Flight Lieutenant Felix St. John Woollard
On 22nd November, 1926, No.24 squadron tragically lost two of its officers in a flying accident at 1.30pm, when their De Havilland DH9A, serial number 7310, stalled on take-off from Kenley.
Flight Lieutenant Felix St. John Woollard had a distinguished war record, having won the Air Force Cross and many commendations. Aged 34, he was married with two children and lived in Kew Bridge. He was an experienced officer with over 1000 hours flying time.
His passenger, 28 year old Flying Officer Frederick Laing Collison, was the son of Mr. T. I. Collison of Bridge Farm, Epping. He had also served as a pilot in the Great War and also had a fine record of service. Both men were liked and admired by their fellow servicemen at Kenley.
The Western Morning News reported the accident in detail on Tuesday 23 November 1926….
BURST INTO FLAMES.
GRAPHIC ACCOUNT OF THE ACCIDENT.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT) CATERHAM, Monday.
“The pilot and passenger of a Royal Air Force ‘plane were killed in a crash at Kenley Aerodrome to-day. The machine, which was a DH9A of No. 24 Communication Squadron, stationed at Kenley, burst into flames, and when the pilot, Flight-Lieut. Feliz (sic) St. John Woollard, was extricated, he was dead. His passenger, Flying-Officer Frederic Lang Collison, was injured, and he died five minutes after admission to Purley Cottage Hospital.
“The pilot had started an ordinary practice flight, and at a height of about 200 feet he “stalled,” and the ‘plane nose-dived into the ground.
“A young flying officer who was at aerodrome at the time of the crash gave me a graphic account of what happened.
“I was not on duty at the time,” he said, “but happened to be at the aerodrome at the time watching the flying. Flight-Lieut. Woollard’s ‘plane had only just taken off, and the machine had attained a height of only about 200ft. I was watching closely from the time it left the ground, and I saw the machine get into a nasty stall. I knew at once that there was no time for the pilot to right himself, and the ‘plane nose-dived straight down, the engine burying itself in the ground just behind the sheds.
“There was an explosion as the petrol tank burst, and the flames quickly involved the whole machine. I could see at once that all hope of rescuing Flight-Lieut. Woollard was gone. We broke the fuselage of the ‘plane and got out Flying-Officer Collison, whose face was badly cut about.”
FELIX ST. JOHN WOOLLARD was born in Paris in June 1892. His Father, Thomas Edwin Woollard was born in Cheshire, but lived in London for most of his early life, and his Mother, Marie Henriette Josephine Woollard (nee Aubrey) was born in France. Felix had an older sister, Augusta, and two older brothers, Claude and Aubrey, all born in England – it seems the family only lived in France for a few years, during which time Felix arrived. When they returned to England, they settled in the Bournemouth area and by 1911, Felix, aged 18, was working as an Estate Agent’s clerk.
The following year, he started a family with Eleanor Gammage. The couple had two daughters, Eileen, born 1912, and Marie, born 1913. Unusually, it seems that Felix and Eleanor didn’t get married until 1915.
In 1914, Woollard joined the Royal Army Service Corps, giving his occupation as a “motor lorry driver.” Records also show him serving as a Second Lieutenant in the East Kent Regiment, before joining the RAF. He survived the Great War with a distinguished record, only to be killed in a peacetime accident at Kenley.
Rest in Peace Sir and thank you for your service.
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