All we know is “Granddad brought it back from the first world war”, it may seem more realistic that he rescued it from a crash site near home before he was even called up!

I found another reference to the plane being a Type B.E 10 biplane, but I can’t find a reference to what this plane is or looked like.

The propeller itself is made of wood with a canvas covering, the tip is painted green, and the maker is Barkers & Co. (Coachbuilders) Ltd, London. I’m assuming it is the Barkers listed on Wikipedia here.

I’ll keep looking for more information to actually tie our propeller to this plane, but if anyone has any insights please get in touch.

Angus