Flying Officer Harold Oliver Prout, AFC
On 4th November, 1920, Flying Officer Harold Oliver Prout AFC and his observer, Flying Officer Horace Edgar Fenwick, were on the return leg of a trip to Winchester when they arrived back at Kenley, just after 4.30pm, to find the airfield shrouded in thick fog.
Sergeant Andrews saw their Bristol Fighter (F4852) circling around his house with both officers standing up in the cockpit. He lost sight of them in the fog and almost immediately heard a crash. He discovered the two pilots dead in Hawkhirst Rd. They had hit a tree and come down in a field.
At the inquest into their deaths, Flying Officer Trevor Salt stated that the officers had left Kenley in the morning, bound for Winchester, and the weather was fine when they began their return journey in the afternoon. However, a heavy fog had closed in on Kenley and he had phoned Winchester to warn them about the weather conditions, but he was too late. He explained to the Coroner that Kenley “was difficult to land in, the trees rendering it particularly dangerous during foggy weather.”
The Coroner commented that he had held inquests on men killed while trying to land at Kenley in the past, but “experts had decided on the position of the aerodrome and of course he was not sufficiently expert to say it was not a proper position.”
Harold Oliver Prout was the son of Charles Jacob Prout, a Civil Servant and Rose Florence Prout (nee Addenbrooke). He was born 6th July, 1896, in Putney Vale. By 1901, the family were living at ‘Roslyn’ Elgin Rd, Wallington, with two servants – a General Domestic and ‘Mother’s Help.’ By 1911, they had moved to ‘Shrublands,’ 5 Broad Green Avenue, West Croydon, which still seems to have been the family home in 1920.
Harold was one of three brothers who all distinguished themselves in the Air Force. He had been farming in Canada prior to enlisting during the Great War and served with the 121st Battalion, Canadian Infantry, before applying for a commission in April 1917. By January, 1919, he had been awarded the Air Force Cross and was serving in the RAF with 252 Squadron at Cullercoats (Tynemouth). A newspaper report says that Harold was an expert on hydroplanes and had been attached to Kenley “in connection with a new type of machine.”
At the time of Harold’s death, his older brother Reginald was a Brigade Major with an important position under the Air Ministry and his younger brother, Geoffrey, had just lost a leg in a flying accident.
Harold had been married to Nellie Amelia Cora Reynolds for just one year when he died. In 1923, she married his younger brother, Geoffrey, and the couple had a son, David Harold Prout in 1924. Sadly he died, aged 18, while serving as an Ordinary Seaman in the Merchant Navy, aboard the SS Empire Turnstone, when she was torpedoed by U-621, in October, 1942.
Flying Officer Harold Oliver Prout was 24 years old when he died.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.