Flying Officer Frederic Laing Collison
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.
The pilot of the aircraft was Flight Lieutenant Felix St. John Woollard who had a distinguished war record, having won the Air Force Cross and many commendations.
His passenger, 28 year old Flying Officer Frederic Laing Collison, was the son of Mr. T. I. Collison of Bridge Farm, Epping. He had served as a pilot in the Great War and 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.”
For further information, please see the link below an article about Flying Officer Collison by Tony Adams entitled “A Farmer’s Tale.”
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.