Australian Red Cross Society
54 Victoria Street.,
LONDON S. W. 1
3rd October, 1917.
No. 6421 Driver A. J. Sloane,
10 Battery, Australian Field Art.,
We are requested by your uncle, the Rev. Hume
Robertson, to send you an account of the death of your brother No. 694
Air/Mechanic W. D. Sloane, 69th Squadron A.F.C., which occurred
under such tragic circumstances on 21.8.17 and we regret to inform you of the
following report given by Lt. Wilkinson, R.F.C., Biggin Hill, Kent, who
witnessed the accident.
He writes -
The O.C. has handed your
letter over to me to answer. He considers it a matter requiring more personal
details than he could supply, and I was the last to speak to them and one of the
first on the scene of the accident. Their machine landed on the Aerodrome about
12.10pm on August 21st, last. Lieut. Shapira was the pilot and 2/AM Sloane, the
gunner observer. They were on their way from South Carlton, Lincs. to France via
Lympne. They were a little off their course and having had some slight engine
trouble, came down on sighting our Aerodrome, to have this remedied and to find
their actual position. Their engine was put right and petrol tanks refilled by
our mechanics. Meanwhile Lieut. Shapira came to lunch with us and Sloane went to
the men's dining hut for his. Shortly after lunch, having got full details of
their course, they climbed aboard and their engine was "run up" for
them. They expressed themselves entirely satisfied and it was indeed running
perfectly. Just before they left, a message came through from the Air Board, to
the effect that if Lieut. Shapira thought the weather conditions were not good
enough, he was not to start. This message I delivered to him while he was in his
machine with the engine running. The weather was perfectly fit for flying and he
just smiled and said, "That's alright; cheer-oh", and proceeded to
He got off the ground perfectly and flew
straight into the wind to get his proper height; having reached a height of some
600 feet, he turned to get on his course. Almost immediately his machine
started to spin slowly in flat circles, then the nose dropped and she went down
in a spinning nose dive to earth. We heard the crash and saw a cloud of smoke
ascend from behind a clump of trees, and heard the popping of cartridges.
Immediately an ambulance and a light tender proceeded to the spot, and believe
me, we lost no time in getting there, but we were unable to do anything for
them. The machine was blazing from end to end, and it was impossible to approach
A man who was working in the field in which she fell, had tried, he told
us, to drag them out with a long handled hay rake, but it was soon obvious that
they were dead, and he gave up the attempt. The Doctor who reached the spot
shortly after we did, gave it as his opinion that their death was instantaneous.
We got the fire out and took the bodies along to our Aerodrome, where they were
placed in a hut and a Guard mounted. An inquest was held, the verdict being
accidental death when flying. No one knows, of course, what caused the machine
to spin, but it seems to be the general opinion here that it was due to an error
of judgement as to the right amount of bank required.
We sent wires to all the British
addresses amongst their personal effects, advising them of the accident, and the
place and date of funeral. These were all contained in a note book belonging to
Lt. Shapira, which together with all the personal belongings of them both,
handed over to the Australian Administrative Headquarters. The latter also undertook
all arrangements for the funeral, and would be able to give all details as to
May I offer on behalf of all officers here, our sympathy with the
relatives in their loss."
Trusting that it will be some slight comfort
to know that his death must have been instantaneous, and assuring you of our
very sincere sympathy in your great loss.
Vera Deakin, Secretary.