Flight Lieutenant Ernest Vair Sleigh Lacey
On 24th November, 1931, Flight Lieutenant Ernest Lacey and Pilot Officer John Edward Shrimpton were both killed when their De Havilland Gypsy Moth 60M (K1210) collided with one of 23 Squadron’s Bristol Bulldogs (K1615), flown by Pilot Officer Frank Stokes, at 9.30am over Kenley Airfield.
The Air Ministry issued the following statement later that day…
The Air Ministry regrets to announce that as the result of collision in the air at Kenley, Surrey, between a Moth aircraft of Station Headquarters, Kenley, and a Bulldog aircraft of No. 23 Fighter Squadron, Kenley, Flight-Lieut. Ernest Vair Sleigh Lacey and Pilot Officer John Edward Shrimpton, the pilot and passenger of the Moth aircraft, lost their lives. Pilot Officer Frank Edmund Stokes, the pilot and sole occupant of the Bulldog aircraft, was not injured.
Lacey had flown from Biggin Hill to Kenley that morning, with Shrimpton as his passenger, when the collision happened at very low altitude, possibly because the aircraft were in each other’s blind spots. The Puss Moth crashed at the edge of the airfield, killing both men instantly.
Stokes managed a forced landing in the centre of the airfield, overturning the Bulldog, but he was able to walk away from the crash and was met by the ambulance crew. Apart from shock and cuts to the face, he was miraculously uninjured and apparently remarkably calm while he was being treated.
Mr. Len Jones, of Caterham, who was near the aerodrome when the accident happened, said:
The machines seemed to be converging at only a low height. The Moth struck the other on the top part of the upper ‘plane. There was a report, and then I saw the two machines separate, the Moth crashing to the ground, while the Bulldog carried on to a forced landing. There were very few people about at the time.
Ernest Vair Sleigh Lacey had served at Kenley for three years, as a wireless officer attached to Station Headquarters. He was in charge of sports and activities at Kenley and was a very popular officer.
Rest in Peace Sir and thank you for your service.