Archived Extracts

Notts Free Press - 27 August 1937

This lengthy report actually continues following the inquest through the Coroners questioning of witnesses to the stand. Greatest part is transcribed to assist the naming and occupations of other locals involved, but the full report only further asserts concluding jury verdict on this being a fatal accident due to pilot error. The tragic scene was well photographed, showing here the press coverage and additionally donated images.

Aeroplane Crash at Huthwaite - Two Sutton Men Killed

Tragic Culmination to Stunt Flying


STARK tragedy burst upon Huthwaite Carnival on Saturday night, when an aeroplane, which had been stunting over the Carnival ground for a few minutes, crashed into a cornfield nearby, its two occupants - both Sutton residents - being killed instantaneously.

Scene of crash atop Cross LaneThe victims were Mr. James Daniel Bradbury, aged 35, of the Market Place, and Mr. Roy Houbart Crossland, aged 21, of 'Woodleigh,' Station Road.

It was about 7:40 when the accident occurred. The Carnival ground was crowded and thousands of people who were watching the carnival band contest or enjoying the other numerous attractions, suddenly had their attention diverted by the first appearance of an aeroplane, which compelled everybody's interest by its low flying.

Series of Stunts

The pilot began a series of stunts, which included the falling leaf, looping the loop, and an exhibition of crazy flying, which were given with considerable skill. Then apparently as a grand finale to the display, the machine began climbing preparatory to going into a spiral dive.

It climbed until it was just entering the clouds, and then the engine was switched off and the dive commenced. It was a spectacular and thrilling sight, and knowing that it was part of the display and with the machine appearing to be under perfect control, the crowd could not help but admire the skill of the pilot.

But their admiration turned to horror when they saw the plane fail to flatten out and nose dive to the ground at an alarming pace. A terrific crash followed, and it was not long before the worst fears of the horrified spectators of this appalling drama were confirmed.

Police officers and St. John Ambulance men who were on duty on the Carnival ground dashed to the scene of the crash, followed by hundreds of people, only to find that the men were beyond all aid. The nose of the plane had buried itself in the earth, and the framework had broken away. The flyers, who were wedged in the seats, were terribly mutilated, it being impossible to identify them at the time.

Ambulance Called

A 'Free Press' reporter who witnessed the crash from near the Huthwaite Parish Church immediately made a dash to the scene along Common Road, and thinking there might be a chance of assistance being of some use to the men, telephoned for the ambulance from the first 'phone he came to. This happened to be at the house of Carnival Secretary Mr. J.R. Purseglove.

This done, he again set off in all haste to the field in which the 'plane had come down, and on arrival had to scramble over a barbed wire fence and push his way through a crowd of people about twenty deep in order to get to the police to inform them of his action.

By that time the body of Bradbury, who was in the pilot's seat at the rear of the 'plane had been removed and was laid out on the ground and covered over, but before his companion's body could be released from the wreckage part of the fabric had to be torn away.

In the meantime, a stretcher and one improvised from a bed taken from the first-aid tent on the Carnival ground, had been brought to the scene, and by the time the bodies had been placed on these the New Hucknall Colliery Ambulance had arrived and the bodies were transported to the Sutton Mortuary. Thus, within a few minutes of the accident occurring, the bodies were removed from the scene.

Scene of crash atop Cross Lane

The task of keeping back the crowd was an extremely difficult one. The air in the vicinity was full of petrol fumes, and there was a danger of the machine catching fire, several bystanders having to be told by the police to put out cigarettes in order to reduce the risk of this occurring.

Fences were broken down in several places in the mad scramble to get to the 'plane, and the crops in the fields over which the crowds made their way to the scene were badly damaged. Police guarded the wreckage in order to keep away souvenir hunters, but on Sunday there was a continual stream of sightseers and many snapshots were taken.Crossland

A native of the town, Mr. Crossland, or Roy, as he was called by all his acquaintances, was extremely well known. He had worked for Messrs. Needham Bros. in the Market Place since leaving school. He had been a member of the Sutton Branch of Toc H for several years, and for three years held the position of secretary.

Fond of sport and outdoor life, he had been a member of the Sutton Junction Tennis Club. He was also a keen camper, and had done a good deal of rock climbing. He had had several previous flights with Mr. Bradbury. His parents and younger members of the family were just finishing a holiday at Chapel St. Leonards on Saturday, and the news of the tragedy was not broken to them until they returned on Sunday Morning.

An Experience Pilot

Mr. Bradbury, who was an experienced pilot, and had flown the plane which crashed - a Moth Major - on many occasions, had been in Sutton about 12 months, during which time he had made many friends. He was the proprietor of a decorators' supply stores in the Market Place, and had been married only a short time. He came from Chesterfield.

The inquest on the victims of the distressing occurrence was held at the Sutton Free Library on Tuesday, conducted by the District Coroner (Mr. H. Bradwell), who sat with a jury, of whom Mr. G.W. North was foreman. Major S.G.V. Fill attended the proceedings on behalf of the Air Ministry, and there were also present Captain L.W. Hall (chief instructor at Tollerton Aerodrome), Mr. L. Barbage (Secretary, Nottingham Flying Club), Mr. H.J. King (chief ground engineer at Tollerton Aerodrome) and Inspector Simons.

In opening the inquiry, the Coroner said no doubt the jury knew something about the facts. From his knowledge of the facts, it appeared that the deceased man Bradbury, who was a qualified pilot, and who was accompanied by the deceased man Crossland, took an airplane from the Tollerton Aerodrome for the purpose of a flight. When he left he (the Coroner) thought they would find Bradbury gave no intimation to the officials what he intended to do. The plane was taken out in the ordinary way in which members of the Club were allowed to take them, and apparently he went over Huthwaite, where there was a carnival, and he (the Coroner) 'thought the jury would find the deceased started to do some stunting. Eventually he got into some kind of a spin and unfortunately he crashed, and not only was he killed but also his passenger, Crossland. 'I don't think you will have any difficulty in coming to your verdict,' added the Coroner, 'and I don't propose to say anything more to you about it.'

'Very Keen on Flying'

A photograph was produced showing the 'plane after the crash, the Coroner observing that fortunately the machine did not burst into flames.

The first witness called was Sidney Rawlings Millington, of 173, Storforth Lane, Hasland, Chesterfield, a railway fireman, who said at 8:30 on Sunday morning he visited the Sutton Mortuary, where he saw the body of his brother-in-law. James Daniel Bradbury, a wall-paper shopkeeper, of Market Place, Sutton. He was 35 years of age. He knew that deceased had held a pilot's licence for flying for just over two years. He was a qualified man, and was very keen on flying, and he (witness) had been up with him twice. So far as he knew he was in perfect health. He understood he was killed whilst flying at Huthwaite on saturday.

Evidence of identification in respect of Roy Houbart Crossland was next called, this being given by his brother, Harry Kenneth Crossland, a school teacher, of 'Woodleigh,' Station Road, Sutton, where deceased also resided. He stated that he visited the Sutton Mortuary about 11:40 on Sunday morning, and there identified the body of his brother, who was 21 years of age, and was employed as a shop assistant. He was a friend of Mr. Bradbury, with whom he had flown several times.

'No Aerobatics.'

Herbert James King, of 21, Lady Bay Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham, chief ground engineer at Tollerton Aerodrome, A Everley
1937 crash
said he knew Mr Bradbury as one of the members of the Club, and also understood that he had been a pupil of the Club and had his flying certificate, which he had held for two years. He was considered a competent pilot. He was on duty at the aerodrome at Tollerton on Saturday evening about 7:30 when the deceased and a passenger named Crossland left for a flight in a machine - Major Moth, with registered number GACZX.

The Coroner: Can you tell me or not whether he gave anybody any intimation as to where he was going, or whether he was going for any special purpose or for just an ordinary flight!   Witness: The impression he gave us when he left was that he was going for an ordinary flight. He had final instructions from the instructor.   Were you present when instructions were given him by Captan. Cudemore?--Yes.   What instructions did he give him? - He said to him before he left: 'No aerobatics; remember you have a passenger with you. If you wish to do aerobatics do them on you own.' ......

Instructions and Regulations

Is there a notice on the machine that to being taken out by Mr. Bradbury it had come back from a flight to Birmingham. It was examined by himself after its return from that flight, and it was in perfect order and condition.
The Coroner: Apart from the examination which is made of these machines before they start off again, are all the machines at the aerodrome thoroughly examined and tested every morning before they do any work?   Witness: Yes, sir.   And had this particular machine been so examined that morning? - Yes, and a certificate of air-worthiness was issued by me. Witness added that this particular machine held a certificate as to its air-worthiness, and had been certified as air-worthy by the Air Ministry.

Spiral Spin

Eye-witness accounts of the flying at Huthwaite and the subsequent crash were next given. Edwin James Searson, of 48 Columbia Avenue, Sutton, a colliery deputy, and who is a member of St. John Ambulance Brigade, said about 7:35 on Saturday evening he was on duty as an ambulance man on the carnival field at Huthwaite when he saw an aeroplane pass over at a reasonable height....

The Verdict

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death in each case. ...

Written 19 May 07 Revised 06 May 12 © by Gary Elliott