Pilot Officer Matthew Charles Hayter
On 24th October, 1922, Pilot Officer Matthew Charles Hayter became the first of roughly half a dozen members of No.24 squadron to be killed in flying accidents during the squadron’s long stay at Kenley, between 1920 and 1927.
Hayter took off from Kenley at 4pm in his Bristol Fighter (F4831), which had already been flown earlier that day, by Pilot Officer Bett. As he began to circuit the aerodrome at 2000ft, witnesses saw him bank to the right without sufficient speed. Consequently, the aircraft stalled and went into a spin from which it was impossible to recover. Hayter was already dead when RAF personnel arrived at the scene of the crash.
Flight Sergeant James Holden was in charge of inspecting the aircraft and certifying it airworthy. He said that it had been tested the previous day by Flight Lieutenant Francis Luxmore, who passed it as “OK.” In the morning he had noticed the propeller “rubbing against the doors of the shed,” but only the metal tip was scratched and a new propeller was substituted. Prior to Hayter’s fatal flight, the aircraft had been flown 6 times that day without incident.
The Inquiry was held in the Medical Hut at RAF Kenley, by Mr. F. J. Nightingale, East Surrey Coroner. Dr. Elijah Brown, the Station Medical Officer, stated that Hayter had been killed by a fracture to the base of the skull. In addition, both his legs and left arm were broken in the crash. The Coroner was satisfied that normal precautions had been taken in the preparation of the aircraft for the flight, and recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Matthew Charles Hayter was the son of Matthew Henry Hayter, a Railway clerk born in Islington, who had the sad duty of identifying his son at the Inauiry. His Mother Amelia (nee James) was from Devonport. He was born in 1901, in Winchmore Hill and had an older sister – Florence Ruth Hayter.
Pilot Officer Hayter had only been commissioned in the RAF a few months earlier and was expecting to take up a posting in Egypt when he was killed. Although his family lived at ‘Winchmore’, Walker’s Rd, Stevenage, he was laid to rest at St. Luke’s, Whyteleafe, in a quiet ceremony, with no flowers, by request.
Hayter was 21 years old when he died.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.