Soldiers of the Regiment
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
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
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
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.
© Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
You must seek permission prior to
publication of any of our images.
Only a proportion of our collections
are on display at anyone time. Certain items are on loan for display
in other institutions. An appointment is required to consult any of
our collections which are held in store.