21.07.1918 No. 44 TDS Bristol F2B C4788 Cpt. Everill E. Froneman
Date: 21st July 1918 (Sunday)
Unit: No. 44 TDS (Training Depot Station )
Type: Bristol F2B
Code: Not known
Base: RAF Port Meadow, Oxford
Location: Foliejon Park, Berkshire
Pilot: Cpt. Everill Edwin Froneman DSO. RAF Age 25. Killed
Gnr: Lt. William Fortescue Beachcroft MC. RAF Age 27. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Deputy-coroner for East Berks (Mr T.R. Kent) held an inquest on Tuesday last in a cottage at Knobs’ Crook Farm, near New Lodge, on the bodies of Cpt. Evilil Froneman, DSO, and Lt. William Fortescue Beachcroft, MC. of the Royal Air Force, who were killed after looping the loop near Foliejon Park on Sunday last.
Both men came from South Africa early in the war to join up, and both had served with distinction on the battlefield, Cpt. Froneman gaining the DSO., and Lt. Beachcroft the Military Cross. The latter first served in the Royal Field Artillery, and was in the Cambrai battle. The King presented him with his military Cross at Buckingham Palace. He had recently been attached to the Air Force.
On Sunday the two aviators were making a flight, when, owing to engine trouble, they came down at Foliejon Park. Princess Hatzfeldt, hearing of their difficulty, invited them to Foliejon Park to lunch. After lunch, they were to resume their flight, but before doing so they looped the loop, and came down in a spiral dive. A witness said that the aviators tried to flatten out the machine, but failed and it nose-dived to the earth, both men being killed instantaneously. The bodies were removed, under the direction of Superintendent Jannaway, of Clewer, to some farm buildings close by.
The evidence relating to the death of Cpt. Froneman was taken first.
Lt. Charles Amyand Alexander Elliot, Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, attached to the royal air force, identified the body of Cpt. Eviril Froneman, who, he said, was a South African and a Cpt. in the Royal Air Force. Witness thought he was unmarried. He had only known him about three weeks, and he was under orders for a flight on Sunday last.
William James Rogers, munition worker, of Knobs Crook Farm, Winkfield, said that on Sunday afternoon last at 16:30 he saw an aeroplane rise from the ground and it went up about 2000 feet. Witness heard the engine stop, and the aeroplane then circled round. From its movements witness concluded that there was something wrong with the engine. An attempt was made by the aviators to loop the loop and he then saw the machine topple over sideways. When it got on a level with the tops of the trees it did a nose dive and crashed to the ground. The machine seemed to be out of control, and the engine was not going. Witness heard the crash, and went to the scene at once. He found that the two aviators had been thrown out of their seats in the aeroplane, and they were both dead. Witness stopped at the spot for about five minutes before anyone came, and then people flocked to the scene from all directions. Witness assisted to remove the bodies.
By Lt. Elliot: witness only saw the machine loop the loop once, and it took about two minutes for the machine to come down.
Lieut.-Colonel Lord Athlumney, residing at “Somerville”, Bray, said on Sunday last, between 16:00 and 16:30 hrs, he was in a field adjoining the park, when he saw Cpt. Froneman and Lt. Beachcroft. Witness had met the former officer before. He saw them get into the aeroplane, and said “Good-bye” to them. They started ff, and ascended about 3000 feet. They then “flew up wind,” and looped the loop. The machine then appeared to slide-slip, Then it began a spiral descent, and everything looked quite normal. The machine came down about 1500 feet, and then it began to nose dive. The aviator tried to flatten the machine out, and nearly did so, but it nose dived again and crashed. The officers had been to munch with Princess Hatzfeldt. After luncheon, they took some photographs and then got into the machine. After the accident, witness went to the machine, and found both officers dead. The machine was smashed to pieces. There was a very strong wind blowing on Sunday.
Dr. Edward Fielden, of Bracknell, said that on Sunday last, about 16:30pm, he was called to an aeroplane accident. He found both the aviators dead, and death appeared to have been instantaneous.
Henry Beauchamp Harrison, of Newington House, Winkfield, said he was a farmer and land agent. On Sunday last, at about 13:20, he saw an aeroplane flying about. It afterwards came down, and witness received a message from Princess Hatzfeldt to see if the aviators were all right and to ask them in to lunch. Witness knew Cpt. Froneman, who said he could not then go to lunch as he had engine trouble. He stated that he had got into a rainstorm, that his engine would not pull him out of it, and that was why he came down. Witness subsequently accompanied the officers into the house and had lunch with them. They did not sit down to lunch until after 14:00, and they finished a little after 15:00. They left the house at about 15:30, and went to the machine. They tested the machine before they started, and apparently it was all right.
Cpt. Froneman took charge of the machine. They made two attempts to rise, and rose on the second attempt. They got up and circled the field, and five or ten minutes afterwards witness’s little son called his attention to the fact that they were coming down. The propeller was not working, and witness knew there was something wrong. The machine came down in a spiral dive, and it looked as if the aviator was trying to flatten the machine out. It disappeared behind the trees, and he afterwards found the machine wrecked and both officers dead. Witness had met Cpt. Froneman before. He told witness he made a good landing when they came down, but there was a gutter in the field which shook the machine.
The inquest on the body of Lt. Beachcroft was then proceeded with.
Mr Robert Henry Beachcroft said he was a retired civil servant. Was born and bred in Natal, South Africa, and he identified one of the bodies as that of his only son, William Fortescue Beachcroft, who was 27 years of age last February. He entered the Army as a Gunner some three years ago, and was recently attached to the Royal Air Force as a First Lt.. He came over from South Africa to join up like many others, including Cpt. Froneman. Witness last saw him alive about three weeks ago. He was training to be a pilot, and was a single man ….
The coroner having summed up, the jury at once returned a verdict of Accidental Death.
The coroner said they all sympathised with the relatives in their bereavement, and regretted that two such promising young lives had been cut short.
The jury gave their fees for a wreath to be placed on the dead aviators’ last resting place.
The funeral took place on Thursday at Ascot with full military honours.
Cpt. Everill Edwin Froneman DSO. Ascot Churchyard Extension (All Saints) Grave 992. Born on the 16th December 1892 the son of Jacob Louis Froneman and husband of Henrietta Froneman, of Union St., Cathcart, Cape Province, South Africa.
Gnr: Lt. William Fortescue Beachcroft MC. Ascot Churchyard Extension (All Saints) Grave 992. Born on the 19th February 1891 the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Henry Beachcroft of Durban, Natal, South Africa.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Andrea Ruddick for grave and church photographs, The Windsor, Eton and Slough Express dated 26th July 1918. Also to Andrew on the Great War Forum for scribing the account. Other sources as quoted below: