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Soldiers of the Regiment

Private Cornelius Cafferty MM

Private Cornelius Cafferty MM, number 24774, 1st/4th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, died 15th January 1919.  Buried in Lancaster Cemetery.  He had been awarded the Military Medal:

Date of recommendation: 29th August 1918
Award recommended: Military Medal
"For gallantry and initiative in action near Givenchy on 24th August, 1918. This man, orderly to his Company Commander, displayed great vigour in the assault. He was foremost in the attack and afterwards repeatedly brought back to his Company Commander valuable reports of the progress of the operation and the positions of the platoons and sections. During the attack a hostile machine gunner was over-run and was about to open fire from the rear. Private Cafferty, however, promptly killed him."

From the Lancaster Guardian 18th January 1919

Fatal Flying Accident – A tragic aeroplane accident occurred near the Alexandra Park, Manchester, on Wednesday, involving the death of the observer, Private Cornelius Cafferty, First Fourth, KORLR, 7 Primrose Street, Lancaster; and the pilot, Captain Brown, RAF. The latter was testing a new two seater Bristol fighter, when Cafferty and two other wounded soldiers from Nell Lane Military Hospital, West Didsbury, asked to be taken. He told them he could only take one, and the men tossed up, Cafferty gaining the observer’s seat. When 70 feet up the machine suddenly side-slipped, and crashed sideways to the ground. The petrol tank caught fire and the pilot and passenger were enveloped in flames. When comrades arrived it was impossible to rescue the men, the debris continuing to burn for two hours. The charred remains were conveyed to the mortuary in Nell Lane. Captain Brown had rendered good service in France, and this was the first fatality at the aerodrome. Private Cafferty leaves a widow and child. He had been wounded twice, his arm being in a sling when he visited home at Christmas. In civil live he was proprietor of the Primrose Window Cleaning Co.

Report from the Inquest into the death of Private Cafferty

The evidence at the inquest held by the Manchester Coroner ( Mr C W W Surridge ) today on Capt Adrian Brown (28) a test pilot, in the RAF of Annadale House Victoria Park, Manchester and Pte Cornelius Joseph Cafferty (31) Kings Own Royal Lanc Regt, residing at 7 Primrose St, Lancaster. The two victims of the aeroplane accident at the Aeroplane Acceptance Park, near Alexandra Park Railway Station, on Wednesday afternoon – showed that Capt Brown made an error of judgement in turning his machine when a sudden rain squall came on.
The commander of the aerodrome stated that turning and trying to land with the wind instead of against it was the cause of more fatal accidents than anything else. Sergt Major W J Davidson of the Gordon’s, a patient, Fell lane Hospital said that in company with Pte Walker and Cafferty he went to Alexandra Park aerodrome on Wednesday. They asked some of the girls if there was any chance of getting a flight and a air mechanic took them to where a plane was going up to see what could be done. When the plane was ready to go up Capt Brown asked for a mechanic to accompany him "We" witness preceded "asked if it was possible for one of us to go up and permission was given by Capt Brown.
Cafferty and I were the only two who wanted to go up, so we tossed for it and Cafferty won. Cafferty got into the machine and was tied in.
Major Williamson, commander of the aeroplane Acceptance Park, said that on Wednesday afternoon he was watching the engine of this particular aeroplane, in charge of Capt Brown, being tested and preparatory to a flight.
Witness only arrived when the engine was actually ready to take off and the passenger was then in his place. He (witness) thought the passenger was a mechanic as usual. The engine was running quite satisfactorily. The machine taxied out and started in the usual way against the wind. It rose in less than the usual run, which indicated that the engine was satisfactory at the time. "I was rather surprised" proceeded witness "to see it almost turn with quiet sufficient bank to the left. It was quite a safe turn, although it was closer to the ground than usual. He travelled in that direction for 200 yards and turned again to the left rather than flat, which is without bank, the planes being almost level. "The machine then developed a slow spin, which means that if the machine is turned flat she tends to side-slip outwards.
Then she made a rather rapid dive towards the ground – a safe manoeuvre had he had sufficient height, but he was less than 100 feet high and struck the ground before the "plane could recover" The dive was not so acute added witness, that a good landing could not have been made at that stage so far as he could see from 1200 yards distance.
Witness estimated that the machine, which was a British fighter, was travelling at a speed of about 140 miles an hour when the accident happened,. When the machine turned over the first thing that would come in contact with the ground would be the men’s heads as they were about a foot over the top of the fuselage.
Major Williamson explained that before a passenger not on duty could be taken up his (witness) consent must be obtained and in most cases that a higher authority. That was not only a rule of the aerodrome, but an Air ministry instruction.
Witness didn’t give Capt Brown permission to take a passenger and was not present when either the observer or the pilot got into the machine.
Asked as to Capt Browns skill, Major Williamson said that no man attained the position of Capt in the RAF and flew the number of types of machines that Capt Brown did without being classed as a pilot of considerable experience.
The Coroner – Do you think on this occasion Capt. Brown perhaps made an error of judgement.
Witness - It was undoubtedly an error of judgement. What made him turn, of course, is all speculation. Just at the time Capt Browns "took off" preceded witness, a sudden rain squall set across the ground and Capt Brown would meet it before he (witness) became aware of it. "I do not know, "he added whether he then decided to turn back to the aerodrome or whether the rain put him off his course. I think the former is more likely, as the rain would not put a machine of that power to any extent off its course." If either supposition were correct Capt Brown made a grave error of judgement in turning at all. It was an error that was very prevalent and one that was probably responsible for more deaths in the Air Force than anything else – that of turning back in the aerodrome and running with the wind. "At all costs" said witness "run against the wind even if it means running against a fence or a house, or something like that. It gives a much safer landing."
A verdict of "Accidental Death" was returned and the coroner expressed sympathy with the relatives.


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